By Lau Siu-kai
The successful convening of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (meetings known collectively as the two sessions) in Beijing this month and the elections of the new leaders of State institutions will inevitably exert a tremendous impact on the international political and economic landscape.
Not long before the two sessions, China had successfully passed the severe test of COVID-19 in the past three years and embarked on economic recovery. Today, under a solid leadership team headed by President Xi Jinping, China, with a vast population and enormous resources, will be more united, focused and spirited. The Chinese people will forge ahead and strive unremittingly for the common goal of building a modern socialist country and achieving national rejuvenation.
From the perspective of the changing international situation, a strong China is, after a brief interregnum because of COVID-19, returning to the center of the world and is more determined and prepared to fulfill within its capabilities its responsibilities to the international community and all humankind, especially in promoting world peace and development, as well as building a more equitable and reasonable international order.
On March 13, President Xi, immediately after winning his third term as president of the country, compellingly highlighted China’s international strategy at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress. He vowed: “We must work hard to promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. China’s development will benefit the world, and China’s development cannot be separated from the world. We must solidly undertake high-level ‘opening-up’, make good use of the global market and resources to develop ourselves, and promote the common development of the world. We must hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and the win-win outcome, always stand on the right side of history, practice true multilateralism, comply with the common values of all mankind, actively participate in the reform and construction of the global governance system, and promote the construction of an open world economy, promote the implementation of the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, inject more stability and positive energy to world peace and development, and create an auspicious international environment for our country’s development.”
China’s solicitude and responsibility for the whole world and all humankind announced by President Xi have been broadly embodied in a series of major actions taken by China some time before the two sessions and more actions will be taken with vigor and wisdom in the future.
Over the past year, great-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics has been comprehensively executed. China has organized and participated in many important international events, which have strengthened China’s international influence, opened space for China’s international activities, and promoted world peace and development. In December last year, President Xi’s diplomatic trip to the Middle East was a milestone in international affairs. It formulated the framework for China and Arab countries to craft and enhance their comprehensive strategic partnership. It also laid the ground to build a China-Arab community with a shared future. The changed geopolitical landscape in the Middle East will profoundly impact the world political situation.
On Feb 24, China proposed a 12-point political solution to the Ukrainian crisis, putting forward important proposals such as respecting the sovereignty of all countries, abandoning the Cold War mentality, facilitating a cease-fire and cessation of war, and launching peace talks. China’s initiative represents the country’s sincere and wise effort to contribute to the future peace of Europe and the world. China’s peace plan has been widely recognized by the international community except for the United States and its allies, and its future development will prove to be beneficial to the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.
What caught the world’s attention was that because of China’s mediating efforts, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran signed and issued a joint statement on March 10 announcing that Saudi Arabia and Iran had reached an agreement, including agreeing to restore diplomatic relations between the two sides, reopen embassies on both sides within two months, arrange for the exchange of ambassadors, and explore closer bilateral relations. This agreement is of great historic significance to the realization of lasting peace in the Middle East, and it also shows definitively that a China with strong political and moral strength can play an irreplaceable and indispensable role in promoting regional and world peace.
Since the two sessions, China’s diplomatic activities have become more active and frequent, especially in major-power diplomacy, head-of-state diplomacy, and peace promotion and dialogue, thereby injecting more elements of peace into a chaotic world. The successful state visit to Russia by President Xi and the fruitful summit between President Xi and President Vladimir Putin provides ample proof of this. As a matter of fact, because of the declining political clout of the US and mistrust of it by many countries, there is a strong plea in the international community for China to play a more constructive and indispensable role in resolving international conflicts. In any case, in the current international context, China’s foreign policy is more effective and in sharp contrast to the US’ foreign policy of bullying, “divide-and-rule”, and instinctual predisposition to resort to force, which is unsurprisingly not congenial to world peace.
Before and after the two sessions, China has stepped up efforts to promote globalization or reglobalization and worked indefatigably to showcase a new-style international order with other non-Western countries and propel the reform of the so-called “rules-based” and “liberal” international order designed and dominated by the US primarily to serve US hegemony and the interests of the developed countries. The steady implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, the unstoppable trend of adding new members to the BRICS+ and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement all demonstrate the fruitfulness and effectiveness of China’s efforts to promote globalization or reglobalization and repel economic imperialism. These efforts also allow China to give shape to the principles of new international relations, which it has championed forcefully and untiringly over the years, such as “equality and mutual benefit”, “mutual respect”, and “win-win cooperation” within these organizations. In international organizations dominated by the US-led West, China has spared no effort to advocate and promote reforms that are conducive to building an open, equitable and inclusive world economy, safeguarding and boosting multilateralism, defending the rights and interests of developing countries, and benefiting the people of all countries.
After the two sessions, with the strong acknowledgment and support of many developing countries, both the emergence of the new international order and the reform or the gradual crumbling of the current “liberal international order” are being accelerated. This will further enable China to give effect to the important propositions advocated by President Xi of “practicing true multilateralism, fulfilling the common values of all mankind, actively participating in the reform and construction of the global governance system, and promoting the construction of an open world economy”.
During the two sessions, the central government decided to speed up the country’s economic recovery and development. Essential measures put forward include vigorously increasing domestic demand. This year’s GDP is expected to increase by about 5 percent, and the fiscal deficit rate is set at 3 percent. The central government will also make greater efforts to attract and utilize foreign capital, including expanding market access in China, opening the modern services industry, offering national treatment for foreign-funded enterprises, doing a better job serving foreign-funded enterprises, and promoting the construction of landmark foreign-funded projects. The new Government Work Report pointed out, “The mammoth open Chinese market will certainly provide more opportunities for companies from all over the world to operate in China.”
The respectable growth of the Chinese economy in the days ahead will be a powerful driving force that will account for a considerable proportion of global economic growth. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the momentum in this regard has understandably weakened. In the past few years, the global economy has been pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, rising inflation and interest rates, protectionism, unilateralism, fractured supply chains, and anemic economic growth in the West, and more depressingly in the Global South. After the two sessions, the huge Chinese economy, which will continue to gain impetus from further reform and opening-up and enjoy decent economic growth, is injecting new momentum into global economic recovery and development, and provide rare investment and development opportunities for foreign enterprises and funds.
After more than 40 years of reform and opening-up, the miraculous achievements of China’s development model have won worldwide attention and admiration. It has also provided other developing countries and Western countries with a development path different from that of the West. After summing up its experiences, China has also been able to make some achievements in the theory of development. In recent years, novel and ingenious concepts such as “community with a shared future for mankind”, “Chinese-style modernization”, “whole-process democracy”, “new development concepts and patterns”, “Global Development Initiatives”, “Global Security Initiatives”, “Global Civilization Initiatives”, “internal and external economic circulations”, and “common prosperity” have emerged one after another, and have gained widespread attention and respect internationally, thereby contributing a lot of Chinese wisdom to world peace and development, especially to developing countries.
At the same time, these concepts call into question the universal applicability of the Western development model, given the difficulty in solving the serious political, economic and social predicaments in the West and in the much dilapidated “rules-based” and “liberal” international order, which is increasingly rejected by countries around the world and even by many Western people. Against the background of the decline of the Western model of development, China’s development model, recently officially designated as “Chinese-style modernization”, and the “Chinese economic miracle” created by it, will surely attract more attention from the whole world and will have a positive impact on global development in the long run.
In short, after the two sessions, an increasingly prosperous, powerful, and self-confident China will continue to contribute valuable Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to the benign reshaping of the international political and economic order. The spillover effects of China’s development will also become much stronger and more lasting.
The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a consultant of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of Bauhinia Magazine.