By Wu Jianmin
Premier Wen Jiabao clarified China's stance on the so-called "Group of Two" (G2) at the China-EU summit on May 20, 2009: "It is impossible for a couple of countries or a group of big powers to resolve all global issues. Multipolarization and multilateralism represent the larger trend and the will of people," Wen stressed, "Some say that world affairs will be managed solely by China and the United States. I think that view is baseless and wrong."
Wen's speech was the first open statement signaling China's attitude toward the G2, an attitude that has attracted widespread attention and positive responses throughout the world.
Last year Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, again reiterated his views on G2 in the Foreign Affairs. He is one of the principal adherents to the idea of bi-polar Sino-US hegemony. Some mainstream US strategists and scholars went on to give their support to his position. As a result the G2 statement triggered worldwide contention. Europe and Japan became very worried and openly expressed their concern at several international conferences that US-EU relations and US-Japan relations might be undermined by increasingly close Sino-US ties. A number of developing countries also expressed their doubts about this statement.
But in my view, one cannot view new emerging ideas on international affairs in a simplistic fashion. More importantly one should analyze the background to and the reasons for such new ideas. Only in this way can we better understand why such ideas have been put forward.
On December 25, 1991, the disintegration of the USSR heralded the end of the cold war. Some westerners were delighted as they thought that their position of influence would no longer be subject to any challenge. But following the end of the cold war, developments in the new world order departed from their expectations. The United States launched the so called "war on terror" which led to the severe confrontation between Christian civilization and Islamic civilization. The "democratization" wave advocated by the west brought only turmoil and conflict in many regions.
After the cold war, one evident and notable trend was the rise of a number of countries through reform and opening up. This rise of the developing countries is the most remarkable event of the 21st century and it is going to change the face of the 21st century. China is a prominent representative of the rising developing countries. And like other newly emerging countries, China is going to play a bigger role and to exert greater influence in world affairs.
The emergence of the G2 statement has to be considered against the above-mentioned background. It is different from the so-called "united federation of democratic nations". Over the last few years, many eminent scholars and some of the best brains in the US and Europe have criticized the "united federation of democratic nations" because they believed that it would split the world and provoke a new cold war.
People's views of international trends are usually closely connected with history. Today's world has evolved from the bipolar world. The thought that big powers dominate the world and strong powers decide the fate of weaker ones has become ingrained in many people's minds. However, the world is undergoing profound changes and the zero sum game epoch is coming to its end. China has always insisted that world affairs shall be jointly decided by all nations, no matter how big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor. This is just what Premier Wen meant when he stressed the importance of multipolarization and multilateralism.
We do not aspire to govern the world along with the United States. But we must recognize that Sino-US relations are the most important bilateral relations in China's diplomacy. Our policy is to push forward Sino-US relations along a healthy and stable path in this new era.
China and the US are two of the world's most influential and important countries. Further strengthening of Sino-US cooperation in line with principles agreed by both sides will benefit not only the two countries but also the world at large. European and Japanese worries about the development of Sino-US relations are unnecessary, something that can be attested by the history of the past 30 years. The development of Sino-US relations over that period has caused no harm to Europe and Japan – indeed both have benefited from closer Sino-US ties.
The author is the former Chinese ambassador to France and now honorary president of the International Exhibitions Bureau.
(China.org.cn translated by Zhang Ming'ai, May 26, 2009)