THE world is currently at an historic juncture of a new phase of development. Peace and development are the prevailing trend, nurtured by conditions which suit their advancement as never before. But we are also gradually moving toward a new period of transformation and instability. An increasing number of global challenges demand that countries upgrade their philosophies of global governance and overcome their differences.
In recent years, China has outlined a series of ideas on global governance which may provide solutions for dealing with these challenges.
New conditions: People are embracing a new era of global governance, and calls are growing for reforms in this regard because the order of the world as we have known it for the past 60 years is evolving.
In today’s world, an inclusive system is needed more than ever before, as the material base and conditions for effective global governance are strong. Globalization continues to move forward at an unprecedented pace, and the peoples and countries of the world are becoming ever more interdependent. Although voices against globalization are emerging in some corners of the world, this itself demonstrates the pervasiveness of our collective international system: globalization and anti-globalization are two sides of the same coin. Information technology has connected the entire world, and people’s means of communication and the nature of our connections have fundamentally changed.
The international order too has changed from one based on the principles of divide and rule, dominated by the Western world, to one notable for its diversification and unification. The system formed in the aftermath of World War II, while having ensured over seven decades of global peace, is no longer a suitable fit for the modern world.
The very concept of global governance was born in the West and is naturally western by design, generating a tendency to set the experiences of the West as models for the rest of the world to follow. If a region fails to conform to this specifically Western experience, it is consequently deemed less civilized and developed.
Global society is arriving at a place where the existing system is being confronted by a new balance of power, leading to a disrupted world order. The status of developing and developed countries has changed. The rise of new powers and the steadily increasing stake held by emerging markets and developing nations have catalyzed a shift which sees the international system now moving toward multi-polarization. These countries’ contribution to global economic growth has exceeded that of developed nations, and they have also made more and more breakthroughs in technology and innovation.
The transformation of the world’s economic structure is also bringing about a change to its geopolitical center. Developing economies are voicing the need for reform of the global governance system to reflect their economic clout, while developed countries stick to conservative attitudes, pushing back against this trend.
Global governance is also changing in regard to its participants. In addition to governments, multinational enterprises, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, industrial associations, professional societies and online communities are all exerting an influence on the direction of mankind. According to renowned U.S. scholar Oran R. Young, the world is entering the Anthropocene, an era in which human actions have become drivers of change on a planetary scale. Complex systems pose novel challenges for governance because of their high levels of connectivity, nonlinear dynamics, directional patterns of change and emergent properties. Meeting these challenges will require the development of new intellectual capital.
In such a climate, the disparate ideologies and cultures of the world are also engaged in closer communication and conflict, and the strictly Western theory of governance is becoming but one voice among many competing voices. Developing countries no longer unthinkingly follow the previous model. The liberal international order is facing an identity crisis and the Western world has busied itself with contemplative introspection.
This current phase of transformation is complex and acts as a crucible for all manner of trends and ideas, which has on occasion manifested itself in the form of extremism. However, a new inclusive ideology is emerging too, providing space for diversity and an alternative to the West’s monopoly on values. Fresh direction China in recent years has sought the reform of the global governance system. On multiple occasions, including the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York City in 2015, the G20 Hangzhou Summit in 2016 and the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos, President Xi Jinping has elaborated on China’s proposition for global governance reform, which has been well-received by the international community at large.
China is also giving global governance a new direction through its own practices. The report Xi delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October 2017 made it clear that “China follows the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration in engaging in global governance.” It was the first time that global governance had been addressed at a CPC congress.
Engaging with global governance is an important part of major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. It is a fundamental principle of China’s approach to the world and serves the goal of fostering a new type of international relations and building a community with a shared future for mankind. There are three words key to this concept: confidence, responsibility and cooperation.
At a time of transition full of risks and uncertainties, the priority for the international community should be to build confidence. International order represents a certain degree of consensus among states. The reason for today’s disorder is that the old consensus has collapsed and the new one is not yet established. Facing threats caused by the drastic changes in the global situation, the international community is struggling with what is essentially a mess of discordant ideas.
[The author is director of the Institute of Global Governance of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies]