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‘Community of shared future’ signals paradigm shift in international relations

GUO QING, CHEN WEIGUANG | 2018-01-11
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)


The First Committee of Disarmament and International Security of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly concluded in November 2017 and approved two draft resolutions, both of which adopted the idea of constructing “a community of shared future for mankind.”(PHOTO: UN)


 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized the idea of shaping “a community of shared future for mankind” at multiple events. Written into UN resolutions in 2017, the idea represents China’s solution to current problems of global governance, offering wisdom and innovative concepts to the world.


Looking back on the history of global governance, one can see that the dominant paradigm formerly consisted of the liberal hegemonic order and nationalism. The transition from nationalism to building a community of shared future represents a leap in the history of international relations and human history as a whole.


 
Nationalism not working
In the context of international relations, nationalism means each nation prioritizes its own interests when participating in global governance. Viewing the nation as the supreme authority within domestic society and the center of the international community, nationalism is in fact individualism and egoism at a national level. Under the guidance of nationalism, global governance is merely the extension and expansion of the concepts and ideas of hegemony in the world, and the nation’s ultimate goal is to maximize its benefits by participating in global governance.


However, as globalization deepens, the boundaries are increasingly being blurred between national and international issues, such as internal military conflicts that have global implications. Many problems can only be solved through negotiation and cooperation, such as a nuclear leak. In light of significant global issues, no single country can stand apart. With all these new problems emerging in global governance, there is a growing awareness that the traditional concept of nationalism is outdated, and that coordination and cooperation are inevitable.


The subprime mortgage crisis that started in the United States in 2008 soon became a global financial crisis, and Europe suffered from a sovereign debt crisis. The developed economies were no longer able to control the world as they once had. They need to collaborate with the developing economies to address the crisis. Emerging economies have demanded a level of discourse power in global rulemaking that matches their growing economic strength, so that they could gain greater representation and their voices could be heard. These are the historical conditions under which a community of shared future could be born.


A community of shared future for mankind is one in which all nations work together through thick and thin and share both opportunities and crises, making endeavors to turn the world into a big family through cooperation, mutual benefit and harmonious coexistence.


“There has been an increasing need to solve global issues based on consultation between all parties,” Xi said.


To respond to the common problems and challenges in the world, all nations need to contribute strength and wisdom. This is exactly what global governance needs to address. Therefore, the community of shared future will be a core concept of a new model of globalization and global governance in the future.


 
Transcending old paradigm
Both sovereign states and non-state actors are indispensable for global governance. Unlike governance within a nation, global governance cannot determine how players behave. It can only manage or control by rules. As such, global governance is essentially characterized by multiple actors and governance in accordance with the rules. Multiple actors will inevitably demand equal rights. All nations in the world, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, should have the right to participate equally in global governance, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.


Each nation in the world should play an equal role in determining the way global governance evolves and its rules. Global affairs need to be managed by all and the dividends of global development should be shared by all. A community of shared future for mankind, with all these connotations, is therefore a new concept and trend global governance should follow.


The emergence of global issues and systemic risks has challenged the traditional concept of global governance with nationalism at its core. With fragmentation of systems and rules as well as a variety of actors, global governance is struggling with implementing measures. Since the financial crisis, developed Western economies have experienced slow growth on the whole. The emerging economies, on the other hand, have maintained rapid growth. As such, the old paradigm of global governance dominated completely by the developed countries is no longer sustainable.


Its old structure and system are now in trouble. At the same time, with the number of global issues multiplying, the traditional paradigm is running short of ways to cope. A new concept is urgently needed to tackle the crisis. The new concept of a community of shared future addresses this need.


Since the most recent global financial crisis, there has been growing awareness that the nationalist concept of governance is detrimental. In the context of globalization and worsening global crises, especially global warming, all nations must unite to solve these problems in the interest of all mankind. Global governance requires a model in which all nations work together to address our common crises and challenges, overcome difficulties, share rights and interests and manage  the world we inhabit together.


 
Manifesting China’s commitment
Pursuing the policy of “America First,” the Trump Administration has withdrawn the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Paris climate accord, UNESCO and UN’s global compact on migration while also threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. This idea of quitting is actually a narrow-minded concept of nationalism, representing an abdication of responsibility for global governance. In contrast, China has chosen not to focus on its own growth alone. Advocating a community of shared future and welcoming other nations aboard the express train of its development, China has established the image of a responsible power. Proposing to build a community of shared future, China has connected the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation with shared global development.


The ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius once said of virtuous people: “If poor, they would attend to their own virtue in solitude. If advanced to dignity, they would make the whole world virtuous as well.” To build a community of shared future, China first of all needs to be concerned with the well-being of its people at the national level, devoting efforts to economy, education, culture and healthcare, and fulfilling the Two Centenary Goals. At the global level, building a community of shared future manifests a spirit of coexistence and working through difficulties together.


Promoting cooperation among major countries, BRICS countries and the countries along the Belt and Road, China has introduced a new way of globalization and global governance. An advocate of a community of shared future, China is also its promoter and practioner.


The idea of constructing a community of shared future displays a global view that transcends the narrow interests and ideology of a nation-state. Based on the increasing interdependence between countries today, the concept envisions future relationships for mankind. It should be a common ideal pursued by the international community. With its far-sighted aspiration, this advanced concept combines the Chinese Dream with the world’s dream, shedding light on international relations in the 21st century. When building such a community, we need to draw on the achievements of all nations and learn from each other.

 

Guo Qing and Chen Weiguang are from the Guangdong Institute for International Strategies at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.

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