China and the international order

Xu Qinduo Published: 2017-03-09 15:18:55
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China and the international order

By Xu Qinduo

As the new US administration shifts its attention to domestic issues by following the principle of America First, there's been growing expectation on China to play a bigger role in areas ranging from climate change to globalization. 

At the same time, the question is: Is China ready and willing to assume a global leadership role?  

Global Leadership Role?

 We may discern some clues from the latest briefing to the media by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ongoing "Two Sessions" – the annual political meetings of the top legislature and political advisory bodies in Beijing. 

Mr. Wang lowered the expectation of China playing a leadership role, in particular, to displace the United States, which stresses more on unilateral interests in dealing with other nations. He presented a different understanding from Chinese perspective that "rather than talking about leadership, we should really be talking about responsibility." 

He then explained where the Chinese thinking originates from. "China believes in the equality of all countries, large and small, and we don't believe some countries should lead others." 

If that's the case, which country or organization should the international community turn to on major issues or in time of crisis? 

For China, that role should be played by the United Nations. The UN is the most authoritative and credible intergovernmental organization and should effectively play its role of coordinating international affairs according to the purposes and principles of its charter, said the Chinese Foreign Minister. 

The key message from China on its possible leadership role? Well, for Beijing, the authority of the UN needs to be further enhanced instead of seeking leadership from an individual country. One note here, China contributes the largest number of contingents to the UN peace-keeping missions. 

That's surely a point worth pondering. Just think of the US invasion into Iraq in 2003 without UN authorization and under the excuse of fake evidence. In the absence of adequate deliberation in the UN among the major players, two much damage a so-called leadership could cause to international rules as well as to innocent people! 

But that doesn't mean China is shirking its responsibility as the largest trading nation and the second largest economy in the world. If there's anything we can draw from Mr. Wang's remarks, China is on the contrary to shoulder a tremendous responsibility in possible areas such as climate change, free trade and globalization. 

Philosophy behind China's Policy Making

Since President Xi took office five years ago, he has put forward a series of new ideas and thoughts. For example, confrontation should be replaced with dialogues, alliance with partnership, building a new type of international relationships featuring win-win cooperation, and jointly building a community of shared future for all of mankind. 

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said these new ideas "reject the old concepts of alliance and confrontation, rise above the old approach of zero-sum games and have distinct Chinese characteristics and major implications for the world."

If you have a closer look at the track record of China dealing with other countries, it actually reflects those ideas in a rather thorough way. 

-Despite all the disputes and tensions over South China Sea, China and regional neighbors such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, have reached an understanding and decided to resolve the disputes through dialogues while striving to have more trade and investment. The Chinese practice presents a sharp contrast to the growing military presence in the region from the US. Which approach is laudable? The answer can't be clearer. 

-While Washington is talking about a "great, great wall" along the borders with Mexico, China is building One Belt One Road to connect not only countries along the silk or maritime roads but also countries that's willing to join.  

-China is investing in clean energy to reduce greenhouse emissions. The US is abandoning the Paris Climate Change agreement. 

Another important trait of Chinese foreign policy is its consistency. China emphasizes independence and peace in conducting foreign affairs. It has been long promoting trade and multilateralism. 

"In the face of skepticism over the existing international order and system, we have always called for maintaining it, and where necessary, improving it," said Mr. Wang. Furthermore, he noted, China has championed multilateralism, openness and inclusiveness, amid a growing backlash against globalization and rising protectionism. 

Frankly speaking, the consistency and continuity of China's diplomacy offers much solace in today's world of uncertainty and turmoil – the unfinished business of Brexit, the unknown policies of President Donald Trump, the unclear future of European Union and so on. 

Back to the Chinese vision, even the most cynical will probably agree with Chinese analysis on the looming crisis in the Korean Peninsula – North Korea and US-S. Korea are like two accelerating trains coming to each other head-on. 

Mr. Wang said "the priority is to flash the red light and apply the brakes" and China is willing to be a "railway switchman" to switch the issue back to the right track.

Neither Pyongyang nor Seoul will benefit from the train collision. China and the US will lose, too, one way or another. 

The wisdom of peace and stability sounds trite and is mostly cliché. But they're also the ultimate truth about this imperfect world we live in. 

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.