I often enjoy reading Chinese people writing for other Chinese people about China’s hopes, dreams, successes and challenges. It gives an internal view of China albeit one constrained by what people are allowed to or can get away with writing. Some of the phrasing in this article even has the indirect reference to obvious reference typical of some propaganda screeds such as “certain individual countries” where the context is obvious the references is to say India or the United States. Professor Niu’s article gives and outline of the decades-long evolution in China’s attitude and stance towards the outside world bringing neatly together mutual influences of the internal and the external.
Here Professor Niu Weigan of the Jiangsu Province Provincial Communist Party Committee’s Party School examines the development of PRC views on global governance and China’s changing role in the world.
During my ten years working in China as a U.S. diplomat I had several conversations with people who either had given lectures to Party cadres or had taught at the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s Party School in Beijing or at one of the party school/think tanks runs by one of the Chinese Communist Party provincial committees. One university prof, an expert on minority affairs, told me that he could have taught his Party students much that they needed to know about the actual state of minorities and policy problems but he couldn’t sent the Party didn’t want him too and he would simply fired if he did. At lunch with a just-retired Party school professor, the prof confided in me “My real job at the Party school was to monitor the thinking of the other professors for the Communist Party!” A former Party school prof I knew wouldn’t bend and was fired. He ran a very interesting blog collecting many articles on media for several years until the Party forced it to be shut down. Another Party School prof told me that he was very concerned Xi Jinping was taking China in a very bad direction, crushing the hopes that some had had that China could become a real democracy some day.
Party schools have some very talented academics. The restrictions on them vary from place to place and from era. My impression is that post-1989 the pressure for ideological conformity, although always present, was least in the last few years of Party Secretary Jiang Zemin but then gradually got tighter under Party Secrtaries Hu Jintao (with ups and downs around sensitive anniversaries and events sort of like a wave tending on average to reflect more and more tightness) and much tighter under Party Secretary Xi Jinping. Party school publications give indications of which items stand high on the Party’s action agenda and its level of anxiety. For example 2005 book by Chinese Communist Party Central Party School vice director Zhou Tianyong 周天勇 Reform of the Chinese Political Structure with its canny title — talking about reform of political structures is less sensitive than talk about reform of the political system. One of my friends told me that his two week assignment to study Secretary Hu Jintao’s writings and thinking at a fancy hotel outside Chengdu was crashingly boring. Like all human institutions, Party Schools also have funny stories. Some higher level officials at the Central Party School brought along their personal secretaries to do their homework, according to a 1999 article I spied in a provincial newspaper.
The Wilson International Center hosted Professor Niu Weigan during 2014 – 2015. The Woodrow Wilson International Center is a US government funded scholarly think tank that supports visiting scholars and holds seminars that bring together US and foreign scholars to discuss political and historical issues related to many foreign countries and areas. Among the Wilson Center’s ongoing efforts is the COLD WAR INTERNATIONAL HISTORY PROJECT and the KISSINGER INSTITUTE ON CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES. My personal favorite is the Cold War History Digital Archive that include translations of historical materials relating to many countries including conversations PRC leaders such as Mao and Zhou had with foreign visitors as well as diplomatic cables to and from Beijing to Chinese embassies abroad.
To this translation I have added some links and broke up some sentences and paragraphs that seemed overly long and exhausting in English. The original Chinese text appears below the English translation.
One of the benefit of deep dives I do in Chinese articles on this translation blog is where it leads me. I particularly appreciated the 2017 overview by Dr. YU Hong（余 虹） of the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore “Motivation behind China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiatives and Establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank” fortunately now available online courtesy of the Journal of Contemporary China .
I am indebted to Professor Jon Taylor of the University of Texas at San Antonio for noting this and other PRC scholarly articles on Chinese governance on his twitter feed at https://twitter.com/ProfJonTaylor
Looking at the “Belt and Road” Initiative from the Perspective of Global Governance with Chinese Characteristics
June 29, 2020
Source: “Ningxia Social Science” 2020 No. 3
Summary: The “Belt and Road” initiative marks the start of the latest stage in the evolution of global governance with Chinese characteristics and opens new avenues for China to participate in global governance. The evolutionary pathway of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics moved from being regulated (learning) → borrowing norms (internalization) → revising and innovating norms (feedback and creation) → implementing new norms (demonstration) passed through several distinct stages: China passivity as it participated in the adaptation phase of global governance, the feedback-based revision from the passive to the active and the adjustment phase of the innovation norms, then to the stage of initiating, advocating for and putting into practice new norms. In this third stage, according to the overall trend of political, economic and cultural development at home and abroad, China has been integrating China’s interests with global values ( shared human values). China proposed and has been implementing the “Belt and Road” initiative, which reflect the current status and requirements of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics as they are refracted by changing trends in the current global governance landscape. Implementation will involve both involves the shoals of hidden risks as well as the confrontation of new challenges.
Keywords: Chinese characteristics; global governance concept; “Belt and Road” initiative; Cold War thinking
About the author: Niu Weigan is a researcher at the Jiangsu Party Construction Theory and Practice Innovation Institute of the Jiangsu Provincial Party School.
In sum, the global governance with Chinese characteristics concept means that as Chinese society as developed, especially since the beginning of the policy of reform and opening up, China has gradually come to place increasing importance on global values and globalism in line with its own national conditions as well as developing its own thinking on how to integrate and safeguard Chinese interests in global affairs. China’s response to implementation principles in addressing global affairs along with values and ways of thinking about strategic mechanisms reflect China’s understanding of the nature and principles of global governance.
Specifically, the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics takes into account both realistic concerns about national interests and idealistic concerns for the well-being of the entire world. These include three aspects of integration at the domestic and international levels.
First of all, China’s emphasis on national interests does not come at the expense of world peace and development but are in line with the direction of general human progress. That is, China’s national interests are based on global values and so are conducive to world peace and development.
Secondly, global governance as advocated by China is inclusive, harmonious coexistence. It is relative, equal, fair and equitable and does not demand exclusivity and is not discriminatory. Therefore it is in the interests of all parties to global governance, including China.
Third, the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics focuses on the long-term, establishing a pattern for dealing with the present and planning for the future, addressing the contradictions and problems between national interests and global values (or interests).
National interests and global interests are in a dialectical relationship of the unity of opposites. The two sometimes conflict in specific time and space, but in the long run, global interests often benefit national interests. On the contrary, sacrificing global interests ultimately harms national interests. The implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative for China’s participation in global governance in the new era highlights the developmental stages in the evolution of global governance concept with Chinese characteristics.
1. The basic trajectory of the evolution of global governance with Chinese characteristics
The “Belt and Road” initiative reflects the major turning point in the evolution of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics. The maturity and optimization of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics provides a theoretical premise and guidelines for the further development of the “Belt and Road” and its implementation. The two support each other and jointly serve the great renaissance that sustainable development is bringing and provides public goods in the form of peace, stability and development.
The evolution process of the view of global governance with Chinese characteristics has gone through the following stages:
The view of global governance with Chinese characteristics was formed in the process of building Chinese society and was not achieved overnight. There is a basic evolutionary path of “being regulated (learning) → borrowing norms (internalization) → revising and innovating norms (feedback and creation) → practicing new norms (demonstrations)” during its formation and gradual improvement.
(1) China’s adaptation phase in global governance (relatively passive)
In the late 1970s, China completely ended its one-sided diplomatic strategy that focused on the third world, abandoned the ideological diplomacy and implemented an independent non-aligned foreign policy, and began a stage of gradual and deep participation in global governance. At this stage, the first two nodes (basic path) of China’s participation in the global governance process are “regulated (learned) → borrowed from norms (internalized)”, and are generally in a passive situation.
In fact, China jumped out of the confrontation between the two camps of the Cold War and the two markets, and began to learn from the beneficial rules, experience and methods of globalization, and gradually integrated into the global governance system. However, this period is basically at the beginning stage of the transformation and upgrading of China’s economic system and political system. China’s participation in global governance meant conducting foreign exchanges in political, economic and cultural aspects in accordance with the prevailing rules and mechanisms of global governance, so China began its policy of reform and opening up. During 1980s, there a catch phrase arose “get on the same track as the rest of the world”. That phrase stayed popular for nearly 20 years although there were some people advocating that “the rest of the world should get on the same track as China” although that view never became mainstream. Comparing “getting on the same track as the rest of the world” and “the rest of the world getting on the same track as China” also reflects to a certain extent how China’s role on the global governance stage was more passively adaptive and a less proactive one.
“Getting on the same track as the rest of the world” also required China to a certain extent revise its relevant norms and mechanisms in accordance with recognized international rules and international mechanisms, and incorporate international law and international practices under global values (interests) into China’s internal and foreign affairs system. Of course, these adjustments were made in line with China’s own needs at different stages of its national development so as to make suitable step-by-step progress.
(2) The adjustment phase of China’s participation in global governance-reference to norms (internalization) → revision and innovation of norms (feedback and creation of new norms)
When China’s participation in global governance reaches a level that is basically adapted to internationally accepted indicators and norms and mechanisms, the passive course of international reform of China’s social, economic, political, and cultural culture will come to an end. This process involves not China’s own development but also the process of China, as a major actor on the world stage, making appropriate contributions to world governance. However, the main focus at this stage is China “learning” from the international community in order to make its own internal adjustments and to improve itself. Then, as China continues to provide public goods while accepting corresponding responsibilities for the international community, it also by a feedback process, helps the international community revise and improve the lagging or outdated norms, mechanisms, and systems for the global governance system.
This is because, on the one hand, the global governance rules, mechanisms and other categories will have corresponding institutional lags compared with the progress of international political, economic and cultural practices; on the other hand, as China’s reform and opening up has developed in depth so too have China’s international economic status and political role changed. This process also requires the global governance system to take into account the implications that objective changes in international actors like China have for mechanism building and system innovation.
(3) The stage of China’s active participation in global governance -revision and innovation of norms (feedback and creation) → practice of new norms (demonstration)
As China became the world’s second largest economy, and the problems facing more and increasingly complex problems confront global governance. This will require China to assume more and more international responsibilities. Problems in the global governance system that have prevented it from moving ahead and innovating itself with the times have not only prevented new international actors such as China from effectively participating in global governance but its declining effectiveness has also brought much criticism from the international community. With the relative decline of their economies, established global governance leaders such as the United States have gradually paid more attention to their own national (interests) values, going their own way or even abandoning global values, governance rules and mechanisms.
This has placed global governance pattern at a crossroads. China has taken into consideration the value of global governance and its own values of reform and opening up, and proposed values of “a community of common destiny”, a cooperative and win-win initiative to build a harmonious world, and overall national security requirements striving to contribute Chinese wisdom and solutions to global governance. To this end, China not only provides a series of material public goods to the international community, but also in response to difficulties arising from the United States withdraws from global governance platforms such as the Paris Agreement on Global Climate Governance, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the Universal Postal Union. China has gone to work to carry out its pledges to work to address these problems.
More importantly, the United States and other Western powers not only driving global governance in reverse, but also through their Asia-Pacific “re-balancing” strategy, their Asia-Pacific stability plan, and Indo-Pacific strategy they deliberately surrounding and constraining China. The Western powers are opposing globalization in many ways and putting their own national interests ahead of the world governance system. This affects the healthy operation of global governance, hinders the reform of the global governance system, and increasingly posing challenges to China’s own core interests. It was in this context that China launched its grand “Belt and Road” initiative to participate in global governance.
2. The “Belt and Road” initiative is a concrete reflection of the new stage of the development of a global governance concept with Chinese characteristics
The policy of participating in global governance that China has followed ever since reform and opening began is a comprehensive global governance plan based on China’s own national conditions and the specific situation of globalization. It not only reflects the reasonable needs arising from the development of Chinese society but is also conforms to the global value of constructing a community of common destiny.
The “Belt and Road” initiative embodies China’s practice of global governance from the domestic and international perspectives in the new era.
As an important actor in global governance today, although China’s social progress and well-being stem from the great practice of economic and political civilization construction in China, China’s development is not only about the prosperity of its own country, but also the sustainability of all mankind, fairness and righteousness. Comrade Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized when addressing international affair that China’s development must build a harmonious world and address shared human values. This ideology guides China’s national construction as a top-level design principle. This agenda tightly integrates China’s own top-level development strategies for national governance with the development of global governance and global values.
First of all, responding to global economic and political security challenges is the world goal of the “Belt and Road” initiative
Since China joined the WTO, the intensity and speed of reform and opening up have been further increased, especially after responding to the 2008 global financial crisis. As China has rapidly become the world’s second largest economy, the breadth and depth of its participation in global governance has been unprecedentedly expanded and deepened. Along with it, China’s corresponding global responsibility for governance and the maintenance of its own national interests have also increased. Thus overall planning and coordination of the overall development strategy to address both the domestic and international overall situation are on the agenda.
After the global financial crisis in 2008, the United States and other Western powers believed that China’s large amount of foreign exchange reserves accumulated by diligence and thrift was an important cause of international financial turmoil. Based on the original political and economic alliance, they created the trans-Pacific partnership agreement. (TPP), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP), and the two-ocean economic alliance centered on deepening both the economic and military functions of its alliances.
During the presidency of U.S. President Obama, in order to maintain its dominance of the international economic system, the power to formulate and revise international economic rules and their discourse system based on the establishment of the two-ocean economic alliance, and the implementation of the “re-balancing” strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. This has become a potential threat to world security and peaceful development as well as a direct threat to China’s economic and political security.
Since the end of 2016, Europe and the United States have sought to reverse the tide of globalization. Neo-conservative forces came to power in the United States in 2017 with the beginning the Trump Administration: the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement, adopting trade protectionism, launched the Asia-Pacific stability plan and the Indo-Pacific strategy (clearly replacing the “re-balancing” strategy), Brexit and the far-right forces of European countries such as France, Germany, and Italy ran rampant, during a period also characterized by the proliferation of international terrorism, the Middle East chaos and refugee issues, the United States, Japan, and India, Australia and other countries to jointly sought to constrain China in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.
Therefore to meet these challenges and for long-term development, China, taking into account global values and national interests, designed a medium- and long-term domestic and foreign practice framework – the “Belt and Road” initiative to participate in global governance.
Secondly, China made use of its excellent material resources to provide public goods for global governance to fulfill China’s major power responsibilities and the commitments it had made.
In practice, the “Belt and Road” initiative follows the logic of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics and for China’s participation in international affairs. This reflects China’s role as a big country. In the process of the formation of the global governance concept with contemporary Chinese characteristics, people gradually changed and revised the outdated concept of global governance from before the era reform and opening up and accommodated themselves to reasonable factors in global governance that are conducive to the long-term development of China, and formed China’s own community of human destiny. The concept has gradually become more scientific and reasonable arrangements have been made for China’s timely participation in global governance.
Responding to the uneven social development in the world; the shortage of funds in the less developed countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America; low levels of science and technology; inadequate management experience; and backward infrastructure, as well as sluggish economic development; the wide gap between the rich and the poor and widespread poverty; fierce social conflicts; and the emergence of national and regional security issues, China made initiatives to promote good neighborly relations and prosperous neighbor relations and then in 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the “Belt and Road” initiative.
The “Belt and Road” initiative follows the land and sea routes of China’s ancient ancient silk trade, radiating outward to neighboring countries and regions. China had a central place as the central distribution point and starting point of the ancient silk roads. The Silk Road started with the development of trade with cities in the interior of ancient China. The routes radiates west and southwest, passes through Central Asia and the Middle East to reach the European region, and merged with the ancient Silk Road on the sea. The ancient Silk Road generally started from the southeast coast of China, passed through Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Gulf region, East Africa, and North Africa, and reached the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea region into Europe.
However, today’s “Belt and Road” on the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road, building on the foundations of the ancient Silk Road, extends to the South Pacific, to Central and Western Africa, Western Europe, and even to the Americas and to the Atlantic, including the Americas and Africa. Focusing on the core of “economic cooperation to promote economic development and social prosperity of countries and regions along the Belt and Road”, the “Belt and Road” initiative should also promote information connectivity, cultural integration, and people-to-people relations among citizens of the member states in order to maintain regional peace, global security and stability In the end, it will promote social progress and improve people’s living standards in the countries and regions along the route.
As the initiating country of the “Belt and Road”, China also provides support for the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative – not only providing capital and technology, management experience and methods, but also to provide corresponding supporting personnel training and cultural exchange services. More importantly, the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative is not a one-man show. China has attracted participants from many developed countries. It has been connected with a series of development strategies proposed by these countries under different names, and has carried out investment and project finance, scientific and technological cooperation and security collaboration. This marks China’s change from a passive to a proactive participant in global governance. China has finally reached the stage when China makes preparations, many countries participate harmoniously, and it is a win-win for everyone.
Again, the “Belt and Road” initiative is an important sign that China’s participation in global governance has shifted from passive to active.
The most obvious sign of that the “Belt and Road” initiative is a global governance plan that China independently developed and advocated. It is based on China’s economic and political considerations rather than, as in previous Chinese efforts, joining in an existing international or regional cooperation framework in which it needed to adjust itself to the needs of others. Conceptually, the “Belt and Road” initiative upholds the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” that China has proposed and upheld ever since reform and opening began. China is committed to building a new international political and economic order, a harmonious world that seeks common ground while reserving differences, and a community of shared future for mankind that is fair, just, and win-win.
China advocates flexibly correcting the irrational aspects of the current global governance structure. In terms of strategy, China’s advantages—capacity, capital, technology, market, and human resources—are used to make up for the shortcomings and shortcomings of the countries and regions involved. At the same time, it attracts developed countries to join in, and jointly promotes the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative for mutual advantage. It builds on bilateral or multilateral collaborative advancement, comprehensive cooperation methods drawn from many fields and at many different levels, and designs specific regional cooperation schemes according to the characteristics of different countries and regions.
Already implemented are the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (“Asia Investment Bank”), the Yaji Railway, the Mongolian Railway, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and bridges, railways and other infrastructure for Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. Construction assistance. At the same time, it also provided supporting personnel training and financial support for education, medical care, economic management and culture in relevant countries and regions. Whether it is the construction of the Yaji Railway, the Mongolian Railway, the China-Pakistan Railway and the China-Myanmar Railway, and even the network information engineering, they are all built in accordance with China’s construction standards and managed in accordance with Chinese operating standards. What best reflects China’s experience and China’s effectiveness is that the implementation of these specific projects has greatly increased the speed and level of economic development of the countries involved, and alleviated poverty and improved living standards of the people of those countries people.
In short, the formulation and implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative is based on Chinese elements, and is based on the concept of seeking common ground while reserving differences in the realm of “harmony and difference” and “common development” in China’s excellent traditional culture. The underdeveloped regions have created a cross-regional bilateral and multilateral cooperation platform that alleviates backwardness and poverty and builds harmonious relations. This reflects the major shift from “relatively passive” to “active” in China’s participation in global governance and its shift from “study and learning from the experiences of others” to “creating and building”.
3. Characteristics of the “Belt and Road” initiative
(1) The “Belt and Road” initiative reflects China’s participation in global governance, which has evolved from a piecemeal approach to a system of organizations
The staged practice of China’s participation in global governance basically shows a process of evolution from addressing bits and pieces, to addressing segments and then finally to systems as a whole. This is closely related to the growth of China’s comprehensive national strength and its ability to participate in global governance.
During the ice age of the Cold War, China participated in global governance, but it was not of a global nature. It focused on opposing US imperialism and later participating in global governance as an opponent to Soviet revisionism. This was not looking for points of agreement and reserving differences but one limited by ideological horizons and to a certain extent stressed what China opposed. With the implementation of reform and opening-up policy, China abandoned ideological diplomacy. Its practice of global affairs has become increasingly synergistic as it cooperates with both developing and developed countries. However, after all, the first ten to twenty years of China’s reform and opening-up practice was a period of gradually moving towards the threshold of a well-off life by getting rid of poverty and backwardness and achieving basic sufficiency in feeding and clothing its people.
During the first ten years of this process, China itself could not guarantee the basic satisfaction of the material life of the whole people. Even in many places within China itself, there have always been some people who were hungry and cold. This situation restricts China from continually providing public goods to the world on a large scale. In emergencies, it did sporadically participate in global governance, such as by providing physical relief and limited funding to certain regions or countries around the world. It was not until the mid-to-late 1990s that China gradually participated in UN peacekeeping operations. This appears to be the pattern of China’s diplomatic practice and was in fact closely related to China’s overall strength.
After 2010, China not only participated in naval escort duties in the Gulf of Aden, but also adapted to meet the needs of the “Belt and Road” initiative. China built a military support base in Djibouti, built Gwadar port in Pakistan, expanded ports in Sri Lanka, and rented berths and built infrastructure in Darwin, Australia, cooperated with Greece to repair and lease its port of Piraeus. These are just the tip of the iceberg of the “Belt and Road” initiative in terms of infrastructure, helping relevant countries to build railways, bidding for cooperation to dig canals, bidding for the construction of railways and ports in some countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia, and cooperating in the development and utilization of mineral resources. There are a large number of loan assistance projects, investment and financing projects, cultural exchange projects, tourism cooperation projects, medical assistance programs and so forth for the laying of oil and gas pipelines to China. The “Belt and Road” initiative demonstrates that China has provided more and higher quality public goods to global governance more systematically and on a larger scale than ever before.
(2) The “Belt and Road” initiative is a creative practice that embraces China’s interests and global values
The world is composed of various countries and regions. China is a member of the international family. Therefore, in theory global values should not be opposed to China’s interests, but should be compatible with them. The “Belt and Road” initiative is a model for the convergence of global values and national interests.
The overall process and trend of modernization in the modern era are gradually moving away from ignorance and savagery towards civilization and civilization. This process is becoming more complicated due to changes in bilateral and multilateral relations in the international community. Problems of particular countries and regions have become more globalized by the day. These include the manufacture and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global climate change and environmental degradation, the escalation of new transnational viruses and large-scale spread of epidemics, and the increasing proliferation of international terrorist atrocities. The development of human civilization faces severe challenges and serious threats to the very existence of the Earth. Since the 21st century, China, as a major global governance actor, has found it increasingly difficult to address issues by itself given the globalization of domestic issues and increasing internationalization of domestic issues. China must consider global values in response to global problems so as to advance the development of global civilization in order to achieve the goals of a long-term good protection of the international environment in order to promote China’s own sustainable development.
The design and practice of the “Belt and Road” initiative is aimed squarely at the challenges facing global peace and development and the sustainable development of Chinese society. It explores measures to provide for a bright future for the development of all humankind. It not only conforms to the consensus international appeal of multi-polar global governance, but also to the development of the diplomatic concept of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence since China’s reform and opening up, and advances the concept of a community of shared future for humankind to and creating a specific plan for building a harmonious world.
Therefore, the “Belt and Road” initiative demonstrates the grand vision of how the new generation of China’s collective leadership comprehensively considers both China’s interests and global values. It focuses on the issues and challenges facing the world as a whole – the progress of human civilization – , and advancing China towards the “Chinese Dream” of a Great Chinese Renaissance. It looks ahead to global sustainable development, planning China’s global governance plan, highlighting China’s ideal of global harmonious coexistence and shared prosperity, thereby innovating China’s ideas about global governance. The key point is: the overall benign evolution of human civilization and the improvement of global well-being, and China’s pursuit of self-long-term development depend upon one another and are organically integrated.
(3) The “Belt and Road” initiative reflects the changing trend of the current global governance pattern from China’s role
The so-called global governance pattern refers to a structure in which a relatively stable relationship between global governance entities exists in a certain time and space. It is a combination of the forces of the various actors involved in global governance undergoing a series of continual changes and differentiation. Over time, quantitative changes in the forces of original actors brings qualitative changes that are novel and stable for a relatively long period. This power structure means constructing a relatively stable relationship structure and postures among the actors. The disintegration of a global governance pattern must be due to the change in the balance of power between actors, which has caused their stable structure or balance of power to be broken and unable to maintain the status quo. The pattern of global governance is in absolute change and relative stability. Such changes are often manifested through specific global governance practices.
On the economic front, after the 2008 international financial crisis, the global governance landscape has undergone major changes. The G-7 led by the United States has changed its role in the global governance landscape due to its relative decline in power; the BRICS countries led by China and Russia have begun to increase their importance in the global governance structure. In the nearly ten years since the establishment of the G20 in 1997, it was almost difficult to function according to the G20’s main function declared by the Western powers at the time of installation. It was not until 2009 in response to the global financial crisis. The G20 mechanism was officially launched to hold a summit, and the global economic governance structure has undergone tremendous changes. But even so, the United States is still unwilling to let go of the dominance of global economic governance.
The United States not only leads and maintains the Group of Eight (which became the G-7 after March 2014), but also acts as the most powerful actor and leader of global governance At the same time, the United States began to take active measures to try to maintain its leadership role, thus launching TPP, TTIP, attempting to transform or hollow out the original global governance economic order such as the World Trade Organization, and launched a “re-balancing” strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. To contain emerging powers, control and use allies, and strive to maintain and expand the unipolar hegemony of the United States in the global governance landscape for a long time.
Although Trump emphasized that the United States prioritized making America stronger again, the United States withdrew from the TPP and withdrew from the Paris Agreement. It has not formally terminated the TTIP negotiations, and implemented a stronger economic diplomacy strategy for China, showing that the US national interests are paramount among these signs of reverse globalization.
These all reflect the turbulence and changes in the global governance landscape since the 2008 international financial crisis. As the most powerful global governance agent, the strength of the United States is changing in stages. The G20 emerging global governance actors represented by China have strengthened while the advanced economy group headed by the United States has relatively declined in the global economic governance structure, although they still strive to maintain their leading position.
In terms of military security, in the direction of Europe, the United States was the dominant player in the security affairs of South-Eastern Europe in the 1990s. With the coming of the 21st century, this has gradually transformed into a continual tug-of-war with Russia when the Ukrainian crisis began. The situation since the Crimean Peninsula was merged into the national territory shows that Russia has gradually reversed the passivity characteristic of it in the last decade of the 20th century. In the Middle East, from the disintegration of the Soviet Union to the outbreak of the US subprime mortgage crisis, the United States was basically the absolute “boss” of Middle East affairs, which be seen best by considering a series of major Middle East events such as the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. The United States is nowhere as exclusive in its practice of unilateral governance than it is in the Middle East. The USA has gotten its way to a considerable extent. In the 1990s, other global governance multipolarization forces such as China and Russia were basically unable to get their way on the same major events of that period.
But after the 2008 international financial crisis, the United States on the one hand pulled back strategically from the Middle East, and on the other hand, it struggled to cope with Russia’s entry into the Middle East and competition with the United States, especially on the Syrian issue. America has become more passive on Middle East affairs situation.
In the Asia-Pacific direction, the United States changed from the “return to Asia-Pacific” and Asia-Pacific “re-balancing” that strategically contain China to the Trump administration’s Asia-Pacific “stability plan” and Indo-Pacific strategy. Turning to creating a US-Japan-India quasi-alliance to deter China, it secretly encouraged India to cross the border in territorial disputes to challenge the red line of China’s core interests, and at the same time use the Taiwan independence forces, Sino-Japanese territorial disputes, and the Korean nuclear issue to contain China.
These all reflect to a certain extent that the hegemonic role of the United States in global security governance has changed in an unsatisfactory manner. The power of the United States in the contemporary global security governance structure is relatively declining, while the rise of Chinese power is in a relatively rising.
Amid these realities of global governance, China put forward the “Belt and Road” initiative. The first thing that bears the brunt is the vigilance blockage of the United States and some of its allies. Because the “Belt and Road” initiative objectively hedges the United States’ Asia-Pacific “re-balancing”, the Asia-Pacific “stability plan” and the Indo-Pacific strategy to a certain extent; the United States was not only unwilling to join the “Belt and Road” initiative and the Asian Investment Bank, but also lobbied to prevent its allies from joining.
The “Belt and Road” initiative, however, has not only received positive responses and applications from developing countries, but since the United Kingdom joined the Asian Investment Bank, many US allies have also joined and prepared to apply for membership. In April 2019, Italy ignored the obstruction of the United States and officially became the first country in the Group of Seven to participate in the “Belt and Road” initiative. This shows that China, as an important force in the global governance structure, could not be deliberately blocked by the United States due to its practical power and influence.
More obviously, when the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing in 2017, the United States, Japan, and South Korea, embarrassed finally decided to come. At the last moment, the three countries announced to send representatives to the summit. At the second meeting in March 2014, the number of participating countries and international organizations, heads of state and government participating was even greater than at the first meeting and the topics and cooperation agreements signed are more extensive and in-depth.
The “Belt and Road” initiative and its practices represent the forces that demand the change to a multi-polar global governance structure in the global governance structure. In order to change the irrational state of global governance, China strives to create an appropriate platform for coordinated global governance and one that reflects the growth and decline of the relative strengths of the parties involved. The “Belt and Road” initiative highlights China’s role in the evolution of today’s global governance landscape: it requires the establishment of a multi-polar global governance order and leads the development of the global governance landscape in a democratic, just, rational, and fair direction.
This means that there will be competition and conflict with the forces and practices that insist upon a unipolar global governance pattern. This highlights the contemporary global governance pattern (see the figure below) – a situation of contention between three tendencies: those who want a unipolar system with a dominant global governance structure; a multi-polarization trend, that is, the establishment of a democratic, fair, just, and reasonable win-win global governance structure; and intermediate forces that flit between the two sides for the sake of momentary advantages, for a time strengthening the one and weakening the other. Comparing the forces that require a multi-polarized trend with the forces that want a single-pole system, the former is more looser, its rules and mechanisms are weaker and it is in greater danger of falling apart.
The “Belt and Road” initiative and its practice show that China’s role in the global governance landscape is proactive and has changed fundamentally from its earlier passive stance as we can see in the tug-of-war situation among these three competing forces. In this regard, we cannot simply determine that the global governance pattern has become a multi-polar trend since the collapse of the bipolar pattern of the Cold War, nor can we simply and vaguely assume that the contemporary global governance pattern is a multi-polar pattern or a uni-polar pattern. The change of China’s role in the stage of global governance objectively reflect the characteristics of the evolution of the global governance pattern. The “Belt and Road” initiative has witnessed China’s active contribution to the rationalization of the global governance landscape.
(4) China’s participation in the global governance practice of the “Belt and Road” initiative faces complex international risks and challenges
The implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative, due to tariff issues, race, ethnic and religious issues, different social systems and resource endowments, historical burdens, debt conditions, etc., inevitably presents multiple and complex risks. In addition, it also faces the constraints and challenges created by contemporary hegemonic countries and their alliances, although the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative has been widely recognized and supported by more and more global governance actors.
In China, the “Belt and Road” initiative is a great initiative to deal with many problems during the transformation of China’s reform and opening up society. Among them, to promote domestic social development, it is necessary to solve existing problems. In this process, new problems are likely to arise. The “Belt and Road” is a long-term and ambitious project to advance the the “Chinese Dream” of a great Chinese renaissance. It must face and resolve China’s wealth gap, urban-rural gap, official corruption, rule of law reform, economic growth, separatism and terrorist forces, other troublemakers, including old problems and new contradictions.
In foreign countries, nearly all of the global governance actors gain from participating in the “Belt and Road” initiative either profiting from it themselves and from the promoting the development of their own society. Cooperation for mutual benefit is the main thing bringing them together. There exist many conflicts of interest between the participants and China. They need to take advantage of the opportunity that the China Belt and Road Initiative offers but also fear that China’s strength and the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative may become an “invisible invasion” harm their national interests. University of California, Los Angeles scholar Mia M. Bennett believes that Russia is an important part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and investment from China is becoming more attractive to Russia. This makes Russia a logical implementation site of the “Belt and Road” project. These “Belt and Road” projects are built on the Sino-Russian energy cooperation and the long-standing transportation infrastructure partnership between the two countries. China has played an investor role in these cooperative projects, but the two countries are wary of each other. This has gone on for a long time, having peaked during the Cold War, can make project implementation challenging.
In particular, Chinese investments under the “Belt and Road” initiative have not only not been very profitable but also because of the social instability in most target countries or regions, the safety of funds and personnel injected by China is always at risk as for example in certain countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Social turmoil caused by terrorist activities often endangers the safety of Chinese investment projects and Chinese personnel and facilities. The most challenging aspect of this is that certain hegemonic powers as part of their global governance strategy implement a policy of encircling and constraining China. They cause trouble to China both indirectly and directly by exerting pressure on China and policy and covert support to separatist forces within China. Other competitors are intent on isolating and impeding China including some developed countries in the East against China, misapprehending that the “Belt and Road” Initiative China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and other measures poses a threat to them, thereby assisting hegemonic countries. And so it helps the hegemonists and their Asia-Pacific allies to constrain China. In Asia and Africa they are implementing a Spice Road strategy, establishing the African Development Bank, and has adopted a “Look to the East” strategy”. Not only are these initiatives aimed for a head-on collisions with China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, Hedging China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and practice also threatens the safety of people and property China has placed in the countries along the “Belt and Road”.
Not only have negative factors emerged in some of China’s international relations, but there have also been doubts, concerns and suspicions of the “Belt and Road” surfacing in academic circles. Some British scholars believe that China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is changing geopolitics, highlighting China’s leading role, and targeting the interests of expanding in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe, thereby suppressing and excluding the leading power of other major powers. Other scholars hold negative or critical views on the “Belt and Road” initiative. YU Hong of the East Asia Institute of the National University of Singapore believes that the “Belt and Road” initiative reflects the trend that China no longer”conceals its strength and bides its time” and is actually now moving in the opposite direction and aims to reshape the world. Jonathan Holslag of the University of Brussels believes that the “Belt and Road” initiative takes the name of win-win, but it is ambitiously looking forward to opening the door of other countries and regions to economics and trade thereby boosting China’s market and investment in countries along the route. This market share has steadily increased, posing a challenge to Europe. This also shows that the “Belt and Road” initiative and its practice have caused various complaints and view in the international arena that are worry about it, oppose it, and even resist it.
The negative voices and problems caused by the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative are not isolated voices. They are caused by the ever increasing intimacy in relations among the actors in the global governance system as domestic issues become globalized and global issues become domestic issues as the information frontier among countries gradually disappears. On the economic level, Western powers and their allies exert pressure on China’s trade and finance, which jeopardizes China’s economic stability and industrial development; on the security level, the separatist and terrorist forces within China collaborate with foreign forces against China, Western powers and their so-called friends in the East use the Dalai [Lama] clique, Xinjiang independence, Taiwan independence and Hong Kong independence to create nuisances and prevent China from making progress on national reunification. At the level of cultural and value exchanges between China and foreign countries, the “conflict” between different civilizations is an objective fact. China in implementing the “Belt and Road” initiative not only exports and imports tangible products, but China’s practice also collides with the cultural concepts and value choices of relevant countries and regions along the route. If these “non-homogeneous” relations between these cultures are not handled properly, conflicts and even conflicts may arise, which in turn may hinder the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative, affect China’s image, and even harm China’s interests and cultural security.
(5) The “Belt and Road” initiative reflects the three-dimensional integration of the Chinese concept of global governance, China’s overall national security requirements, and the community of human destiny concept
The “Belt and Road” initiative integrates the concept of the community of shared human destiny, overall national security requirements and the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics. The “Belt and Road” initiative has in practice implemented the concept of global governance with Chinese characteristics and the concept of a community of human destiny. In mid-January 2017, General Secretary Xi Jinping said in a speech at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva: “Let peace be passed down from generation to generation, let the momentum of development continue, and let the light of civilization shine. It is the expectation of the people of all countries, but also a responsibility that the politicians of our generation should shoulder. The Chinese plan is to build a community of human destiny and achieve win-win sharing.” In response to the wave of counter-globalization in Western countries in recent years, “The concept of a community of human destiny proposed by President Xi Jinping has passed on to the international community. A clear signal: Economic globalization is in the common interest of mankind and cannot be turned back because of the opposition of a few countries and groups; cooperation and win-win and common development are the basic direction of global governance reform.” The concept of the community of human destiny focuses on the coexistence of human beings on the same planet. All countries are in the same world. When seeking their own interests, they must take into account the concerns of other countries. While pursuing their own prosperity should promote the common development of other countries. The concept of the community of human destiny is based on global values, emphasizing the interdependence of different actors in global governance and building a harmonious world, that is, a stable and sustainable and balanced development of the economy and the environment, a politically diverse and culturally diverse progress, and a world of mutual trust – creating a pattern for multipolar global governance.
The gradual rise of China is bound to result in China becoming a global power in the full sense of the word so the conditions for China’s sustainable development are not only about conditions within china but also depend upon global political stability, economic development, and optimization of the natural environment, and security. The primary focus of the concept of the community of human destiny is the sustainability of a secure human existence and a secure environment in which to develop. This is of course also the most important concern for China’s overall national security requirements. The “Belt and Road” initiative and its implementation aim to connect and integrate China’s development security and survival security with global sustainable development and human survival security. It is also an opportunity to transform China’s development opportunities into global development opportunities and to improve China’s security. This is closely linked to global security governance.
The “Belt and Road” initiative applies the humanistic principles of Chinese classical culture such as “while poor focus on improving one’s livelihood; once rich be concerned about the well-being of the entire world.” and “when calculating one’s profits while calculate as well how others will benefit as well” and “all in the world are brothers”. In the strategic thinking of seeking China’s well-being while also benefiting the people of other countries, this naturally means that China’s security and global security depend upon one another. This involves China’s participation and promotion of global governance, along a fairer and more rational path of “inclusive development, sharing of power and responsibility”. At the same time, it also relies on the fairness requirements of global governance to make China to reform its own structures that impede the development of China’s own productivity.
Logically speaking, if a country realizes that the destiny of mankind is the same, then its national security and global security are bound to be closely related. When thinking about the accumulation of national interests over a long historical period, it is inevitable to pay attention to global values and common humanity. The sustainable growth of well-being. In practice, China has responded sporadically or partially to the SARS and Ebola epidemic, aided the tsunami in Southeast Asia, etc., to participate in the global climate Paris agreement, etc., until building and advancing the implementation of a grand long-term strategy-“One Belt One Road” “The initiative reflects the concrete practice of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics and has gradually entered a new stage of higher-level organizational system and systematization.
The “Belt and Road” initiative is an important symbol of the changing role of China in global governance in the new era, and an accurate reflection of the new stage in the evolution of the global governance outlook with Chinese characteristics. China’s promotion of social development and progress in the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is not based on the neighborly approach, but on the premise of win-win cooperation between various actors in global governance. Therefore, the “Belt and Road” initiative is to strive for the joint construction, progress, sharing and common prosperity of all parties involved, and to seek a new pattern of global governance of tolerance, equality, democracy, harmony and cooperation.
The “Belt and Road” initiative embodies the concept of a community of human destiny proposed by China in the new era to various actors involved in global governance to help solve global problems and promote global welfare. Looking at the relationship between the evolution of the global governance concept with Chinese characteristics and the “Belt and Road” initiative, we see that it is nearly entirely based on the “Chinese dream” concept that aims to safeguard China’s core interests and seek national prosperity, achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and strives to build a harmonious global environment. The “Belt and Road” initiative, as an important program through which China seeks to promote improved global governance, maintaining world peace and stability, and help cope with many global problems bred by the global gap between rich and poor, the spread of terrorism, and the deterioration the environment. China’s security is closely linked to global security and promotes the common prosperity of the world and the coordinated progress of human civilizations. The “Belt and Road” initiative takes into account China’s interests and global values, and promotes the well-being of developing countries including China from a long-term perspective, and is conducive to the economic development and social progress of developed countries as well.
The “Belt and Road” initiative and the vision of a global governance concept with Chinese characteristics are extremely beautiful but putting them into practice will not be easy. Difficulties in implementing the “Belt and Road” initiative are normalized. The potential dangers and practical challenges are both inevitable and complicated. Overcome these difficulties and dealing with various risks and challenges involved will constantly test the global governance wisdom of the designers and practitioners of the Belt and Road Initiative.
About the Author
Name: Niu Weigan
不仅负面因素出现在一些国际关系的实践中，而且在学术圈内也产生了担忧、否定，至少是对“一带一路”怀疑的思潮。有英国学者认为，中国的“一带一路”倡议是在改变着地缘政治，突出中国的主导作用，瞄准了在中亚、东南亚以及向欧洲扩展的利益，从而压制和排挤其他大国的主导权。另一些学者对“一带一路”倡议持否定或批评的观点，新加坡国立大学东亚研究所洪宇（Hong Yu）认为，“一带一路”倡议反映了中国不再韬光养晦，而是一反被塑造的态势，却要改变世界，表现为要在塑造世界格局中主动出击势头。布鲁塞尔大学的乔纳森·霍斯拉格（Jonathan Holslag）认为，“一带一路”倡议以共赢为名头，却野心勃勃地期望打开其他国家和地区经贸大门，已经使得中国在沿线国家的市场和投资份额稳步增加，对欧洲造成挑战。这也表明，“一带一路”倡议及其实践，在国际上引发了担忧、反对甚至抵制的种种杂音和思想。