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Huang Renwei: From Western-based order to a community of shared future


By Huang Renwei    Source:   Published: 2016-6-24 


Where did the existing world order come from, and where is it headed? What will be the shape of the world order in the 21st Century? Will China integrate its concept of a "community of shared future" with the old Western world order and enter into a new period of strategic opportunity? This article is designed to explore and answer these questions.

World order headed for a "community of shared future"

In my recent research, I summarized the international system and order into three progressive levels: international order, global order and world order. International order refers to that among the world`s great powers that dictates the order of the whole world. This changed to a global order in the latter half of the 20th Century, typified by contests among various power groups, such as socialist countries versus capitalist ones, and developed versus developing nations.

When it comes to the 21st Century, what is emerging is a world order in which the relationships between countries and non-country players and between humanity and the Earth become more prominent. As sea levels keep rising and more land is projected to become submerged in the future, finding the way out of human vulnerability in regard to our planet has become urgent. If the Earth became uninhabitable, world order is nothing but empty talk. Thus the environmental situation is part and parcel of the world order involving our common destiny.

Western-centric order

From 1492 when Christopher Columbus discovered the New World to 1992, five hundred years witnessed the growing prominence of a European- or Western-centered international order. Though this order helped to shape a stable world, non-Western countries, constituting a majority of the world`s population, have been excluded.

China certainly was left out. Once the center of the Eastern hemisphere, China was marginalized by the Western-dominated order in the latter half of the 19th century; Western countries never recognized it as a legitimate member, nor did China recognize the Western order. Though a lot has changed in the past three decades, this mutual exclusivity still remains. This is perhaps the root cause of why the West sees the rise of China as a challenge to the existing world order.

New elements of the 21st century world order

Unlike the 20th century when war and revolution dominated, this century is characterized by the following elements. First, the emphasis is on globalization and global governance. Second, there are both conventional and unconventional security threats. Third, it is a trilateral arrangement involving countries, international organizations and other non-country players. Fourth, there are four levels of governance: global, regional, nation and community. Fifth, five public spheres have become the most important elements of strategic space -- cyberspace, outer space, the North and South Pole, the ocean floor and the moon. Sixth, there are six strategic resources: finance, technology, talents, information, water and natural resources. Seventh, with the development of Internet technology, things like currency, governments, goods, culture, community, family and war will all become "virtual." Eighth, new geopolitical entities will emerge, namely, the western Pacific, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Eurasian continent, the Mediterranean, sub-Sahara, eastern Pacific-America, and the south Pacific-South Pole.

Western and Eastern concepts

Many Western concepts regarded as advanced in the 20th Century are no longer compatible. For example, the separation of powers, which is the core of the Western political system, has been a source of government inefficiency. The new century needs new ideas and institutional designs.

Many traditional Chinese concepts can inspire the new world order. For instance, "benevolent governance" can rectify the shortcomings of the separation of powers and multi-party politics, while "spending within one`s means" is a counterbalance to the excess expenditure of welfare nations. Similarly, Indian, Arabic, Russian and other cultures can also complement the new world order.

Pax Americana and China-proposed ‘community of shared future`

The greatest change in the 21st century is the deconstruction of Pax Americana. The centrifugal force in the America-dominated Western world is gaining more momentum, the dollar-dominated world currency system is disintegrating, and the "universal" values promoted by the United States turn out to be a mismatch with the contemporary world.

All these are not caused by the rise of China, but, instead, are the consequences of misjudgment of the U.S. and its presumption of the efficiency of Pax Americana.

China does not intend to challenge the U.S. in the future world order, nor does it attempt to compete against it in terms of ideology or a value system. The question, here, is which design of a new world order proposed by the two is more in line with future trends. The U.S. insists on keeping a world order prevailing in the 20th century to the end of the 21st at least, without addressing the questions of how to involve emerging powers and how to adapt to the new scenarios.

With the new order in mind, China has proposed building a community of shared future, which is aimed at maintaining the sound parts of the current global order and reforming the unjust and undesirable parts. The core is global governance.

Second period of strategic opportunity

The 21st century world order will provide the second period of strategic opportunity for the peaceful rise of China. The first and still ongoing opportunity is the integration of China`s newly established market economy with economic globalization starting in the 1980s. The second period of opportunity is integrating China`s governance system with global governance trends.

This opportunity is just emerging and will continue for at least three decades. Currently China is in transition from the first to the second period. The country is confronted with challenges from both within and without. The complex problems within China will provide rich experience in taking part in global governance, and the complex geopolitics in Asia will enable the country to have more innovative ideas in building the world order together with other countries.

Therefore, the community of shared future is a community of the Chinese nation, of East Asia, and of the entire humanity. Each and every challenge in building the new world order will prove an opportunity for China. China in transforming itself is indeed also changing the world.

The writer is a senior researcher of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: world order   community of shared future   US  

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