Authors: Wang Li & Zhou Dongchen
More than 100 years ago, W. A. P. Martin, a widely-respected American scholar and jurist, rightly opined, “If China is to be a part of the family of civilized States— Chinese thought, the principles at the basis of Chinese history and life must be understood.” With no doubt, one essential to this intellectual interaction is mutual intellectual comprehension.
Due to this, it is necessary to approach the intellectual elements of President Xi Jinping’s diplomacy if people want to be aware of the strategic thinking of Chinese ends and means in pursuit of its greatness.
President Xi Jin-ping, who is also the General Secretary of the ruling party (CCP) and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, is totally in charge of foreign affairs. As each previous leader distilled his own era’s particular vision of China’s needs to the successive generations, the Xi’s leadership has clearly sought to build on these legacies by undertaking a massive globally-oriented reform program of the Deng’s era. Belonging to the post-revolution generation after 1949, he has several unique features as the supreme leader of China today, which is the largest and economically most dynamic emerging power in the world. First he served in the Chinese military and then was on the field-study in the United States when he was a junior official in the 1980s. In addition, he was well-educated in social science rather than natural science and technology like his precedents. Given that a college degree in China is based on a Western-style curriculum, not a legacy of the old mandarin system, contemporary Chinese leaders are more influenced by their knowledge of the global affairs and domestic issues as well. The composition of the current leaders reflects China’s evolution toward participating in—and even shaping —global affairs.
Since 2012 when he took the post of General Secretary of CCP, Xi Jinping laid out a creative thinking and new strategies for China’s diplomacy. In view of the historical mission of China’s rejuvenation as a great power, he frankly argued that the rise of China depends upon its participation into the world affairs, although it is pretty much dominated by the United States and its allies. Considering this, Xi has repeatedly rejected the concept of “Thucydides trap”. Rather, he puts forward that China must be able to deal with the ruling powers with Chinese distinctive vision, style and way of conducting diplomacy. As one of the major nuclear powers and the second largest economy of the world, China will persistently stick to peaceful rise and pursues its domestic development in the context of globalization with a view to actively engaging all countries for mutual benefit. To that end, China must work proactively to serve its overall economic and social development by fostering enabling conditions for Chinese businesses to go global and by fairly opening Chinese markets to foreign goods. By doing so, Beijing would be working with a pioneering spirit to break new ground in China’s diplomacy and foreign relations.
Yet, in view of realism that argues against peaceful rise of any great power, China needs to identify its end as a rising power and how Beijing approaches the issues related to the current order ruled by the elite club of the G-7 headed by the United States. Due to this, Xi Jinping first proposed to build a community of shared future with China’s neighborhood. He went further to call for building such a community in Asia, and eventually put forth the proposal of building a community of shared future for the globalized world at the United Nations. His overarching outline or roadmap for building this community is of five dimensions as follows, namely enduring peace, universal security, common prosperity, openness and inclusiveness, and making our world clean and beautiful. This proposal puts China’s diplomacy on a moral high ground in keeping with the trend of the era. As Xi himself has interpreted on several occasions, to build up a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation means each country, in particular the great power, must get rid of the Cold War mentality or zero-sum game thinking since the times have changed. As we all live in the “global village”, the countries must keep pace with new trends in the 21st century and follow a win-win approach in handling external relations in the political, economic, security and cultural fields. Win-win cooperation is literally China’s answer to the question “what should China want from the current world order or how would China as a rising power deal with the others’ interest in the 21st century”. Given this, the global community needs to work to replace confrontation with cooperation, monopoly with shared benefits, and to jointly build a better world for all nations.
For sure, Chinese leadership is not naïve in dealing with international issues in terms of the anarchic and “power politics” nature. To that end, Xi Jinping highlights that China needs to make as many friends as possible and build a global network of partnerships while upholding the principle of non-alignment. Such partnerships are equal, peaceful and inclusive in nature. They are not dominated by any party, or draw lines of division, still less are they directed against any imaginary enemies or third parties. Pragmatically, the concept of partnerships is built upon a commitment to common ends and a readiness to seek common ground while setting aside differences. They transcend the Cold War mentality of “either with us or against us” that created confrontation between opposing alliances. China has established such partnerships with some 100 countries, regions or regional organizations, blazing a new trail in relations between countries that favor dialogue over confrontation, partnership over alliance.
Finally, since China is a rising power and a developing country as well, Xi Jinping vows to follow the well-laid tenet that more consideration should be directed to the interests of developing countries which have long been the foundations of China’s foreign policy. Meanwhile, he puts forward the initiatives for the neighboring states concerning with security, development and regional stability. With the broader vision and strategic approaches, he has oriented the course of China’s peaceful rise in view of a more favorable international milieu. He calls for more proactive efforts to communicate China’s views and exert its role in the international arena. Quite a few of Chinese initiatives have been accepted as international consensus that has been turned into global actions. To certain extent, this has become a hallmark of the soft power of China.
As Henry Kissinger wrote in his well-articulated book On China, “given its unique ancient pride and modern shame, China has thought of itself as a playing a special role.” Since rarely did Chinese statesmen risk the outcome of a conflict on a single all-or-nothing clash, elaborate multiyear maneuvers are closer to their style. In the meantime, the Chinese have been shrewd practitioners of Realpolitik and students of a strategic doctrine distinctly different from the strategy and diplomacy that found favor in the West. This study aims to argue that President Xi Jinping’s grand strategic thinking is that China has never been so close to the center of the world stage as a leading player, therefore, it requires the Chinese, both the leading and the ruled, to adopt a global perspective and grasp the underlying trend of the era in order to be aware of where China stands today in terms of the vicissitudes of global power. Due to this, Xi admits that China should neither take rash action nor sit by and be reactive. Rather, China should seize all opportunities and rise to challenges to pursue Chinese historical mission.
Today it is still too early to say when China will move to its national greatness once again, but one thing is certain that it is Xi Jinping who takes the whole country with 1.3 billions of people into the final stage of China’s century dream.
The 3rd Trans-Himalaya Forum UN for Ecological Civilization and Environmental Protection
Despite the world is passing through a very tense and hostile geopolitical environment, yet, in a significant diplomatic development, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani is set to attend the 3rd Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation in Nyingchi, Tibet, from October 4-5, 2023. This visit comes at the special invitation of China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, underlining the mutual commitment of nations in fostering regional cooperation.
Historical Background and Importance:
Tibet is also known the roof top of the world, it is one of the oldest civilization, and may be the most important part of the world, especially for this entire region. It is the source of water for whole region, most of the rivers originates from it. It biodiversity is crucial for the entire region. The Trans-Himalaya Forum, initiated in 2018, stands as a testament to the collaborative spirit among regional countries. It aims to deepen practical cooperation on vital issues such as geographical connectivity, environmental protection, ecological preservation, and cultural exchanges. The last in-person meeting, held in 2019, facilitated invaluable discussions that paved the way for shared understanding and strategic collaborations.
China views the Trans-Himalaya Forum as a platform that embodies the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation. The forum aligns with China’s commitment to ecological civilization and environmental protection, central tenets of its development agenda. China values it friends and Pakistan is closet of its neighbor, friend and stakeholder in the region. By inviting esteemed diplomats like Foreign Minister Jilani, China underscores its commitment to fostering international partnerships and building a sustainable future together. China is committed to work with the rest of world in all domains and especially with its close friends and allies. Chinese initiatives like Global Security, Global Developments, and Community of shared futures are in line with the same spirit. China believes in multilateralism, and openness, while oppose hegemonic approach and protectionism.
Importance of the Forum:
This year’s theme, “Ecological Civilization and Environmental Protection,” reflects the urgency of addressing environmental challenges collectively. The Forum serves as a crucial avenue for nations to exchange ideas, best practices, and innovative solutions. It not only enhances regional cooperation but also fosters a deeper understanding of the diverse cultures that make up the Trans-Himalayan region. Currently the world is facing severe challenges on clash of civilization and environmental fronts. China being a responsible nation is well aware of such challenges and its consequences, that is why, it is struggling to prevent any major disaster. It has been putting all efforts to resolve the common issues and problems faced by humankind. It is open to all nations in a positive manner to collaborate to resolve the serious concerns. This forum will be a right stem in the right direction.
The Forum is anticipated to yield fruitful outcomes. Bilateral meetings, including those with the Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia, the Foreign Minister of China, and the Interim Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, are expected to foster stronger ties and collaborative initiatives. Additionally, the collective discussions are likely to result in joint projects, resource sharing, and policy frameworks aimed at environmental conservation and sustainable development.
The Way Forward:
Looking ahead, the Trans-Himalaya Forum will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the region. By embracing the Chinese perspective, nations can harness the collective wisdom of diverse cultures and work towards a harmonious and prosperous Trans-Himalayan region. As nations engage in collaborative efforts, this forum exemplifies the power of unity and shared goals, paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future for all. The beneficiaries will be all stakeholders in the region and will also contribute to global peace, development and harmony.
Pakistan is always playing positive role in geopolitics and will be important member of the global community in resolving immediate concerns. As a matter of policy, Pakistan has been contributing toward resolving issues and overcoming challenges. Pakistan is always a partner in any positive developments leading toward security, peace and developments. The UN always appreciated its role in UN peace keeping mission.
Reading the Rise of China
Unlike in the past, when the geopolitical discourse worldwide was going through a massive geopolitical metamorphosis in the first half of the 20th century, as the fall of empires were accompanied by the rise of democracy, republics, socialist and communist dictatorship. Meanwhile, it resulted in the rise of the US and USSR as two superpowers at the end of the second world war, and such a geopolitical metamorphosis situation is evident with China’s rise, whose rise under Xi Jinping’s leadership has countered the US and its global order and supremacy. Since its independence, China has come a long way from being a poverty-ridden, low-income group nation to now the second-largest economy in the world.
To address its economic crisis after the demise of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping’s 1979 “reform and opening up” pushed China to emphasize the four-modernization areas to develop itself as a prosperous country. As the reform emphasized the modernization of agriculture, industry, emphasis on science and technology and securing national defense, it also resulted in China being viewed as a strategic threat to the West in the later years. Furthermore, it resulted in the beginning of a debate over whether the rise of China is peaceful or not? China, since the 1990s, has adopted, basically, what we called the “charm offensive” and employed it to win over its neighboring and regional states, where China uses persuasion opposite to threat as a mode. It was done along with diplomacy, trade, investment, engage in cooperative regionalism, strengthening cultural relationships, offering aid, and acted as a responsible nation in resolving regional and global disputes.
The concept of peaceful rise or “hepingjueqi” was first used by Zheng Bijian in 2003 and was adopted by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2003 as a Chinese expression to reflect country’s growth and its status as a global power from a less threatening perspective. Growing concern over the concept resulted in the adoption of peaceful development; as a result, in 2005, a white paper on China’s Peaceful Development Road was issued; it sees peaceful development for the country’s modernization as inevitable one because it will promote global peace and development. As the paper seeks a mutual benefit and common development, thus building a harmonious world altogether, which was later reiterated in the 2011 White Paper “China Peaceful Development”. With repetition of the word peace and common development, the basic content of the peaceful rise was kept while its outer look was refined as the term ‘rise’ gave way to ‘road’, which will ensure accessibility to ‘development’ and not domination. It remains the base to project China’s rise to the world since the arrival of President Xi Jinping in 2012, which transformed China’s rise to be assertive and aggressive. However, Xi’s economic infrastructure (the BRI and Made in China 2025) and financial institutions developed (AIIB and National Development Bank) carried out since 2013 to sustain the Chinese economy and economic growth raises one relevant question, i.e., ‘will China face the ‘Soviet’s fate and how so far it avoided an economic collapse’? Explanation of such question will lay a base to understand the need for Xi’s vision for China and the Chinese Dream and its development so far impacted the world order established since the collapse of the USSR.
Today, China’s aggressive behavior worldwide isn’t only supported by its strong and vibrant export-led economic growth and Xi’s leadership; it also highlights the need to discuss diminutively how China’s rigor to learn from the Soviet’s mistakes continued to help China to expand its strategic hegemony. China took a cue from the USSR’s shortcomings and the mistakes it committed during the Cold War range from economic to military aspects to protect itself from committing the same mistakes. However, whether it was Soviet’s the Glasnost or Perestroika, which opened the country to the western lifestyle and freedom of thought and expression, weakened the Soviet’s central authority as Chinese leaders considered through ethnonationalism and political unrest in the country. Unlike the Soviets, China enjoys a large homogenous society and further addresses its periphery which includes Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, which are under CCP’s tight control to counter any Colour Revolution. Further, since the 1979 Vietnam War, as China argues, it has never engaged in any proxy warfare and instead invested its resources to couple its economies with other economies. Although, today, it created uneasiness for other countries to contain China’s rise and geopolitical ambition.
Meanwhile, as China hid its geopolitical ambition, it further transformed itself into a global manufacturing hub. As Soviet mistakes continued to reflect in the CCP research work to avoid the Glasnost moment, Watch the Periphery and further embraced Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics. President Xi Jinping, in his speech to party officials in 2013, reiterated apart from maintaining ideological control and upholding the Marxist-Leninist principle, ’a great power fall when central authority losses power and respect which will only help China to avoid Soviet Union’s mistakes. In such regard, to control the flow of information and restrain free speech, the party maintained control over the digital and non-digital platforms and didn’t allow Facebook, Google Services, The New York Times, Twitter, Washington Post, and others to work which established what called the ‘Great Firewall of China’. Such surveillance of the Chinese internet put Chinese people under steady surveillance as China uses the Deep Pocket Inspection, which allows Chinese intelligence agencies to keep an eye on Chinese people and censor information and Chinese lives establishing China as Digital Authoritarian who exports its model to other countries which become a serious issue today.
Under such circumstances and growing issue of human right issue in Xinjiang and the CCP is working towards suppressing democracy in Hong Kong and changing the demography of Tibet. Further, the intent to unify Taiwan with China, coupled with slowing of the Chinese economy due to its Zero-Covid policy, questions CCP rule and asks when will China and the CCP collapse? To contradict such scrutiny, China argues West always view China at the cusp of crisis and will experience a hard landing ending CCP rule and COVID as China’s Chernobyl moment. In recent times whenever China faces or encountered any challenges like unfounded rumor of a coup in China and Xi Jinping’s sudden departure from the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 15-16 September 2022 or the ongoing property crisis like the Evergrande, China argues pushes the West to create wild prophecies concerning the fate of the CCP and China.
However, Zhang Weiwei, Director of the China Institute of Fudan University, argues most of the predictions made by the West failed as they failed to predict the fall of the Soviets or the rise of China, and the rise of Trumpism and the 2008 financial crisis. He states West’s predictions reflect ideological biasedness towards no-western countries, like how they will be westernized and use their historical experience to analyse China’s future ignoring civilizational differences as they will end up concluding the wrong prediction. However, as China is facing economic and policy challenges with growing discontent among Chinese elites, Xi’s absence and other development following the SCO summit allowed the global Falun Gong movement – China banned it in 1999 – to spread anti-CCP and Xi’s discontent further. However, the possibility of a coup in China has been addressed by the party, and Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption movement with military coup remains implausible or considered the wishful thinking of the West; as such rumour reflects world is still unaware of China’s inner workings as Global Times argues none are even remotely right.
As Global Times argues, unlike how the West view China, under Xi Jinping and CCP leadership, China was able to achieve a faster economic growth rate and handled the Covid-19 pandemic well compared with the West who only exaggerate China’s problem and downplayed its growth and development reflecting having a wrong prediction of China. It further states China’s collapse perspective reflects in Francis Fukuyama, who, in 2012, argued that ‘China’s top-down political system will only blow up due to the pressure from a growing middle class who’re empowered by wealth and social network’. Meanwhile, Zhang Yiwu, Professor at the Peking University, states in China today, there are more than 1 billion people who are exposed to the internet, which still didn’t impact the CCP’s rule and authority; rather, Chinese used the medium to express their opinion on problems and warn the government to fix the problem and issues. Further, unlike other western scholars, Martin Jacquesargues with China continues to rise, support for its political system will increase, highlighting Chinese system worked which will strengthen in coming years as other countries will adopt it, which alarmed the West as it could lead to the ‘Sinification of the world’. To rebut the West’s China collapse theory, Chinese scholar like Yang Sheng argues instead of prophesizing China and CCP falls; the West should conduct poll using Pew and Ipsos, credible and authoritative institute. He states staying in the house and base your research on second-hand source data instead will only lead you away from the fact and fail to achieve a definite conclusion.
US- Japan- South Korea Military Cooperation Pushes More Rigid Bipolar Security Arrangement in Northeast Asia
The Russian-North Korean negotiations this month have provoked a lot of hype, particularly in the West. It is assumed by the West that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s trip might indicate a profound change in Moscow’s overall approach to the security problems on the Korean Peninsula. Allegedly, a new so-called “Moscow-Beijing-Pyongyang axis” that harbors unquestionable hostile intentions toward the West is rapidly emerging in Northeast Asia. It is suggested that Moscow is now ready to directly assist North Korea with its nuclear and, especially, with its ballistic programs. Pyongyang, in its turn, might send large-scale military hardware supplies to Russia to serve the “special military operation” that Moscow has been conducting in Ukraine since February of 2022.
These allegations have to be addressed in a proper context. Speaking of various axes in Northeast Asia, one should not forget about the growing level of military cooperation between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul. Both Japan and the South Korea have dramatically increased their defense spending as well as the scale of their trilateral interaction. In the end of 2022, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced an unprecedentedly ambitious five-year rearmament plan that should turn Japan into the nation with the third highest defense budget in the world after the US and China.
The changing posture of the South Korea is arguably even more significant. After all, Japan has always been a disciplined US geopolitical partner at least since signing the 1960 US-Japan security treaty. South Korea for a long time has consistently resisted pressure from the US to join Washington and Tokyo in a trilateral alliance or to drop its friendly ties with Beijing and Moscow. President Yoon Suk-yeol, who came to power in 2022, apparently has a different take on the South Korea’s security prospects. The traditional distancing from the US-Japan strategic partnership is no longer in place. The new leadership makes steps to bring Seoul closer to Quad and AUKUS. It even entertained the idea of South Korea obtaining indigenous nuclear weapons. On top of that, for at least last two years, both Japan and South Korea have been meticulously integrated into the new global strategy of the North Atlantic Alliance.
A devil’s advocate would argue that both Tokyo and Seoul have every reason to be concerned about security challenges mounting in Northeast Asia. Still, even giving both nations the benefit of the doubt, it is impossible to deny that the security and political “axis” in this region of the world is being built by the West rather than by the East. And, as Newton’s Third Law tells us, for every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. When one body acts on another, it experiences an equal and opposite reaction from the other body. Now, the question is not if a nuclear war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, North Korean Defense Minister General Kang Sun-nam stated in August, but who starts it and when.
Let’s be clear: Pyongyang is much more sensitive about its sovereignty and independence than both Tokyo and even Seoul. This means that North Korea will never become an obedient proxy in Russia’s or China’s capable hands. However, the growing US-Japanese-South Korean military cooperation inevitably leads to stronger China-Russia-North Korea ties. This, in turn, means that we are moving toward a more rigid bipolar security arrangement in Northeast Asia. Unfortunately, for the time being, all the dreams for a common security system in the region have to be put on hold.
Will this change affect Russia’s and China’s approaches to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula? Neither Moscow nor Beijing is interested in a nuclear arms race there. Russia and China have little to gain and a lot to lose if the existing fragile consensus in the United Nations Security Council on North Korean nuclear program were to collapse. On the other hand, the new great powers confrontation can do nothing but erode the trust, which is indispensable for maintaining this consensus. There is still time to reverse these dangerous trends toward bipolarity in the region. Instead of lamenting about the actions of the other side, major actors should engage in inclusive consultations on how to defuse the situation.
Twenty years ago, the so called six-party talks on nuclear program were launched in Beijing. Over six years this multilateral format had its ups and downs, successes and failures. In April of 2009 this mechanism finally hit the wall. Though it is hardly possible to get back to where the region was 20 years ago, the spirit of the six-party talks remains the best hope for security solutions in the region of Northeast Asia.
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