Pacific Dialogue
China and U.S. need to jointly promote global governance
By Xie Tao  ·  2022-11-28  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

These are edited excerpts from Xie’s speech on Cooperation & Responsibilities: China-U.S. Relations and Global Governance webinar hosted by Beijing Review on November 22: 

The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies, which also benefit from the world’s good governance. Similarly, they will suffer from poor global governance. For example, their economies depend on safe and sustainable global supply chains. Because of this, they should join hands in promoting global governance and address problems in it.

But, as we all know, the bilateral relationship has worsened dramatically since Donald Trump’s administration launched a trade war against China in 2018. Today, the bilateral relationship has arguably reached its lowest point since Richard Nixon’s landmark visit to China 50 years ago, which opened the door for China to re-engage with the world and also for Americans to come to China. Chinese students, businessmen, scholars, technicians and scientists could have the opportunity to travel to the U.S., to learn from the West. These men and women then came back and helped transform China into a modern and prosperous country.

But that was then... Washington today views China as a revisionist power, and as the most consequential geopolitical challenge that the U.S. is facing now—to borrow from President Biden’s national security strategy. To put it more mildly, the U.S. now sees China as its strategic competitor. Somehow, China is portrayed as the biggest “threat” across the American ideological spectrum. The two countries have increasingly decoupled from one another in terms of science and technology, supply chains, and people-to-people exchanges.

A strained U.S.-China relationship leads to a deficit in global governance. As the international community struggles to address climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty and humanitarian crises, global leadership is urgently needed. Power, as we all know, also entails responsibility. The two great powers should work together to fulfill those responsibilities while exercising leadership.

The Chinese Government is firmly committed to playing an active role in global governance. President Xi Jinping attended the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia on November 15-16, and reiterated his call for two global initiatives—the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative. On top of these repeated calls from Xi, China has rolled out, among its most notable undertakings, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Unfortunately, right now, primarily because of the American suspicion and bad perception of China, the two countries are not cooperating as they should. And I would say the primary responsibility in that lies with the U.S.

If we have a dishonest U.S.-China relationship, any kind of initiative, policy or call for action from Beijing would automatically generate suspicion and resentment in Washington.

Right now, a major problem facing the West, mainly among policymakers in Washington, is what global governance is and how we should achieve it.

Many political analysts have said global governance is just a thinly veiled way to promote Western-style liberal democracy. And there is the problematic assumption that democracy inherently contributes to political stability, economic development and peace among countries.

Good governance is the goal, and democracy is merely a means to achieve that. The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once said, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”—meaning it does not matter if it’s planned economy or market economy, as long as it works . In the same vein, as long as a country is well governed, enjoying political stability, sustained and extended periods of economic growth, higher living standards, and a broad social security system, we don’t necessarily need to promote Western-style democracy to achieve good governance.

It’s high time for some people in the U.S. to change their thinking about global governance, the relationship between the promotion of democracy and domestic and global governance, as well as the kind of role China should play on the international stage.

The author is the dean of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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