China’s global governance offers a much-needed alternative to West’s hollow promises: Malaysian scholar
Published: Nov 27, 2022 08:42 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:  

China has had an epic decade since 2012. Particularly in the last five years, which have been momentous and extraordinary, the country has successfully dealt with major challenges including turbulent developments in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the COVID-19 epidemic. The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has laid out plans for the strategic missions and major measures in the next five years, getting the efforts to build a modern socialist country in all respects off to a good start.

In an interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Li Aixin, John Pang (Pang), a former Malaysian government official said that the bedrock of China's stability is the cohesiveness and integrity of the CPC, and this stability is an anchor of the global system at a time when its purported custodians have turned against it.

GT: All eyes were on ASEAN earlier this month. Leaders from the world met in the region for ASEAN Summit, Leaders' Meetings on East Asia Cooperation, G20 Summit and APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. From the results which have been achieved, what do you think is the biggest highlight in the summit week?

President Xi Jinping spoke of the world being at a turning point, but the week of summits was itself a turning point in the global balance of diplomatic power. Through the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine, we have seen the West circle the wagons, abandon all pretense of global governance, and bring the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. It had done an about-turn on globalization, imposed lawless sanctions and embarked on an economic war to cripple the Chinese economy that is the world's engine of growth, the major trading partner of more than 140 countries and regions.

It was in this context that we saw the Chinese leadership go abroad to communicate a vision and strategic intent to the world that had been confirmed at all levels of the Party at the 20th National Congress of the CPC.

In three summits hosted by ASEAN countries, President Xi and his team presented a coherent, comprehensive vision of a world bound together in basic humanity and the common good, toward what it calls a human community with a shared future.

This wave of diplomatic activity began after the Party Congress with strategic meetings in Beijing with leaders from Vietnam, Tanzania, Pakistan and Germany. Premier Li Keqiang attended the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh and President Xi held, over six days, nearly two dozen intensive meetings with world leaders in Bali and Chiang Mai. In each of these he explained China's commitment to addressing global issues in everything from pandemic management to public health, technology coordination, energy, security and climate change It was a diplomatic tsunami.

While the US was accorded its customary respect, its engagement was half-hearted in comparison. The leader everyone wanted to talk to was Xi.

GT: Compared with summits that were held in Europe this year, such as G7 Summit and NATO Summit, which were filled with geopolitical tensions, the series of meetings in ASEAN laid focus on development, opening-up and connection. What differences between Southeast Asia and Europe does this comparison reflect?

There could not be a greater contrast between the form and content of G7, NATO and EU summitry and that of ASEAN, nor in their relevance for the world today, in the trajectory of Southeast Asia vs that of Europe. 

The developing world remembers that in the face of the global pandemic, Western institutions failed their own populations while their governments hoarded vaccines they needed. As the world struggles to recover from the pandemic and from climate change driven catastrophes, Western diplomacy is trying to impose a regime of sanctions, price controls and expropriations on the world that has disrupted global food and energy markets, threatened the most vulnerable with starvation and is causing a global recession.  

The rise of China and the war in Ukraine have triggered a rediscovery of "Western unity," a "return of the West" as a racial supremacist project free once again to openly voice its world-hierarchical claims. In the process, we've seen the flowering of its ideology of liberalism into a shrill and totalizing doctrine that must cancel non-conforming nations and peoples as it does individuals. 

In this frenzy, no independence of thought or action is allowed. Western institutions have collapsed into unanimous, streamlined instruments for a new state of Cold War on "autocracies." The EU has become an annex of NATO, that is to say, the US.

Each time the G7 meets, it announces a new set of vague proposals to counter Chinese influence, having forgotten their previous proclamations.

NATO and the G7 are outdated. NATO should have been dissolved after the end of the Warsaw Pact. Instead it stayed on to become an instrument of Western military aggression on Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. It now seeks to export itself to Asia to turn our region into the battleground for a new Cold War. 

The G7 no longer represents the most important economic actors in the world. "The West," into which Europe has been subsumed, imagines itself in an "existential conflict" with China.

Southeast Asians literally laugh at the naked attempts to incite and divide that now pass for Western diplomacy and "strategic thought."

Their region is historically and culturally defined by its connections with China, India and the Middle East. It is the most culturally and politically diverse region in the world. Its people are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, Christian and everything in between. 

They have learned to live with ambiguity and multipolarity and to solve problems through dialogue and consultation and relationship building. Most of its member states have suffered European colonization and are ideologically committed to rejecting any sign of its return. It is a thriving, open, trade-oriented economic region devoted to peaceful development through economic integration and people-to-people ties, including with China. 

ASEAN exists precisely not to be like Europe. Its charter commits it to non-alignment and neutrality, and to building long-term, cooperative relationship with all its neighbors. It practices open regionalism, a form of community building that avoids exclusive alliances. ASEAN belongs to the people of ASEAN. It articulates and protects Southeast Asian strategic independence. It will outlive the EU.

GT: Many bilateral and multilateral interactions among leaders from worldwide have taken place during the summits. Against the backdrop, how would you comment on the diplomatic potential of ASEAN?

The summits were a stunning showcase for ASEAN's potential as a hub for diplomacy in East Asia. This role is not accidental. It arises from ASEAN's commitment to host regional diplomacy, a policy called ASEAN centrality, that has been endorsed by all its dialogue partners, including China. That commitment is made possible by ASEAN's principles of neutrality, non-alignment and openness and by its culture of building consensus through dialogue, that the Indonesians call musyawarah and muafakat. We saw this culture on display in Bali, Chiang Mai and Phnom Penh. As hosts, these nations drew on Southeast Asia's untold cultural resources to create a context for win-win interactions between world leaders as human beings.

GT: What do you think China's visions for global governance, including Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI), could bring to multilateral mechanisms like G20 and APEC?

The world needs a new type of international relations. The liberal international order was built on war and exploitation. It continues to license war and exploitation by its principal architects. The Third World has found the West's promises of equality and development to be hollow. The liberal international order has entrenched inequality, within and between countries. Under its aegis, entire nations are relegated to perpetual underdevelopment and debt. The development ladder it promised is illusory.

China's vision of global governance offers a much needed alternative. Its vision of global governance and economic cooperation is translated into concrete proposals such as the GDI and the GSI. The GDI, offered in support of the UN's 2030 Agenda, should be seen alongside the Belt and Road Initiative. Where the latter builds connectivity infrastructure, the GDI proposes key areas of cooperation such as poverty alleviation, food security and pandemic response. They are an effort to extend China's approach to development and security to the global community and are concrete parts of that new type of international relations that the world needs.

The G20 and APEC are unlikely to be a useful format for building a new form of international relations so long as the West is bent on defending a lost unipolar order through division, subversion and coercion. These summits were valuable for making it possible for Western leaders to meet Xi after a long hiatus, but the Western diplomatic agenda at these meetings was directly contrary to the G20's purpose of global governance and APEC's of free trade. At this time, groupings more aligned in their development and community-building agenda such as SCO and the ASEAN+1 would be more productive. 

New types of international relations will need new or enhanced multilateral associations. We need the imagination to come up with them.

GT: The 20th National Congress of the CPC has laid out plans for the strategic missions and policies in the next five years. What does the continuity and stability of China's policies mean for the world, which is now facing growing uncertainties?

 China has grown peacefully and stably for 40 years. In the process it has undergone an industrial transformation that dwarfs the Industrial Revolution. Unlike the developed West, it has multiplied its economy, alleviated poverty and delivered its people "moderate prosperity" entirely without colonial exploitation. Its growth has benefited the world. Over this period, Southeast Asia has been transformed. Chinese policy during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 backstopped further disaster for Southeast Asia. In 2008 China's actions saved Southeast Asia from the global financial crisis and prevented a complete meltdown of global capitalism.

China practices what is demonstrably the most comprehensive and well-grounded and therefore credible policy-making process in the world. Its policies, while responsive, have been consistent and stable over a longer period than any other major economy, including across global financial crisis and an unprecedented pandemic. The bedrock of this stability is the cohesiveness and integrity of the CPC, demonstrated again at the recent CPC National Congress. Over the last decade it has undertaken bold internal reform to ensure that this integrity is preserved for another generation. This stability is an anchor of the global system at a time when its purported custodians have turned against it.