About the author:
Liu Yangsheng, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute, Co-Founder of Impact Asia Capital Ltd, Advisory Board Member, CGN Capital Partners Infrastructure Fund III
Given that China’s recent diplomatic activities attracted the world’s attention, how would you describe China’s major country role in current world affairs?
Over the past six months, the world has witnessed China’s proactive diplomacy. Most notably, The China-organized mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia played a key role in addressing the Yemen issue. When China tabled its peace position paper in February 2023, neither Russia nor Ukraine opposed it. The recent call between President Xi Jinping and President Volodymyr Zelensky built on China’s diplomatic effort for a new process of seeking peace. Concrete follow-up actions are beginning. All three diplomatic breakthroughs were proactive and productive. China has now moved to the forefront of global diplomacy to take the helm for the creation of a peaceful world suitable for all countries to pursue economic development beneficial for all.
China’s recent diplomatic successes are only the beginning of a larger proactive diplomatic program. During the last six months, President Xi Jinping has met with nearly 60 heads of state and government from all corners of the world. The intense rounds of mutual diplomatic activities have included French President Emmanuel Macron, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The heads of Southeast Asian governments meeting with President Xi have included Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Discussions have centered on the Chinese support for certain development initiatives or on addressing conflicts that exist in different corners of the world. China is not alone in its approach. Other countries are proactively seeking its positive participation in diplomacy and development. China’s role in settlement of the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is the most significant of the recent rounds of major country diplomacy. The negotiations were conducted so secretly, even the CIA was unaware. The Americans, caught by surprise, were certainly unbalanced and upset.
China’s initiatives started with the Belt and Road Initiative, and now China has launched the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and more appealingly, the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI). These represent an unprecedented vision for shared global prosperity. What are your thoughts on these initiatives?
China’s three global initiatives are interlinked. First, global development is not possible without global peace and security. Without peace and security, there is no stability and uncertainty would constrain the global strategic objective of achieving development. To have a working security framework, mutual understanding is a necessity. The Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) fosters mutual understanding of each side’s history, social, and cultural beliefs, and much more. Thus, a solid foundation is laid for a global security system, which allows effective development programs. As such, the three initiatives are intricately interlinked to generate a common future for mankind. The world cannot continue to have a split between North and South or among the peoples of the world, in terms of ability to generate good income, without a collective effort for mankind as a whole to improve the common livelihood or address big issues like climate change. From this perspective, the GCI is a very well-thought-out plan that addresses key interlocked issues. Instead of greater weapons proliferation, provoking conflict through proxies, hegemonic suppression and bullying, which some countries are doing, the three initiatives promote a shared future for mankind.
China is considered a champion for the UN cause. How do you see the growing Chinese influence in solving pressing humanitarian challenges like in Sudan and Yemen, and in working towards the proper functioning of the UN Security Council?
China has certainly championed the UN cause and the United Nations Charter, and seeks to originate good behavior within the UN. However, the UN has failed to realize the hopes and dreams of much of the world. For example, the humanitarian crises that were created over previous decades, such as the conflicts in Sudan and Yemen and the decade-long civil war in Syria, to name but a few. These are issues that can be addressed more appropriately within the UN context. But the UN has failed to do so. It is quite positive to have a country like China take the initiative. If the UN fails, China can take the initiative with like-minded countries to provide support. The UN has not achieved what it was built for nor what it was meant to do due to big power battles, big power conflicts, and the veto power of the permanent five (P5) members of the UN Security Council (UNSC). That is unfortunate and a result of one country seeking to dominate all others. The UN will not reflect the multipolar world, the common future of mankind, and promote the common heritage that China seeks to promote. The Sudan conflict, which is complicated, has resulted from internal conflicts provoked by major power politics. When UN activity is about one country’s agenda, it becomes very difficult to take any action, especially in the UNSC.
It seems that great power rivalry has returned. How do you think China is keeping itself focused on delivering public goods to the world while it faces a strategic challenge from the U.S.?
Indeed, great power rivalries have returned. However, the forces that constitute the great powers have altered. Blind adherence, or following, of the United States by Europe is transitioning as the EU strives for “strategic autonomy.” The differences of opinion and beliefs become obvious when Europeans, like Macron, are considering opening-up and promoting independent objectives and strategies in international relations rather than being followers of the U.S.
China is demonstrating its different approaches to the U.S. by promoting peace, stability, and development, rather than stirring conflict by shipping weapons and promoting proxy wars.
The strategic challenges posed by the U.S. might cause a delay in China’s rise, but it cannot succeed. The U.S. trade war and sanctions against Chinese companies, which have restricted or banned hundreds of enterprises, have not stopped China’s growth or the building of closer relations with the countries of the Global South. Nor have U.S. measures stopped the enthusiastic embrace of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by many developing countries - the embrace of better trade and the use of RMB settlement as the primary currency in trade for multiple developing countries.
The adoption of the aforementioned initiatives counters the US objective of suppressing China. Rather, the efforts of China to promote peace and development are now being echoed by many countries of the world. President Lula of Brazil made an interesting observation stating that, he wanted to create a “Peace Club” of countries, which is a promising concept that China will certainly support. Numerous countries are increasingly recognizing that China is a force for peace, a force for development, a force for improvement, and a force for the enhancement of the well-being of people all over the world. This is clearly the opposite of the colonial, imperialist and hegemonic era of recent centuries, in which developing countries were plundered for their resource and wealth, and their stability was subject to interference by major powers. The developing countries increasingly recognize past injustices as do those who share their sense of justice.
You mentioned President Macron’s recent visit and the historic Chinese mediated peace settlement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. What new possibilities do these recent developments create for a more peaceful and prosperous world?
The Middle East peace settlement between Saudi Arabia and Iran has ushered in the potential to resolve other regional problems such as in Yemen and Syria. These are being addressed because of China’s initiative. Hopefully, the issues of Palestine and Israel can also be resolved.
Last week, the Chinese Foreign Minister called the foreign ministers of both Israel and Palestine in a closed-door session. Details of the discussion remain unknown, however, finding a solution to promote peace was certainly a key topic. As a result of China’s initiatives, people can switch their focus from bullying and conflict promotion with the “other,” toward coherent and collaborative regional development strategies that are helpful for the entire world. The expression, “the stone age did not end because the world ran out of stones,” is particularly relevant for countries heavily reliant on oil and gas. The oil and gas age is declining due to the transition to renewable sources of energy. The energy-exporting countries are seeking greater development and modernization. They seek to enhance the strengths of their economies beyond the supply of natural resources. However, realizing development and modernization is constrained by continuing regional conflict, or viewing brothers as enemies. This recognition has really moved the whole Middle East towards China’s global initiatives for security, and towards development, modernization, and civilization.
Please note: The above contents only represent the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of Taihe Institute.
This article is from the March issue of TI Observer (TIO), which is a monthly publication devoted to bringing China and the rest of the world closer together by facilitating mutual understanding and promoting exchanges of views. If you are interested in knowing more about the October issue, please click here:
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