China's forthcoming soft power as a natural result of international events

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--By Patricia Rodríguez Hölkemeyer, Professor, University of Costa Rica




The Chinese Dream takes into consideration ancient philosophers'insistence on the importance to primarily attain the domestic political capability needed to fulfill China's aspirations towards a harmonious and stable society and to exert a positive influence toward the conformation of a harmonious World overother objectiveslikeattaining economic or military might.

The 6th Plenary Session of the 17th National Party Congress in 2011concluded that at the present moment China must put before the goal of maintaining its economic success, the search political capability, humane authority, and what Joseph Nye called soft power. It also proposed that China must turn away from both forms of materialism (Marxist and capitalist) and look towards the fulfillment of its people spiritual aspirations,as well to moral and a renovated cultural outlook. China's process of reform needs rejuvenation, while paradoxically payingattention to the wisdom engrained in its millenary cultural experience.China´s governing elites have wisely realized that during the economic reform process, as a learning process by 'trial and error', non-desired effects may occur. At the present moment, China's governing body has come to the point of awareness that China's economic success will be doomed to failure if an emerging materialistic and egoistic attitude predominates over the moral, cultural and spiritual development of leaders and citizens. The Chinese Dreamconcept draws from the aims of the 6th Plenum, and is ingrained in the idea that China must pursue individual happiness, as well as collective happiness.

On the other side, Deng'saphorism that China should never strive to attain global hegemony has been widely respected by its leaders and reformers. Nevertheless, today circumstances have changed. China's ancient thinkers rejected the idea of searching for hegemony through stratagems, and favored instead the accomplishment of what Mencius and Xuzi called humane authority. Nevertheless, at the present moment China does not need to strive for the attainment of a leading role because the present world circumstances are catapulting her to becomea world superpower.

What are the present world circumstances that have put China in the position to have a say in international affairs without having to strive for hegemony? Why is the Western 'presumptive paradigm' (Rodrik)for developmentfailing contrastingly to the pragmatic and experimental learning paradigm of the Chinese reformers that Joshua Cooper Ramo dubbed the Beijing Consensus? The ex-ante presumption of knowledge, a characteristic of the Western countries and global institutions, very probably will be ceding its place to a Deweyian pragmatic change of paradigm, according to which, even the mere conception of what is the best form of democracy is fallible and contextual.

Very probably, the paradigm of 'arrogance'will be giving place to aparadigm based on what the political scientist, Karl Deutsch, once called 'humility'. Deutsch defined its opposite "arrogance" as the posture of permitting oneself the luxury of not to learn (because it is supposed that one has already learned everything), while he defines 'humility' as the attitude of the political leader who is always open to learning from others. The West has forgotten that the concept of feedback (learning form the other) is the biggest bite to the tree of knowledge that humanity has undertaken in the last two thousand years (Bateson). A new concept of democracy has to take into consideration this advancement as the Chinese reform process has done.

Western countries' presumptive frame of mind has been slowly losing momentum. The present circumstances provide a clear indication thatone of the most cared institutions, the Western multiparty democracy system, has been losing its ability to learn, and thus, its capacity to offer creative solutions to its own and the world's problems. As a former US Ambassador to China said two years ago,the willingness of Chinese leaders to learn from their errors and adapt to new circumstances "differs sharply from what one encounters in Washington, where there's such concern over our inability to correct the problems that are making our political system — in the eyes of many Americans — increasingly dysfunctional."

The US has to enhance its learning capacity if it wants to lead in world affairs in cooperation with the newly emerging superpower. The West has to acknowledge that the so called American values are not universal, that harmony implies unity in diversity, that the concept of democracy is fallible and mutable, and that hegemony has to cede to a well gained humane authority,not only abroad but domestically.

Since W. W. II, the US attained the soft power that China lacked. Nevertheless, the US insistence in the maintenance of an hegemonic international order applying the smart power(a new concept of Joseph Nye) stratagems, has culminated in the observed failure of the misnamed Arab Spring, even if the application of smart power(instigation through political activism, and the posterior use of military power if necessary) was partially successful in the so called Color Revolutions (Rodríguez-Hölkemeyer, 2013).

Given the present circumstances (as the effects of 9/11, the global financial crisis, the formation of the G20, the global rejection of US espionage stratagems, the failure of the Pivot to the East policy due to the attention the US had to devote to the failed Arab Spring,to an ailing Europe, and to its own domestic financial and political problems)China's possibilities to acquire soft power and to exert its positive influence way the international governing institutions and in international relations, arenow real.

The world needs a new international relations paradigm, other than the Western style democracy promotion policy through political activism (see the book of the present US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, Advancing Democracy Abroad)orchestrated by organized minorities (NGOs)who want to impose the so called 'American values' in countries with different historical paths, culture and aspirations. The new paradigm will have to be founded in ethics, wisdom,cooperation, confidence-building, and on the recognition that knowledge is fallible and hypothetical, and that with globalization world circumstancesand interactions are prone to change.This new paradigm has already been successfully tested in the 35 years of China's own economic and institutional reform processand diplomatic practice. This adaptive and learning-prone attitude of the Chinese leaders, even to the point of adapting (not adopting) western suggestions and institutions when necessary, is the underlying cause of the success of the admirable and unique Chinese development path. As Mencius and Xuzi's observations suggest that a country cannot exert international influence if its own house is not in order.

In sum, the present article states that now China possesses a substantive experiential wisdom to start a very productive dialogue with the World. Especially in a moment when it is beginning to be clear to many in the World, that to strive for maintaining a hegemonic world order (Mearsheimer) by means of dubious stratagemsis --according to Lao Tzu thought—the kind of response when intentions are goingagainst the natural course of events.


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