Mar 05, 2018
China in Globalization
China in Globalization

Fu Ying

Fu Ying is Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress of China

As we enter 2018 and move towards the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the world is witnessing new instabilities and turbulent situations. Having attended forums in Munich, Sochi and Rome in late 2017, I could sense the anxieties among the international strategic circles. People were asking: What is happening in the world today? Is the current global system collapsing? Will mankind fall back onto confrontations and isolationism?

The 40th-year anniversary of China’s reform and opening up policies will be marked in 2018. Forty years ago, China took the historic decision to shift the focus of the Party and the country to make the economy grow. “Peace and development are the themes of the times”, as Deng Xiaoping later summed up. These are still the dominant themes today. China has been riding on the tide of economic globalization since and has become a hub and an important engine for the world economy. From China’s perspective, globalization needs to be improved, but to backtrack is unlikely. China is therefore calling for globalization to be made more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all.

Nowadays, world security challenges are globalized. Common threats are widespread, including extremism, terrorism and cyber security challenges. But major countries find it hard to rid themselves of the geopolitical tug of war and are returning to competitive and exclusive security approaches, making it harder to create effective global security cooperation. The US-led Western world has attempted to achieve a westernization of the world by exporting its own values and model. However, those attempts have not only failed to address old problems but have created new ones.

China is not pursuing its development goals in a vacuum. We need a peaceful international environment. We need to engage in more extensive and comprehensive cooperation with the rest of the world. As President Xi Jinping said in his speech delivered at the Geneva Palais des Nations on 18 January, 2017: “China will do well only when the world does well, and vice versa.”

The 19th CPC National Congress established China’s new central leadership with President Xi at its core, and “The Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was adopted as the guide to China’s development. It mapped out the objective of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and turning China into a great modern socialist country in two steps by 2050. It also charted the course for China’s economic policy over the next couple of years. China’s economy has been going through a transition from a phase of rapid growth to one of quality development. Put more simply, our concern before was about whether there is enough and now it is about whether it is good enough. Therefore, our focus of attention also needs to be changed and the emphasis will be given to more coordinated and comprehensive development, paying attention not only to economy but also to political, cultural and social progress as well as to improving eco-environment.

The Party Congress reiterated that peace and development remain the call of our day, while admitting that the world faces growing uncertainties and destabilizing factors. In this context, China's diplomatic goals in the new era include promoting the creation of a new type of international relations, giving more prominence to lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, and calling for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. These are not only our expectations of the world’s future, but also a necessity for our domestic development.

Some might worry that as China becomes stronger, it will embark on the traditional path of seeking hegemony, exporting its political system and ideology. The outside world wants to understand what China means when it says it "moves closer to center stage.” Does it mean that the country is prepared to replace the United States and play a "leading role" in the world? When China offers "Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach", is that tantamount to China exporting its development model?

We are keenly aware of the long and arduous path ahead of us in our domestic development, aware also of the huge gap between China and the United States. We are still in the stage of learning and growing. There is a lot we need to improve and in areas like technological innovation and product research and development. We want to play a role in world affairs and make an even greater contribution to mankind. But it must be done within our means and in a manner that is consistent with our values.

China has offered a new option to countries and nations that want rapid development while keeping their independence. But this does not mean that the Chinese model and ideology are to be exported. The success of China proves that there are alternative options to those proposed by the West. China is not interested in the so-called "competition of systems."

In the realm of security, the pursuit of exclusive security by the United States and its alliance will unavoidably clash with the security interests of countries outside their alignment. Additionally, countries not belonging to any alliance are also facing challenges in the handling of security differences between them. It is therefore important that all countries work together to set out some basic common principles.

In 2014, President Xi proposed, "we should actively advocate a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security strategy for Asia. We need to innovate in our security concept, establish a new regional security cooperation architecture and jointly build a shared, win-win road for Asian security."

What China is advocating is in response to the call of the times. If China and the United States, or even better, with Europe and Russia as well as other countries, can begin exploring the basic principles of major dispute resolution, it will not only help in maintaining the overall stability in relations between the major powers, but will also facilitate the resolution of hot-spot regional issues.

The 19th CPC National Congress report has stated that “we will make it our mission to see that by 2035, the modernization of our national defense and our forces is basically completed; and that by the mid-21st century our people’s armed forces have been fully transformed into world-class forces.” Some have rushed to interpret this mission as “setting a timetable for achieving global hegemony,” ignoring the fact that China has always pursued a national defense policy that is defensive in nature.

The White Paper on China’s military strategy published in 2015 explicitly identified the strategic tasks shouldered by China’s military: to deal with a wide range of emergencies and military threats, and effectively safeguard the sovereignty and security of China’s territorial land, air and sea; to resolutely safeguard the unification of the motherland; to safeguard China’s security and interests in new domains; to safeguard the security of China’s overseas interests; to maintain strategic deterrence and carry out nuclear counterattack; to participate in regional and international security cooperation and maintain regional and world peace; to strengthen efforts in operations against infiltration, separatism and terrorism so as to maintain China’s political security and social stability; and to perform such tasks as emergency rescue and disaster relief, rights and interests protection, domestic safety, and support for national economic and social development.

The white paper also pointed out that “the armed forces will actively participate in both regional and international security cooperation and safeguard overseas interests.” However, China’s approach regarding its overseas interests is not exclusionary or confrontational. China has vowed never to pursue hegemony nor seek spheres of influence, military alliances or expansion. China will not fall into the trap of the so-called “strategic competition” with other powers. We will remain committed to international security cooperation based on mutual respect and common interest.

The security situation in China’s Asian neighborhood is quite complicated. The most serious challenge is currently the North Korean nuclear issue. The tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea are also not quieting down.

The Korean nuclear issue is a most unfortunate case. For over 60 years following the ceasefire in the Korean War, there has only been a truce agreement, as no peace deal has been agreed and the US troops have stayed on the Peninsula. Deep distrust makes it impossible for any bilateral or multilateral agreement on the nuclear issue to be fully implemented. The US, emphasizing its own security and its allies’ safety, has exerted mounting military pressure and calls for continued sanctions, while North Korea, hoping to achieve ultimate safety, has speeded up its nuclear and missile tests, resulting in a vicious circle of action and reaction. Is there any hope for a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue?

In an encouraging sign, an opportunity for easing tension between South and North Korea has emerged as South Korea has capitalized on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to open dialogues with the North which responded positively. The fact that the US and South Korea have agreed to delay their regular joint military exercises during the Winter Games in February and March has paved the way for future talks and consultations. This can be seen in part as an early-stage implementation of the “suspension for suspension” idea, which China has been promoting – suspension of nuclear and missile tests and suspension of military maneuvers.

While China believes that sanctions are necessary and has fully complied with the UN Security Council resolutions concerning sanctions on North Korea, we also hold that sanctions only work when the door for negotiation is open. For this reason, China has made painstaking efforts to promote dialogues and negotiations.

China-US coordination is essential. Since President Trump took office, the relationship between China and the US has been smooth, with the two countries demonstrating a willingness to tackle bilateral issues and avoid a collision. But apart from their differences over trade, they are deeply divided over the South China Sea.

Territorial disputes over islands and shoals in the South China Sea are not new. In the process of warming up relations in the 1990s, China and the ASEAN countries reached basic agreement on shelving disputes and pursuing joint development through dialogue and negotiations. But in 2010, the US adopted the strategy of “Pivot to Asia,” making China its target. The fact that the US is taking sides and condoning the provocative rhetoric and moves of others has only intensified China’s concern over the South China Sea issue.

China commenced reclamation projects around the Nansha or Spratley Islands at the end of 2013. The islands, which are under the control of China, are far away from international navigation routes and therefore posed no restriction on the freedom of international navigation. Maintenance and construction work on some of the garrisoned islands and reefs had only the purpose: optimizing functions, improving the living and working conditions of personnel stationed there and better safeguarding China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests,lifting the ability to better provide public goods like search and rescue and marine research.

The US and the Philippines reacted strongly and criticized China. Some other countries in the area also expressed concerns. The Philippines even brought an arbitration case without prior consulting China, as was required according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The case was rejected by China. The US also stepped up its intervention, sending ships to sail near the Chinese islands and Shoals. Yet China will not give up its territorial sovereignty and corresponding maritime rights, nor will it condone other parties who intervene in disputes between China and its neighbors. The differences between China and the US regarding these disputes have the potential to become the major point of tension in the South China Sea.

Currently, progress is being made in negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) between China and ASEAN countries. China does not have an agenda or motive to seek hegemony in the region. The future development is in the hands of the parties involved, where the choice of cooperation may lead to a “multi-win” outcome and to choose confrontation or even to conflicts would let everyone lose.

The US tends to view China’s growing role in global affairs from the angle of geopolitical competition, identifying China as a “strategic competitor.” The Trump Administration’s first “National Security Strategy (NSS)” mentioned China 33 times, labeling it as a “revisionist” power to the international order and claiming that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” The “US Defense Strategy” document subsequently released on January 18, 2018, declares that the US will restore America's competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from “challenging” the United States and its allies. It would be a major concern should this turn out to be a declaration of containing China.

With China’s strength growing in economics, science and technology, it is inevitable for competition between China and the US to increase, as competition is also the nature of the world’s liberal market. But it is also true that our relationship is more cooperative than competitive. It would benefit everyone if China and the US could achieve common progress through healthy, constructive and rule-based competition that drives development.

China and the US are now highly interdependent and our interests are intertwined as a result of over 40 years’ of development following the normalization of bilateral relations. According to China Customs, the trade volume between China and the US in 2017 was over US$580 billion, representing a yearly increase of 15.2 percent and accounting for 14.2 percent of China’s total foreign trade. When President Trump was visiting China in November 2017, Chinese and US companies signed deals on 34 cooperation projects worth US$ 253.5 billion. This is a demonstration of political will and the strong business potential between the two countries.

The Chinese approach to addressing the trade imbalance with the US is to make the “cake” bigger instead of imposing restrictions. The US should relax its export controls and promote exports of high-tech products to China, fulfilling its obligations under Article 15 of the Protocol on China's Accession to the WTO. It should also treat investment by Chinese companies in the US fairly, and use trade remedy measures with caution. The two countries should not allow a trade war to compromise the corporate interests and the peoples wellbeing.

Many of the new global challenges cannot be effectively tackled by one country alone and it is imperative for the international community to join efforts. China hopes to establish a solid partnership based on mutual respect and shared interest with the US, which adapts to the ever changing reality. Such a partnership will enable both sides to achieve their domestic objectives better while coping with the challenges of today’s world.

(Fu Ying is Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress of China)

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