By Wang Wen Source: Global Times Published: 2019-11-26
In a discussion on the Palestinian issue at an international forum, former secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa, who was the host, could not control the smell of the metaphorical gunpowder on stage. As sparks flew among the seven international figures from Palestine, Israel and European countries and hundreds from the audience joined in the debate, Moussa had to hastily end the discussion.
Raised under the long-term influence of Chinese culture, which encourages restraint in public, I was shocked by what had happened. A former European politician sitting next to me kept shaking his head disapprovingly. He whispered to me, "The Middle East issue is too complicated. China must not blend in."
What a sincere advice for Chinese diplomacy! If Middle East stakeholders can't even discuss issues peacefully, what would happen when they carry out formal negotiations?
Grievances of the Middle East which go back more than 2,000 years are indeed more complicated than one can imagine, given all the historical contradictions, realistic interests, national disputes, economic differences, sectarian strife, ideological rifts, external interference, geopolitical games, and financial issues.
After 1945, the US started to meddle in the Middle East and appeared to have become the largest external judge and coordinator among different parties in the region. In the past 70 years, in addition to the constant outbreak of wars and conflicts, tens of thousands of US soldiers have died in the Middle East. The problem is becoming more complicated and the US is making more and more enemies there.
The chaos in the Middle East is only one side of disorder in the world. Who can easily provide solutions for the economic, political, ethnic differences and chaos that exist in the vast regions of Central Asia, South Asia, Africa and Latin America? Setting problems in developing countries aside, there is even no short-term solution to social disorders of developed countries in Europe and North America.
Global governance has reached its most complex period in history. It can be imagined how awkward it is for the US which has always been the world policeman. In my opinion, the logic of US President Donald Trump is: Don't take on so many responsibilities and only care for the US. This is completely contrary to the US diplomatic tradition and is shocking the world.
Against this backdrop, new ideas have emerged in the world - some people hope that China can replace the US to become the new global leader. However, I often tell some of my foreign friends not to expect too much from China. It is a developing country with a per capita GDP of only more than $9,000, more or less just one-sixth of that of the US. China has not yet walked out of the middle-income trap. China does not have that strength and foundation.
China has not yet acquired the experience and ability for a global leader. The complexity of the international situation is beyond the imagination of the Chinese people. For stark differences among different regions, Chinese diplomats and entrepreneurs have not accumulated the ability and skills to strike a balance.
China has neither the will nor the strategy to become a new global leader. Never seeking hegemony is the diplomatic policy of the Chinese government. In the eyes of the Chinese people, being a hegemonic power comes with a lot of responsibility but low returns. More importantly, it might hurt other countries in certain aspects. As Chinese President Xi Jinping said, the Chinese dream, a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, is by no means a dream of seeking hegemony. Mutual respect, consultation on an equal footing and mutual benefit are rules that China is pursuing for international interactions.
In recent years, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative and to build a community with a shared future for mankind. It has also proactively promoted BRICS mechanism, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (also called the 17+1), the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China-ASEAN cooperation and so on. All of this shows that China communicates and cooperates with the world more frequently. China is trying to present some Chinese-style experiences to the rest of the world. It has not forced other countries by any means. That being said, there is no need to encourage China to become the new international leader. It is not what China wants. If possible, other countries are welcome to study more about China's development and learn from some of China's effective governance.
The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, at Renmin University of China and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His new book Great Power's Long March Road was launched recently.
Essam Sharaf gave a speech at the Global Think Tanks Online Forum held in Beijing on June 10. Over 100 think tank experts and media representatives from 48 countries and nine international organizations attended the forum. The following is the full text of his speech.