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Chinese wisdom contributes to evolution of international order

By Mao Li | 2015-01-01 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Qin Yaqing, president of China Foreign Affairs University


Qin Yaqing (1953- ), a leading scholar on inter­national relations in China, is considered as an out­standing theorist on con­structivism in China and a pioneer in the Chinese school of IR theory. He is the author of Hegemonic System and International Conflict; Power, Institu­tions and Cultures; and Relations and Processes: Cultural Construction of Chinese International Rela­tions Theory. Currently, Qin is the president of China Foreign Affairs Uni­versity, a member of the Foreign Policy Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, and vice-president of the China National Association for International Studies.


China’s peaceful rise is no doubt a major event in international rela­tions in the 21st century. As many believe, the rise of a new power inevitably challenges the existing international system. However, un­like Western powers, which have a history of conflict when power shifts, China has practiced a cooperative international strategy since it started its reform and opening up more than three decades ago. How has China achieved a peaceful rise? What influ­ence will China’s rise have on the international order? A CSST reporter interviewed China Foreign Affairs University President Qin Yaqing on these issues.


CSST: Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the necessity of great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics at the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs in an effort to realize the two centenary goals. Great power diplo­macy with Chinese charac­teristics is an innovation of Chinese diplomatic philoso­phy. What’s your opinion on this concept?


Qin: Great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, as is interpreted, has rich connotations, including a persistent pursuit of the Chinese path to development and concerning such aspects as social institutions, cultural traditions, and core values. It is also characterized by an insistence on democratization of international relations, opposition to all forms of hegemony and power politics, perseverance in construct­ing a new type of international relations, and following the right ap­proach to principles and interests. 


First, China’s engagement in the international system is a strategic choice on its own initiative, realized through its cooperative practices over the past three decades. Reform and opening-up are the twin poli­cies inseparable from each other, and both have been China’s choices and together form China’s overall national and international strategy. It has not been merely “taught” as some Western mainstream IR theo­ries have predicted.


Second, in terms of key issues and matters of principle, China will not sacrifice its core national interests for an opportunity to join the inter­national institutions.


Third, China’s participation in the international system is not a passive process. Rather, it is an active process in which China and the international system interact and exert mutual influence. China has observed inter­national rules in many fields, and at the same time, China’s concepts and proposals have won approval and support as shown by the effects of its innovative practices.


CSST: Does China’s em­phasis on and persistent pursuit of independence in diplomatic affairs mean that it will challenge the existing international order, even in a violent way? The debate in the international community has always been whether China is a power that aims to maintain the status quo or to challenge it. What’s your opinion?


Qin: Let me use a study by our research team. In order for a com­prehensive and thorough analysis of China’s engagement in the reform and evolution of the inter­national system, our team tracked and analyzed 15 cases of China’s engagement in the international in­stitutions in economic, security and cultural fields.


We found a commonality in these three fields despite varying paces of action and participation. From the very beginning of the reform and opening-up, China started its en­gagement in a cooperative manner, namely to open itself to the interna­tional system and to participate in multilateral institutions while pursu­ing an independent foreign policy of peace. It is by taking this position that China has maintained a stable relationship with the international system and become a responsible member of international society.


CSST: Scholars found in an investigation into public opinion toward China’s peaceful development that the majority view China as pursuing a peaceful devel­opment but remain uncer­tain as to whether China will seek hegemony. How do you see the trend of China’s relations with the interna­tional system?


Qin: China’s practices of participat­ing in the existing international insti­tutions were necessitated by its stra­tegic decision to reform and open itself up to the outside world. It is such practices that led to a benign in­teractive process between China and international society. China’s will­ing participation in the multilateral institutions and the largely positive recognition of China’s identity and role by the international community have resulted in the unfolding of a constructive process toward a pos­sible evolution of the international order for sustainable security. Dur­ing this process, two factors are of great significance: China’s peaceful development strategy and the posi­tive response from the international community. They have constituted the necessary conditions and facili­tated the construction of a positive relationship between the two. Of course, it is a long and open process, and how it develops will continue to depend on the nature of the interac­tive practices on both sides.


CSST: Currently, the inter­national system is undergo­ing a new round of profound adjustment. With the inter­national prestige of China growing, there are more opportunities for clarifying gray areas in interactions between China and the international system. What can China contribute to the reform and evolution of the international order?


Qin: There are at least three ways in which China can contribute to the evolution of the international system and international order.


First, China’s engagement will promote a pluralistic mode of global governance. The hegemonic stabil­ity theory argues that a hegemonic power is crucial in establishing the international order, for it provides necessary international rules and public goods for governance. Neolib­eral institutionalism also believes in such a role played by the hegemon. The problem with these theories is that we are now living in a pluralis­tic world that requires a pluralistic model of governance. Participation by China as well as developing na­tions will encourage such a model.


Second, China’s involvement in the international system will bring forth the idea of partnership and put it into practice. It will influence the evolution of the international order. Partnership is a re-identification of relations among actors in the inter­national community. It suggests that state as well as non-state actors in the international community are not necessarily hostile to one another as described in the realpolitik theory, nor are they related or cooperative solely based on self-interests as depicted by rational choice theory. Partnership is based on trust and re­spect, reflecting the idea of relational governance, which complements rule-based governance. Rule-based governance and relational gover­nance combined means produce a more effective way of global gover­nance, a model that respects rules, values human relations, and believes in morality, leading to a fiduciary society.


Third, China’s positive participa­tion in the international system will promote its legitimacy and lead to a genuine evolution of the interna­tional order. The existing interna­tional institutions were established by the Western nations and for the governance of their relations during a certain period of history. Now in an increasingly globalizing world more non-Western nations have been joining the international system. If they were perceived as subjects to the power of the in­ternational institutions and could only be taught to follow the existing rules, such governance would not be legitimate and therefore could not help to maintain a stable and sustainable international order. Participatory practices that include all are the necessary condition for the legitimacy of global governance and an effective way of overcoming the sense of alienation among the majority of international society.