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China’s vision for a new world order

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Students use red scarves to make a flag of the Communist Party of China, ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, at a primary school in Linyi, Shandong province, China, 13 September 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

In Brief

Against the backdrop of Brexit, Trump and the resurgence of protectionism, Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed China to a new type of globalisation.

At the 19th Party Congress, Xi Jinping called for a ‘community of shared human destiny’. This proposal recognises that human beings have only one earth and proposes that all nations must coexist in this shared space.


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It emphasises that all countries should give due consideration to the legitimate concerns of other countries while pursuing their own interests. The ideal of this model would be mutually beneficial and win-win international partnership, as opposed to the current dominant conception of international relations — namely one of anarchy, power politics and a winner-takes-all dynamic.

Under Xi’s plan, the security alliances formed during the Cold War would be replaced by ‘common security’. Under traditional models of collective security, the focus is the security of the alliance, and this exclusivity can easily lead to tension between rival security groups. ‘Common security’ emphasises the common strategic interests of all countries and involves a sharing of security responsibilities and benefits through equal participation in security mechanisms. In line with the above principles of common security, Xi advocates that the international community work together to establish new and non-rival international and regional security mechanisms.

In China’s proposed community, the world would continue in the general direction of economic liberalisation but would also work towards a new global system that is more equitable, inclusive and fair. Beyond the economic implications, the deepening of international economic cooperation and the strengthening of interdependence would hopefully help solve the ‘security dilemma’. Xi and others believe that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are not only examples of China’s increasing leadership in the provision of international public goods, but may also provide a solution for international conflicts by cementing common economic interests among the parties engaged in confrontation.

To be fair, China is not the first to propose many of the initiatives set out above. What is noteworthy is the extent to which the Chinese government has fully committed itself to carrying out these approaches to global governance. This strong commitment in part comes from the traditional Chinese value of ‘harmony’, which can be characterised as a preference for rule by virtue and an opposition to rule by force. A community of shared human destiny and a shared process of globalisation would help to achieve this ‘harmony’ on an international scale.

While a greater leadership role for China in world affairs could help to create a more ‘harmonic’, just and sustainable world order, the process of China taking on this role may not always be smooth. China’s own internal development as well as its relations with the rest of the world will probably face major challenges.

The first challenge is whether the West can adapt to and accept the changes brought about by the rise of China. The West — the United States in particular — has grown accustomed to making the rules of the international order, which all other countries are then expected to follow. The rise of China and other emerging economies has changed this pattern of relations.

Some Western countries (mainly the United States) have responded by calling for a tough stance on China to contain its growing influence. There are calls to build an Asian version of NATO or to form an Indo-Pacific alliance of democracies to deal with China.

On the other hand, there are also some positive responses from the West. Major European economies chose to embrace the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which sent a promising message that parts of the West might be open to cooperation with China in spite of US and Japanese reluctance.

Whether China and the West can avert the so-called ‘Thucydides trap’ will depend on both sides’ ability to communicate, compromise and build relationships based on mutual trust.

The second challenge is internal to China. Although China has become a superpower in absolute terms, it is still a developing country and faces significant challenges, including regional development imbalances, political development and national reunification. Policies like tightening control on internet expression, urban restructuring and harsher measures on environmental pollution have recently caused criticism both inside and outside the country.

While China continues to pursue a more proactive approach to global leadership, these factors demonstrate that domestic issues may impede progress in China’s global initiatives. It remains a challenge for the Chinese leadership to determine how to balance its international obligations and domestic affairs, as well as how to balance economic growth and socio-political development.

China’s global governance initiatives have provided the world with more choices for a future international order. The influence of a rising China has the potential to be hugely constructive if it can succeed in building a more pluralistic and inclusive world with a fair and just global governance system. If the world’s decision makers can overcome their fears about ideological difference and embrace the notion of a ‘community of shared human destiny’, the 21st century may have a bright outlook despite the many challenges ahead.

Yong Wang is Professor in the School of International Studies and Director of the Center for International Political Economy at Peking University and Distinguished Fellow in the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.

This article is an abridged version of a TRENDS publication that originally appeared here.

3 responses to “China’s vision for a new world order”

  1. Only if China’s CCP showed a bit more of this “community of shared human destiny” to their own citizens, we may even give some credit to the author’s thesis. The “national reunification” cue is a good show of his true colors.

  2. Harmony and shared common interests reminds many observers the rhetoric of yesteryear, Imperialists freedom, liberty, civility etc

  3. So Xi Jinping calls for a “community of shared human destiny” while he simultaneously threatens to use military force against the Philippines and Vietnam simply because those countries want to extract natural resources in the own Exclusive Economic Zones… And the Chinese expect the world to trust them?

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