Xi’s world viewLast fall, more than 30 foreign policy specialists from government, universities and research institutes gathered in Shanghai. They reviewed the foreign policy strategy since Xi Jinping became president of China. The experts said one of the problems of Chinese diplomacy was too many new concepts, such as “new type of major power telationship,” “community of common destiny,” “new security perspective in Asia” and “One Belt, One Road.”
Nevertheless, China has coined yet another new phrase for the international community to focus on: “new type of major power relationship.” Xi had been using the phrase, but last month Premier Li Keqiang made it official by including it in the government’s briefing to the National People’s Congress. Chinese media forecast that this year will mark the beginning of Xi Jinping’s new world order.
What does Xi mean by new type of major power relationship? First, look at international perspectives of Chinese leaders in the past. Mao Zedong thought wars were inevitable. He thought that China would maintain peace through conflict and participated in the Korean War. Deng Xiaoping was different. He believed that the balance between the United States and Soviet Union would deter any major warfare. At the time the main trend of the world was peace, so Deng thought China needed to take advantage of the opportunity to grow. It was the underlying idea that led the opening of China and the reforms of the past 30 years.
How does Xi view the world? For a long time, the international community had been divided into factions by major powers and smaller countries had to take sides, forming a Cold War structure. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the structure collapsed, but the Cold War mindset of distinguishing allies from enemies remains intact.
Now Xi claims that the international order must change. He argues that all nations in the world belong to the community of a common destiny. The days of winner takes all are over, and the new international order should satisfy the demands of the citizens of all involved nations. Xi’s new type of major power relationship is an international order of cooperation and win-win.
In the new international order, every country should be treated equally regardless of its size, power and prosperity. Also, the citizens should choose the path of development.
“Only the wearer knows if the shoe fits his foot,” says Xi.
He suggests the United States should not design the world based on its values, but he doesn’t mean to overthrow the existing system led by the United States. China has no ability or intent to overturn America’s hegemony. China already is in the same boat with many countries around the world, and it is only helping the vessel safely sail in the right direction. What China wants is to make the existing order more perfect by modifying some unreasonable parts.
And Xi’s new type of major power relationship is more than a mere slogan. He already has put his plan into action.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “One Belt, One Road” is an example.
One Belt refers to the overland Silk Road economic zone encompassing Central Asia and Russia. One Road is the 21st century Maritime Silk Road through Southeast Asia and India to Africa and Europe. It affects 4.4 billion people, 63 percent of the global population. The founding of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank also is going smoothly.
Naturally, One Belt, One Road is the biggest focus of China’s foreign policy this year. Wang described “one focus, two fronts” as the key phrase for Chinese diplomacy this year. The focus is One Belt, One Road and the two fronts are peace and development. The new type of major power relationship that China hopes to realize through One Belt, One Road is the world order of countries consulting each other and building together to share the gains together. He argues that all countries, whether they are socialist or capitalist, regardless of religion or value, should cooperate and pursue mutual benefits.
Can Xi’s ambitious new world order be feasible? On the future of China, there have been views that are either optimistic or pessimistic. But the optimists were more likely to be correct. China’s collapse did not happen. This time, again, observers carefully bet on optimism. Many of America’s allies, including the United Kingdom, are actively involved in the AIIB, suggesting that they also demand modifications as the existing US-led international order cannot solve the problems of the world alone.
Waves of changes are surging and their origin is China. Whether we like it or not, we cannot avoid the changes. We need to ride the wave safely and carefully. Just like the ship sailing against the current, we must move forward, or we will fall behind.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 22, Page 28
*The author is a JoongAng Ilbo specialist on China.
by You Sang-chul