China Is a Will­ing and Con­struc­tive Re­former of In­ter­na­tional Or­der

China Today (English) - - CONTENTS - By KOU LIYAN

China calls for main­te­nance of the cur­rent sys­tem but in a bet­ter di­rec­tion.

THERE are the clans of Noah’s sons, ac­cord­ing to their lines of de­scent, within their na­tions. From these na­tions spread out over the earth af­ter the flood,” is how Ge­n­e­sis con­cludes the story of Noah’s ark. Many coun­tries have sim­i­lar leg­ends of how early an­ces­tors, when threat­ened by dis­as­ters, dis­persed to places around the world, and how af­ter this part­ing of the ways, as told in the story of the Tower of Ba­bel, there oc­curred huge dif­fer­ences of lan­guage and life­style.

China’s equiv­a­lent is the leg­end of “the big lo­cust tree” from more than 700 years ago, when the em­peror or­dered the peo­ple of Shanxi to leave their home prov­ince and set­tle in other ar­eas. The mi­grants first went to Hong­tong County of Shanxi and as­sem­bled un­der a big lo­cust tree. It was from there that they set out. That “big lo­cust tree” has since been a com­mon mem­ory of Shanxi mi­grants and their de­scen­dants. To­day peo­ple of more than 1,000 fam­ily names claim an­ces­try to that gath­er­ing un­der the “big lo­cust tree.”

Hu­man­ity through­out the globe orig­i­nated in a hand­ful of early hu­man habi­ta­tions. As the pop­u­la­tion swelled, gaps among peo­ple widened. But even af­ter tech­nol­ogy fa­cil­i­tated trav­el­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, so mak­ing the world a “vil­lage,” there was no re­cur­rence of the har­mony our an­ces­tors knew. If our liv­ing and work­ing to­gether can spawn only con­fu­sion and con­flicts, this is clearly as much a tragedy for us as it would have been for our an­ces­tors. Hu­man­ity has a deep-rooted long­ing for or­der and har­mony.

De­fender of In­ter­na­tional Or­der

In re­cent years, China’s rapid de­vel­op­ment and more as­sertive for­eign pol­icy stance has caused grow­ing con-

cern about the coun­try’s po­ten­tial im­pact on the in­ter­na­tional or­der. The chal­lenge that this emerg­ing coun­try ap­par­ently presents to es­tab­lished world pow­ers presages an im­mi­nent hege­monic con­fronta­tion.

China has a tra­di­tion of re­spect­ing or­der. TheA­nalects tells of how en­raged Con­fu­cius be­came upon hear­ing that a min­is­ter had or­ga­nized a dance at his house for 64 peo­ple, eight rows by eight col­umns. Ac­cord­ing to state pro­to­col, such an event could be held ex­clu­sively in the court of the high­est ruler, as in a min­is­ter’s house a dance for no more than 16 per­sons, four rows by four col­umns, was per­mit­ted. Why was Con­fu­cius so in­fu­ri­ated by such an os­ten­si­bly triv­ial mat­ter? He be­lieved that flout­ing dance pro­to­col would cause a rip­ple ef­fect, whereby commoners would chal­lenge the rules of so­ci­ety and of­fi­cials would de­spise their lords and kings, so lead­ing to the even­tual col­lapse of the en­tire so­cial or­der.

The high value placed on or­der has had pro­found in­flu­ence on Chi­nese think­ing. Peo­ple from over­seas who have had deal­ings in China, whether with of­fi­cials or busi­ness­men, can­not but be aware of its om­ni­far­i­ous “or­ders” in ev­ery field. In ap­ply­ing this mode of thought to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, the Chi­nese al­ways lament to­day’s dis­par­ity among na­tions as re­gards the ob­ser­va­tion of rules. When deal­ing with in­ter­na­tional and re­gional hotspots, China un­ques­tion­ingly sup­ports in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions like the UN, IMF, and WTO, and up­holds their au­thor­ity. Other more de­vel­oped na­tions, how­ever, tend to take short­cuts and act as they please, or with their cliques.

Cer­tain coun­tries have re­cently been hyp­ing the South China Sea is­sue, ac­cus­ing China of chal­leng­ing the in­ter­na­tional or­der. They dis­tort the facts, ei­ther be­cause of in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion or out of a de­sire to pro­voke a geopo­lit­i­cal strug­gle. China’s rights and in­ter­ests in the South China Sea is­lands and ad­ja­cent wa­ters are based on solid his­tor­i­cal facts. The sta­tus quo is that cer­tain coun­tries have laid claims to 42 is­lands and reefs. China nev­er­the­less ad­vo­cates peace­ful ne­go­ti­a­tion via “dual-track think­ing.” This, on the one hand, in­volves ad­dress­ing dis­putes with the par­ties di­rectly in­volved through friendly ne­go­ti­a­tions and peace­ful set­tle­ments, and on the other, China and ASEAN coun­tries’ joint main­te­nance of peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.

In other words, “dual-track think­ing” means that di­rect stake­hold­ers sit down and talk with a view to cre­at­ing rules specif­i­cally in ar­eas where there are none. For this rea­son, China ac­tively pro­moted rel­e­vant par­ties’ ne­go­ti­a­tion of the “Code of Con­duct in South China Sea,” but has de­clined to sub­mit the is­sue for in­ter­na­tional ar­bi­tra­tion while chan­nels of ne­go­ti­a­tion still re­main. The lat­ter, from China’s point of view, is not the right way to make rules, as the par­tic­i­pa­tion of even more par­ties will com­pli­cate mat­ters. Trans­pos­ing the is­sue to a larger stage will cause a pro­lif­er­a­tion of con­tra­dic­tions rather than evolve­ment of rules.

China seeks or­der on the South China Sea is­sue, but not at the ex­pense of the coun­try’s le­git­i­mate rights. The recla­ma­tion and re­in­forc­ing projects on cer­tain is­lands and reefs, along with the build­ing of light­houses, run­ways and other fa­cil­i­ties, are nor­mal de­vel­op­ments by a sov­er­eign state. They can also pro­vide con­ve­nience and sup­port to rel­e­vant coun­tries’ free nav­i­ga­tion in the South China Sea. None im­pairs free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in the South China Sea or runs counter to China’s pol­icy of safe­guard­ing in­ter­na­tional or­der.

Re­form of In­ter­na­tional Or­der Ex­pected

Main­tain­ing or­der does not mean cling­ing to any par­tic­u­lar one. Re­spect for re­form is also part of our tra­di­tion. Con­fu­cius taught his dis­ci­ples ac­cord­ing to the Book

ofChanges , a clas­sic de­voted to the prin­ci­ple of change. To un­der­stand the rev­er­ence for both main­te­nance and change of or­der, it might help to look back on the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese so­ci­ety and cul­ture.

Chi­nese cul­ture took shape and de­vel­oped dur­ing the long agrar­ian age. In an­cient times, peo­ple’s col­lab­o­ra­tion on ir­ri­ga­tion and large-scale plant­ing of sub-di­vided fields was es­sen­tial. Con­se­quently rules that ac­cu­mu­lated over ages of in­ter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­came sacro­sanct; the con­se­quences oth­er­wise could be crop fail­ure, famine or iso­la­tion. On the other hand, cli­matic fac­tors vi­tal to farm­ing, which of­ten re­sulted in drought, floods and river di­ver­sions, were volatile be­yond ex­pec­ta­tion. Peo­ple hence had to be ready to adapt to new sit­u­a­tions at all times. In other words, the Chi­nese have si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­ter­nal­ized the need to ob­serve rules and the abil­ity to adapt to re­al­i­ties.

Bear­ing this in mind helps un­der­stand­ing of the Chi­nese view of the in­ter­na­tional or­der. In gen­eral, Chi­nese peo­ple are will­ing to adapt to a new en­vi­ron­ment and com­ply with the ac­com­pa­ny­ing rules. When tens of mil­lions of young peo­ple mi­grated from the coun­try­side to ur­ban ar­eas, they changed their ways of eat­ing, dress­ing and speak­ing rapidly. An­other salient ex­am­ple is that of Chi­nese do­ing busi­ness or trav­el­ing over­seas, a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non in the last few years. Af­ter ini­tial em­bar­rass­ments and dis­com­forts as new­com­ers, they have quickly adapted to un­fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ments and cus­toms, and be­gan to get along with lo­cals. This is ev­i­dent in the re­mark­able growth in Chi­nese cor­po­ra­tions’ so­cial con­tri­bu­tions and tourists’ civic aware­ness.

There­fore, it is best to re­gard China as an adapter to rather than a chal­lenger of world re­la­tions. One thing to bear in mind is that only in the last few years have Chi­nese peo­ple be­gun to travel abroad in large num­bers, and that the na­tion is still learn­ing new things. Rather than blam­ing a “late­comer” for over­look­ing rules, it is more re­al­is­tic to ac­knowl­edge China’s will­ing­ness to adapt and change, and the fact that the Chi­nese peo­ple learn rapidly and well.

While adapt­ing to the outer world, how­ever, China holds that the in­ter­na­tional or­der should also change in tan­dem with re­al­ity. The world has a sys­tem of or­der, but it is not a fair one; in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety may be called dy­namic, but it nev­er­the­less lacks vi­brancy; na­tions com-

mu­ni­cate with each other, but not deeply enough. Move­ments rang­ing from Oc­cupy Wall Street to con­tin­u­ous protests through­out the world re­flect gen­eral dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the cur­rent or­der. In this re­spect, there­fore, China is not alone in ad­vo­cat­ing re­form of the in­ter­na­tional or­der. The fact is ev­ery­one wants re­form.

China and the world at large be­lieve that hu­man be­ings de­serve a “bet­ter” or­der. A “bet­ter” sys­tem should en­com­pass a clear or­der that ev­ery­one strictly fol­lows, that ben­e­fits all but re­mains flex­i­ble to change, and that guar­an­tees un­tram­meled ex­changes among par­ties with a view to mu­tual trust and co­op­er­a­tion.

Re­forms in both China and the World at Large

China is a con­struc­tive re­former within the in­ter­na­tional or­der. It calls for main­te­nance of the cur­rent sys­tem but in a bet­ter di­rec­tion. It holds that the cur­rent or­der should not be over­turned but rather that we can­not stand still. Re­form­ing the in­ter­na­tional or­der should be a sym­phony, rather than a solo or work of uni­son, played in har­mony by all na­tions, based on good will and con­sen­sus, while also tak­ing into ac­count dif­fer­ent self-po­si­tion­ing. There­fore, China’s plan in­volves re­forms both to it­self and the world in an en­deavor to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture.

First, China will deepen do­mes­tic re­forms. Tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture em­pha­sizes self-im­prove­ment be­fore try­ing to ben­e­fit oth­ers. As the clas­sic work of Con­fu­cian­ism, the , states, first cul­ti­vate one­self, and only then pur­sue fam­ily har­mony, ca­pa­ble po­lit­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion, and fi­nally world peace. This process un­der­lines in­tro­spec­tion and self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion. It is a far-reach­ing idea that in­flu­ences the think­ing of en­ter­prises and gov­ern­ments even to­day.

In the re­cently un­veiled 13th Five-Year Plan, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment vowed to re­al­ize sup­ply-side struc­tural re­form by cut­ting overcapacity and ex­cess in­ven­tory, delever­ag­ing, re­duc­ing costs, and strength­en­ing weak links. Each goal con­sti­tutes car­ry­ing out “surgery” on the cur­rent econ­omy. It takes great courage and ac­count­abil­ity to com­plete these tasks, but China will nev­er­the­less forge ahead, not least out of the de­sire to cre­ate a more ra­tio­nal in­ter­na­tional or­der. With this in mind, and as the sec­ond largest econ­omy, China is determined to be­come a healthy, strong and sus­tain­able con­trib­u­tor to the world.

Sec­ond, China calls for joint global ef­forts to­wards re­form of the in­ter­na­tional or­der which it ad­vo­cates by virtue of its own re­forms. It cham­pi­ons these ef­forts by putting for­ward pro­pos­als and pro­mot­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions. The so­lu­tions China pro­poses in this re­gard are aimed at build­ing a new type of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ship, with co­op­er­a­tion and win-win at its core. They rep­re­sent a bid to build a com­mu­nity of shared fu­ture: to es­tab­lish part­ner­ships on the ba­sis of equal­ity and mu­tual re­spect; build a se­cu­rity pat­tern fea­tur­ing fair­ness, joint con­struc­tion and shared ben­e­fits; seek open, in­no­va­tive, in­clu­sive and re­cip­ro­cal de­vel­op­ment prospects; pro­mote ex­changes and mu­tual learn­ing among civ­i­liza­tions; and build an in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment that re­spects na­ture and green de­vel­op­ment.

Third, China proac­tively pro­vides pub­lic goods for re­form of the in­ter­na­tional or­der, both tan­gi­ble and in­tan­gi­ble. China is aware that a fair and rea­son­able new or­der will not arise sim­ply from whimsy or empty talk. In re­cent years, the coun­try has sup­plied more pub­lic goods, such as the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank, China- UN Peace and De­vel­op­ment Fund, and an as­sis­tance fund for South-South co­op­er­a­tion, in a drive to pro­mote greater equi­lib­rium and democ­racy in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. As re­gards in­tan­gi­ble prod­ucts, China has, through the United Na­tions, APEC, BRICS, G20, East Asian lead­ers’ meet­ings, and the Boao Fo­rum for Asia, called upon in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety to strengthen co­op­er­a­tion and form a greater con­sen­sus on a bet­ter in­ter­na­tional or­der.

In the process of pur­su­ing an ideal world, China has laid great store by time-hon­ored ideas that can be best de­fined by the core thoughts of an­other great philoso­pher, Laozi, whereby all things even­tu­ally re­turn to their source, and changes ul­ti­mately ac­cord with na­ture. When re­lat­ing the re­al­ity of the global vil­lage to the “big lo­cust tree” story, we see that China’s pro­posal for in­ter­na­tional or­der is an ef­fort to re­vert to the har­mo­nious com­mu­nity of com­mon des­tiny that hu­man be­ings once en­joyed.

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