Active role of China in serious global issues is very visible
Published: Mar 02, 2023 09:04 PM
A bustling scene in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province on January 15, 2023.Photo: VCG

A bustling scene in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province on January 15, 2023.Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

The two sessions, one of China's most important annual political events, is an important window for the outside world to understand China's development achievements, plans, governance philosophy, diplomatic concepts and global initiatives. Through this window, international observers closely watch China's moves and recognize China's development and achievements. 

The creative and active role of China in addressing the current crisis around the world is important, and China can go further, Danilo Türk (Türk), former president of Slovenia, told the Global Times (GT) reporter Lu Yuanzhi. 

This is the first interview of this series.

GT: In 2023, the challenges facing the world will increase. The global economy is struggling to recover in the post-pandemic era, and it has become a consensus that China's development will be an opportunity for the world. China is entering the two sessions time in March. What are your expectations for the upcoming two sessions?

Türk: There are two types of expectations. The first is related to the short-term, and immediate tasks. Obviously, this is the early post-pandemic situation, and it could be very important to see how China plans its recovery from the COVID situation. 

Now, we have already seen a fairly positive assessment from the International Monetary Fund, which projects China's economy will grow by 5.2 percent this year. This is much higher than any other part of the world. That is very good. But it will be important to see what measures the Chinese government will take to stimulate growth and to shape development in ways which will also enhance international cooperation with China. 

The second aspect is more of a long-term nature. Because two sessions this year comes after the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held late last year, obviously, there were some important strategic directions defined at the congress. The one I think is particularly interesting is the concept of common prosperity for all. 

This is particularly important because China has had such an explosive growth in the past 20 or 30 years, which created large differences of wealth and income. Some people did very well and have become very rich, but some people are left behind, and there are many issues of social development that have to be addressed out.

It is also necessary to see what kind of strategy will be put in place to deal with intergenerational issues, because the society is aging. In Europe, aging population brings new questions, such as higher costs of healthcare, questions relating to retirement age, and the post-retirement life of people who have completed their most active part of their lives. And there are many other issues, just specific to China, which has had very dynamic urbanization. There are many things which come under the framework of common prosperity for all. And it would be interesting for the world to see how China approaches these issues, as that will have an impact on economy. It will also be important for the world as a whole, which is also dealing with the same kind of issues.

All these are the kind of things which will be looking at during the two sessions and the immediate aftermath. And generally, I think one should be hopeful that China's development in the next days will help.

GT: At the Boao Forum in April 2022 which you also attended, President Xi Jinping launched his Global Security Initiative. What do you think the China-proposed Global Security Initiative will contribute to the resolution of world security issues?   

Türk: In general, this initiative is very welcome and very timely, and I think that creative and active role of China is highly appreciated. Now the question is how to go further. The new Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang just had an interesting statement over the initiative on February 21. I believe further policy statements will flash out, giving more details to the initiative. This is a very sound conceptual basis for the work. We will see what comes as the follow-up in this conceptual level.

Then at the same time, the question of the role of China in addressing the current crisis around the world is going to be important as well. The world has seen that China has taken an active approach in the Middle East. We have seen various communications between China and Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel as well as other actors. We see that China is positioning itself as an important actor in the Middle East. 

On February 24, China's position paper on political settlement of Ukraine crisis was released, which is a very welcome development. These issues are very serious and very difficult to resolve, but the active role of China is very visible. And obviously, China has been active on that issue from the beginning. For example, in March 2022, China has issued a very interesting statement on Ukraine, in which, among other things, China emphasized the need to rebuild the European security architecture and make it sustainable. Sustainability of security architecture is something that has to be constructed over time. It will be important to watch the further developments. 

GT: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRI. What's your take on the BRI's achievements so far? What is your expectation for the role of the BRI in the post-pandemic era?

BRI has already changed the world considerably. In the immediate vicinity of China - that is Southeast Asia, or the Pacific, or Central Asia, where China obviously is historically a major player, China has upgraded its role with the BRI projects.

In more distant regions from the perspective of China, such as Latin America, China has become a major, possibly the largest economic partner of many countries in Latin America. And also in Africa, China has concluded BRI agreements with 52 African countries. That means practically all African countries are partners with China. 

The BRI has already changed much. It is a development initiative, which is characterized by problems of development and cooperation. And China has to take a look at the experience of others. For example, there are some parts of the world where other big players like the European Union or Japan have been active for a long time and has accumulated an important body of experience. In the future, China has to incorporate or absorb the entire development experience and see how best to develop the BRI further. For instance, how to use the digital technologies for the purpose of improving development and taking into account everything that has been happening in the domain of development in the past.

I would like to see a model of triangular relationships, although it is not very realistic at this moment. In Africa, for example, it would be interesting to see if African Union could propose to China, European Union, their main partners in development, a kind of more trilateral project.

Africa has always cooperated with Europe, and it is now cooperating with China. Each of them brings a different development perspective, it remains to be seen whether the African Union would propose the three sides work together. 

Conceptually, it is easy to imagine, but it is difficult to do. I would like to see more of that in the future. When talking about the 10th anniversary of the BRI, we have to be encouraged by what has happened so far. But at the same time, we need to explore the whole potential of the BRI. The potential is still very large, much larger than it is exploited at present. I would urge for more ambitious, more imaginative forms of cooperation, which would include other partners as well, not only China, not only the countries concerned, but also other partners.

GT: China pursues the diplomatic philosophy of multilateralism and win-win cooperation. In contrast, the US is keen on roping in its allies to create small circles to engage in confrontation. How do you see the comparison between these two countries?

Türk: Responsibility is the key word in this context. Now we have some global institutions, such as the United Nations (UN), but it cannot do everything, which has been clear from start. There are some regional and trans-regional organizations as well. We have a variety of organizational forms. The question here is, how they could work together, working in a synchronized way.

There is nothing wrong if small groups of countries get together to do projects that serve their particular interests. But the Charter of the UN is very clear on the point that enforcement action can be only authorized by the UN Security Council. It cannot be done independently by regional organizations or other small groups of states, except for self-defense.

But coming to the general question that you raised, I would say it is important to develop certain principles of cooperation, which will reconcile these two approaches. The key is to follow principles, which I would like to recite very precisely - No state and no group of states should build their security at the expense of other states' security. It's all fine and good if a small group of countries like member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) develop their own security cooperation, in a bid to strengthen their collective security. But it would be wrong if the SCO were to develop a kind of hostile attitude towards countries which are not members of that grouping. It applies to all regional organizations, including the EU, as well as trans-regional organizations such as NATO. I believe that we need to have very serious and responsible political discussion about the principle. 

GT: In your opinion, will US succeed in its attempt to contain and isolate China? Will China's friend circle get increasingly big? Why?

A short answer is no. China cannot be isolated. China is too strongly connected with the whole world to be isolated. That is simply impossible, even if it was attempted. That is also not in the interest of the US to isolate China. That would be unreasonable. 

I think that one has to understand after the ending of the Cold War, the collapse of Soviet Union and the Soviet system created a vacuum in which the dominant role of the US became inevitable that couldn't happen otherwise. That was 30 years ago. And the subsequent decades have changed, including the rise of China. China today is a much more important international player in every respect and Russia has also been resurgent. 

In the future, it would be wiser to use some of the wisdom of the era of Richard Nixon, the US president who was probably the most experienced one on foreign policy across US history. He helped developing a kind of a triangular relationship, which included the US, China and the Soviet Union. 

It is not happening yet, but we could think about a kind of a triangular relations in the future, but perhaps even larger, say a rectangular or quadrangular relationship, which would include the EU in a more creative and independent role in this kind of global management. 

I think that the future is uncertain, but we have models from the past which are teaching us that stepping out from the unipolar world toward a more multipolar arrangement is possible. And the UN framework is sufficiently comfortable for all that to take place. It's possible and doable. I hope there will be enough wisdom available to make it happen.