The rationale behind China’s alignment with the Global South

The rise of China has not only been seen as a comprehensive challenge to the U.S. hegemony, but also Beijing’s increasing alignment with the Global South is rapidly regarded as the potential peer to G-7.

Over the past decade, the rise of China has not only been seen as a comprehensive challenge to the U.S. hegemony, but also Beijing’s increasing alignment with the Global South is rapidly regarded as the potential peer to G-7 and its partners globally on the multilateral system and global norms. It is agreed that although a more cohesive G7 and its informal expansion at times to a G7+, the world rich club has done considerably less than China in providing an updated vision of global governance that is appealing to the Global South. The fact remains that it represents over 80% of the global population, an immense amount of natural resources and particularly the emerging economic powerhouses like BRICS.

According to a policy report from the Chatham House in London, it argues that in the economic domain, G7 members have different interpretations and priorities for de-risking. The US prioritises defending its leadership in certain key technologies, while European countries focus on diversifying their economic ties with China and stabilizing sound trade or commercial connections. There’s also a difference in pace and urgency, with the US seeking to move faster than most European countries. Equally in the security domain, there is consensus across the Atlantic on the need to uphold the existing Indo-Pacific order against Beijing’s attempts to overturn it. Yet, in contrast with the US’s dominant role on security matters in the Indo-Pacific, European partners are best placed to do more in non-traditional security domains and to strengthen economic deterrence.

Given that Europe has to continue its reliance on the US security umbrella, it suggests the need for an explicit transatlantic discussion on how security efforts in Europe and the Indo-Pacific link together. Simply put, effective cooperation among the West’s major powers requires alignment, if not agreement, on the urgency and severity of the challenge posed by China which has wisely aligned with the Global South. Since joint action demands specifics and granularity at the policy-making level, it is imperative for G-7 to strengthen cooperation among themselves along with their core partners globally. This paper argues that without a clear view of what future relations with China would look like, it is hard to develop policy and judge if that policy is appropriate or effective. Accordingly, the study starts from the rationales behind China’s alignment with the Global South, e.g. what is China’s goal in alignment with the Global South, why does China aspire to work with the vast different states of the Global South, and how has Beijing approached the issues concerned with the Global South?

In a recent remark by Wang Yi who is currently Chinese Foreign Minister, he reiterated the official line that “China was, is and will be part of Global South” since Beijing has looked forward to jointly creating a shining “South moment” in global governance. To that aim, China emphasizes that independence is the distinct feature of the Global South and seeking strength through unity is its legacy. Now with unprecedented global changes unfold, the Global South is no longer the “silent majority,” but a key force for reshaping the international order and a source of hope as the world undergoes profound changes unseen in a century. In all terms, the Global South is gaining increasing preeminent role in international politics and public affairs, referring to its emerging as a significant new force shaping global order. In addition, a stronger BRICS means growing force for peace and increasing international support for justice and equality in global governance.

Meanwhile, it is reasonable to claim that the voices of the Global South countries are not yet sufficiently represented in global mainstream media coverage. As we now know, quite a few Western media sources have been active in smearing Global South countries, including China, to mislead public opinion and set agendas. Given this, it is strategically urgent for China to align with the Global South countries to get rid of the dominance of the Western-centric perspective and tell their developing stories with their voices.

As the first step, China must address the concerns of the Global South by providing insights and solutions into current hot topics from the perspective of the Global South. For example, China vows to continue demonstrating the real face of China’s economy as the Western media and policy-elite have tried to demononize China such as the conspiracy theory about China’s economic collapse and a “debt trap” for the developing countries. Secondly, China needs to display its foreign policy concepts and practice of the global governance. Thirdly, China needs to use wisely China’s Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) as an example to explain the differences between Chinese development model and those of Western countries. In brief, China’s modernity is by no means that other countries should follow China’s culture, language, or value system to measure themselves. Instead, it means that each country has its own cultural legacy and social-economic foundation, not to mention their religious beliefs, political systems, and ideologies. In a long run, the Global South should act more responsibly in re-establishing a future world with diverse value systems and ideologies.

It is plain that China’s commitment to multilateralism and the United Nations (UN) process, calling for an equal playing field for developing countries and promoting the influence of the Global South. To that aim, China’s proposed solution was to build a community with a shared future for mankind – a concept that has become an international consensus since it was presented a decade ago. Now the vision was included in UN declarations as well as those of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and other international institutions.

In term of pursuing an equal and orderly multipolar world, China defines it absent of bloc politics or divisions, featuring equal rights and equal rules. In contrast to the power politics used by the Western countries, China opines that in foreign affairs, the stronger and wealthier countries should not have the final say, and that it was “unacceptable that some countries are on the table while others are only on the menu, an apparent reference to a recent comment by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Rather, China vows that “strengthening the role of the UN is vital given the crises and challenges seen in recent years, but reform is needed to increase the representation and say of the developing countries from the Global South.”

To make global governance feasible, China has vowed to work closely and reciprocally with the focuses on three key principles: “mutual respect is a precondition, peaceful coexistence is a baseline, as conflict between the countries would have “unimaginable consequences” and accordingly, win-win cooperation is the goal. They can be defined as the fundamentals behind China’s alignment with the Global South from the mid-1950s until nowadays. In one word, China has acted in line with its strategic thinking and cultural mindset.

Samuel Zumah
Samuel Zumah
Ghana parliamentary officer, LLM majored in International Affairs, having extensive field-study in China during 2023-24