China’s Grand Vision for the World
It should be everyone’s vision
Shouldering responsibility for a nation is challenging, let alone doing for the entire world. China’s vision of building a global community with a common destiny for mankind is grand but difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, it is still necessary for us to understand what future the Middle Kingdom envisions.
Building a global community with a common destiny for mankind (构建人类命运共同体 Gou Jian Ren Lei Ming Yun Gong Tong Ti) was a vision set by the Chinese leadership for the world in 2012. Nine years after its proposal, many people remain unclear about its significance to the world.
This article will be a beginner’s guide to the concept.
Source of Inspiration
The Chinese, backed up by a five-thousand-year civilisation rich in its history, were inspired by their forebears who had bequeathed troves of valuable treasures to them.
The ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu (老子 Lao Zi), the founder of Taoist philosophy and author of Tao Te Ching (道德经 Dao De Jing), had witnessed numerous wars and conflicts between nations during the famous Spring and Autumn period, and yearned for harmony. Confucius (孔子Kong Zi), the founder of Confucianism who had great respect for Lao Tzu, hoped to instil virtue in men to attain harmony in society.
Since both Lao Tzu’s aspirations concurred with Confucius’, and given their profound influence on the Chinese, the latter have always strived to realise the ideal of great unity (大同世界理想 Da Tong Shi Jie Li Xiang). Great unity is a world in which there is no war, conflict, and hunger. In short, everyone and everything including nature lives in harmony, peace and contentment. Dr Sun Yat Sen, a pioneer of China’s democratic revolution, often quoted the idea in his writings. The concept was also frequently mentioned on numerous occasions by Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.
China’s approach to realise their vision of building a global community with a common destiny for mankind is twofold: the Belt and Road Initiative (一带一路倡议 Yi Dai Yi Lu Chang Yi), and the ecological civilisation development strategy (生态文明发展战略 Sheng Tai Wen Ming Fa Zhan Zhan Lue).
Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road initiative (BRI) was announced by the Chinese President Xi Jinping during his official visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013.
Belt represents the land routes of the Silk Road Economic Belts cutting across the Asian regions surrounded by land, not least the western region of China. The China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor are the only two economic belts located outside the western region.
Road represents the sea routes of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which begins the journey in South China, winding through Southeast Asia into the Indian Ocean and ends in Africa.
The BRI is, in fact, part of China’s Reform and Opening Up 2.0. Holding fast to the belief that reform and opening up is a continual process, it has embarked on second round of Reform and Opening after its first in 1978 amid a great economic disparity between the western region and the eastern coastal provinces. To ensure the people of the economic backwater region also enjoys higher living standards, and tap on the region’s economic potential, it is leveraging on a golden opportunity, the BRI. If successful, Xinjiang, a Chinese western province, would witness invigorating socio-economic development while acting as a hub for transportation of goods and services in Central Asia.
China has hitherto been a supernation (a country with large land mass and population) in Eurasia, compelling it to call for greater regional integration. The BRI is reminiscent of the heyday during Han and Tang dynastic periods, during which the Chinese had close trading ties with the Arabs and Persians, the ancient name for Iranians today. Consequently, the former hope to reconnect with its ancient neighbours including, but not limited to, the Arabs and Iranians, in addition to working closely with Japan and the United States (a non-Eurasian country).
Promoting development in developing countries is by far the most important aspect of the initiative.
Countries around the world, most of which adopted the Western political and economic models, has looked West for examples they could model after. In other words, they were seeking to replicate Western modernity.
In his seminal work When China Rules the World, Martin Jacques argued that, in the last two centuries, everyone lived in a Western world. We equated modernity with westernisation. He posited that “we are moving into a world of contested modernity”.
The significance of the Chinese modernity has often been overlooked.
Far from coercing other countries into adopting its model, the Chinese hoped to offer the world an alternative to the Western model of modernity, known as the Chinese Model, through sharing its experiences and lessons in nation-building. It is likely to be attractive for many developing countries, which still struggle with economic development after failing the Western economic experiments.
Industrialisation, the secret sauce to China’s success and many advanced countries’ national development, is an integral part of the BRI. Without the industrialisation in the first three decades of Chinese nation-building, which focused on heavy industry, China would not have won the accolade of “The World’s Factory” after its reform and opening up. The machineries and technical expertise, with which they were endowed by the Soviets, were fundamental to its economic success.
Should China facilitates industrialisation of developing countries, the latter, most of which are still agricultural economies, could transformed themselves into industrial economies to join the global economic competition, of which the rules are in favour of the industrialised nations, creating more highly-skilled jobs for their citizens.
The Like of Monroe Doctrine?
Needless to say, China more often than not draws flak from its critics who questioned its ulterior motive in expanding its regional economic and political clout. The sceptics should know perfectly well that they are assuming the BRI is another form of Monroe Doctrine, a foreign policy announced by then US President James Monroe aiming to ban all future European colonisation and influence of Americas.
In truth, Monroe Doctrine inherently defines a closed and exclusive space in which the USA could wield its influence. And, in practice, In his 1904 State of the Union Address, then President Theodore Roosevelt provided a new interpretation for the Monroe Doctrine, later known as the Roosevelt Corollary. “Chronic wrongdoing … may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilised nation,” he announced his annual message to Congress in December 1904, “and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing for impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”
The nuance in the speech provided the United States a justification for its meddling in other countries’ internal affairs.
The Dollar diplomacy, a policy aimed to advanced the US’ interests in Latin America and East Asia via economic loans made to those countries in lieu of military campaigns, is a prime example. The concept of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the 1940s was essentially the Japanese version of the “Roosevelt Corollary”.
Some have, in recent years, expressed concerns over China’s growing influence in Africa because the Europeans and Americans have taken advantage of their foreign assistance to subdue other countries before. This argument assumes, quite simply, that China would also do the same in the near future. This only reveals sheer ignorance of China’s history, in which one can find no trace of colonialism despite the existence of tributary system that worked on the basis of respect in lieu of debt trap, and fear for revenge from those whom one’s forefathers have wronged.
What we see in others is a reflection of ourselves.
On the other hand, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect the various spaces, in this case the different continents, globally. It creates a platform where different civilisations coexist peacefully, connect, interact and learn from each other on the basis of respect for uniqueness and diversity.
Ecological Civilisation Development Strategy
China has also outlined its ecological civilisation development strategy to tackle climate change, a challenge mankind has to confront willy-nilly.
Influenced by Lao Tzu’s belief that man should live in harmony with nature (天人合一 Tian Ren He Yi), the Chinese has been working on Rural Revitalisation (乡村振兴 Xiang Cun Zhen Xing).
The Three Rural Issues, also known as San Nong Problem (三农问题 San Nong Wen Ti), referring to agriculture, rural areas, and farmers, are the crux of China’s socio-economic development.
Addressing them could ensure its citizens’ food security and coordinate a well-balanced development in both the urban and rural areas, as well as the smooth integration of the two. Economic development, in the eyes of the Chinese leaders, not only concerns economic efficiency, but also environmental sustainability and job security for the farmers who providing the food every Chinese, if not most people around the world, eats every day. This policy would also accelerate the creation of an ecological civilisation.
Such strategy would become more significant to the world at large as it offers experiences from which other countries could draw to lift their people out of poverty, an area in which has done remarkably well, and solve their rural area issues.
“We can feel a renewed sense of optimism,” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, said at the recent UN Biodiversity Conference in the Chinese city of Kunming. At the conference, China declared that it would donate 1.5 billion yuan (US$230 million) to set up a fund supporting biodiversity conservation.
In a statement made by the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, Kaddu Sebunya, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the organisation, also reiterated their support for China in sounding the clarion call to co-create a ecological civilisation for the world.
Given Chinese philosophy is to live in harmony with others, we can rest assured that they will work together with us, on the basis of extensive consultation, joint contribution from all parties, and shared benefits, in building a global community with common destiny for mankind, a vision the world should share after experiencing the challenges COVID-19 pandemic poses.
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