Major nations need to build trust to suit the times

By Fu Ying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, October 27, 2016
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Fu Ying, chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, discusses with Professsor Thomas Fingar of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Standford Unversity, at a seminar titled Rebuilding Trust: China-US Relations at the university in Palo Alto, California, on May 10. Provided to China Daily

The world order quo vadis? This is a question that has attracted diverse opinions. There is obviously no consensus yet on how the existing order should be adjusted. More importantly, there is a lack of trust among major countries.

In the history of international relations, trust has been a rare commodity, and the lack of trust remains an impediment to genuine partnerships in today's world.

Take Russia and the United States, for example, 25 years after the end of the Cold War, it is hard to say they have greater trust in each other now.

The relationship between China and the US is also often troubled by the lack of trust. In the 30-plus years of its reform and opening-up drive, China has established strong economic ties with the US. However, the South China Sea has brought our conflicting security interests into focus, reminding many in China that in spite of our inseparable interdependence, we are far from partners in the security field.

Am I right to say that the world order the US claims to lead is a power structure, founded on US values, rejecting other ideologies and supported by a military alignment, which does not take into consideration the security interests of others?

In the economic field, the power structure is not that distinct. While it seeks to maintain a global economic framework centered on the US dollar, it has also encouraged globalization which has led to the opening-up of the world economic structure. The UN institutions, G20 and many other organizations are also being encouraged to play growing roles in global economic governance.

China does not have a strategy to challenge the US-led world order, but when it ostracizes the Chinese political system and ignores China's security interests, it is hard for China to support it.

Is the US willing for the world order to be adjusted? I have discussed this with many US scholars and the answer they have given is no.

I remember when talking to Professor John Mearsheimer (professor of political science at the University of Chicago), he told me that "China should either submit or challenge" and that it is only natural that China would seek to replace the US hegemony and the US should counter it.

But is it really an either-or choice? Does it mean when the people in developing countries are lifted out of poverty and start pursuing their dreams of prosperity, there is no avoiding the Thucydides trap?

The Chinese people have their own view of the world order. It is one in which the international order centered on the UN. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that China "firmly upholds the international order and system underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter" and together with other countries wants to "make the international order more just and equitable".

You may notice the term we use is "international order". China is among its founders, is a beneficiary, as well as its active supporter and reformer. This international order overlaps, to some extent, with the US-led world order, though each does not include the other in its entirety.

Today's world has long shifted its agenda from bloc politics to development and cooperation. Globalization has facilitated the flow of goods, capital, technology and resources, enabling countries such as China to achieve unprecedented growth.

According to the World Bank, from 1992 to 2014, the world economy more than tripled, growing from $24.7 trillion to $78 trillion, while the global trade volume more than quadrupled, growing from $5.1 trillion to $23.8 trillion. The contribution of emerging markets and developing countries to world growth has risen from 26.97 percent to 61.4 percent. Both the developed and developing world have benefited greatly from this growth.

China would find it comfortable to stay within the framework of the existing international order. But it also thinks there is the need for reform.

We have to admit that the world landscape has been transformed and whatever we have today as order and rules are falling short of providing all the necessary solutions, and may even be creating some of the problems.

The challenges we face today are diverse and complicated. The interventions of major countries in the internal affairs of other countries have caused more disorder than order, and sometimes the effects have spilled over. The world has witnessed upheavals in one country after another, which has created power vacuums where terrorism thrives, and people have been left destitute. The lesson to be learned is profound.

Globalization has also revealed its downsides, such as uneven development and the unfair distribution of wealth, and the lack of sufficient oversight over capital flows. Regional integration is losing momentum.

The existing international order needs to be improved to better suit the times and upgrade global governance, but these changes need to be incremental.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has talked on many occasions about building "a community of shared interests" and the need for "a new model for global partnerships". He has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, which is aimed at nurturing new growth and promoting prosperity and security through wider cooperation. The Eurasian Economic Union proposed by Russia is in the same direction and the two reinforce each other. The US, in spite of its apprehension, would also find opportunities in these initiatives if it one day joins in.

To conclude, the key to a common global order, if there is one, is to have an inclusive framework that provides a common roof for every country and covers every concern. This may sound idealistic and it will be impossible to achieve without trust.

But since we are already meeting new challenges together, there is every reason for us to foster the habit of coordination and build trust along the way.

Many ask what kind of role China wants to play on the world stage. There are a number of principles that China upholds in its foreign policy:

The first is mutual respect, especially in the political arena, which China takes as the foundation of trust. No country should try to impose its own values on others. We believe all countries should be respected and allowed to explore their own development paths.

Second, we believe in common security, meaning one country's security should not be at the expense of that of others. The 21st century should not witness another round of geopolitical rivalry and new bloc politics.

Third, in the economic field China supports inclusive development, which it highlighted at the G20 Hangzhou Summit with its call to "allow economic growth to serve the needs of everyone".

While the world expects China to take on more responsibilities it also needs to better understand China's intentions.

Moreover, it is important that China explains to the world more effectively in order to win more trust. China also needs to learn from other countries and be open to new ideas while developing its own thinking for the world.

The author is chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress. The article is based on her speech at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club on Oct 25, 2016.


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