China’s 21st century ‘great power’ strategy relies on cooperation

By Wu Xinbo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/16 19:48:39

The world is in an era of transition. Unlike the end of the Cold War era, which was characterized by drastic political shifts, today's world is witnessing gradual changes in the balance of economic power and strategy. The transition appears to be accelerating, and, to a large extent, will be determined by the strategic paths countries choose.

China is an important impetus in the transition. Since the 21st century, the country's economic rise has been drastically changing the world's economic balance, and China's "great power" strategy is fundamentally reshaping the world's political landscape.

China's "great power" strategy and its implementation will determine the country's power and the global balance in the 21st century.

China's "great power" strategy is reflected in geographical and psychological objectives. Geographically, China should actively promote development in both land and sea, based on its geopolitical strategy and geo-economic environment. On land, China should strengthen economic ties with Eurasia via the Belt and Road initiative, and, while deepening cooperation with developed economies in Western Europe, actively tap the potential of Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. At sea, China should intensify economic connections with Pacific Rim countries, especially the US and Japan, via the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific and other bilateral and multilateral arrangements. Interactions with the US and Japan are of vital importance for China's economic transformation.

The strategy is based on economics, but will generate tremendous political effects. If it is successful, Eurasia and the Pacific will become a broad and stable platform for China's rise, and the geopolitical and geo-economic basis for China's power.

Psychologically, China should as a major power take on responsibilities for development, global governance, peace and security. After the Cold War, the US attempted to build a uni-polar world and wanted to act as the only leader in the world.

However, the country has seen strategic setbacks, economic crises and political changes since the 21st century, which shrinks its capability and will to play the leader's role.

The international community has decreased expectations for the US, and meanwhile anticipates a new power to lead the world's economic growth, promote global governance and enhance international peace and security. As the world's second largest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China's role is much anticipated by the international community.

Although China is still a developing country and there are different views on the country's international role domestically, shouldering more responsibilities in international affairs and making necessary contributions and sacrifices should be the guide for China's "great power" strategy.

The choice of strategic means is the key. China's "great power" strategic means should be "liberal cooperation." "Liberal" symbolizes equality, openness and a plurality of values. Equality between partners is the core of cooperation.

China's strategic means should be economy-based and development-oriented. This is determined by China's need for development and meanwhile reflects most countries' needs. This strategic choice will help China avoid the tendency of over-pursuing military strength, blindly worshiping military means and the eagerness for great power games that rising countries experienced in history.

It should be noted that the realization of national interests is increasingly dependent on non-military elements in the 21st century.

China's strategic means should also be based on cooperation and partnership. Although competition and conflicts are common in international politics, cooperation is the best and most accepted method, and will become a dominant model in international relations. This, to a large degree, is determined by economic interdependency and the evolution of international politics in the era of globalization.

Under this background, a country will have abundant political and economic resources if it can construct extensive partnerships with others. China should build strategic, developmental and administrative partnerships, focus on pertinence and substantiality in constructing partnerships and amplify its network of global partnerships.

Dealing with international disputes and conflicts is a test for China's "great power" strategy. The basic principle should be finding resolutions that are mutually beneficial, respect the realistic balance of power and meanwhile reflect a balance of the concerned parties' justified interests. China should try creative methods to address problems, and make them suitable for the political trends of the 21st century. If successful, these methods can be applied more widely and will be influential, and become new guides for conducting international relations.

Playing a leading role in international affairs is another significant part of China's "great power" strategy. China should stick to collective leadership, be a role model for other countries, and promote negotiation and collaboration to reach consensus. China's leadership should reflect the spirit of partnership, rather than hegemonism.

The "great power" strategy is a medium- and long-term arrangement, and thus should be implemented with perseverance. Meanwhile, China should put the strategy on a firm footing, making concrete contributions to the strategy and avoiding empty talk.

As a big picture plan, the fundamental goals and the path of the strategy should remain stable, but adjustments will be needed along the way to ensure the realization of the strategic goals. China should take the initiative to make adjustments as needed.

The author is executive dean of the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion



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