Chinese Dream, Chinese Diplomacy
Yuba Nath Lamsal
The Chinese Dream is, perhaps, the most significant and visible concept and proposition Xi Jinping has envisioned both at home and in the international arena since he assumed China’s leadership as President as well as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Xi was elected as general secretary of the CCP in November 2012 and President of China in March 2013. Soon after assuming China’s leadership, President Xi announced the Chinese Dream and described it as a vision of "national rejuvenation, improvement of people’s livelihoods, prosperity, construction of a better society and military strengthening". At the same time, China’s new leadership has construed a new world outlook which is being interpreted as Beijing’s world dream that calls for building a harmonious world. China has, therefore, remolded and remodeled its strategic thoughts and policy through a number of innovations and developments in the domain of international relations and diplomacy to achieve the goal of building harmonious world and ensuring lasting peace and common prosperity in the neighborhood, in the region and in the world. These are the concepts that seek to revive Chinese nation with enhanced social and economic status of its people and also envisage a newer approach for international peace, cooperation and security with the best use of China’s soft power and its astute diplomacy. The world dream is an extension of the Chinese Dream, which sums of everything that China has initiated, achieved and accomplished over the last one year under the new leadership of President Xi and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.A Global Soft Power
From the time immemorial, China has always been a power to reckon with in the international arena. With considerable economic clout, inventions and innovative approaches in multiple sectors, rich cultural and intellectual contribution to world civilizations and its peaceful and cooperative world view, China is equipped with plenty of tools to portray itself as a better positioned soft power. In the 18th century, China alone had accounted almost a third of global GDP. Establishing contact and relationship with China and getting its recognition had been a matter of pride and prestige for many Asian and European powers and countries. Way back in 1873, Britain, a principal industrializing power in Europe, sent her emissary with valuable gifts consisting mainly of its manufacturing goods to the court of China seeking to establish an embassy in Chinese capital. However, with much humbleness, the Emperor Qianlong replied to Britain’s king George III saying: “Your sincere humility and obedience can clearly be seen but we do not have the slightest need for your country’s manufactures”[i]. This manifests China’s historic glory and stance in the world in the late 19th century. However, with internal strife, wrangling and its resultant instability creeping into the royal court of Beijing, China’s strength got slowly diminished in course of time. And the same British returned to China in the 1830s with opium and gunboats to force trade open that gave birth to series of external interventions and bully of western powers to expose the ‘Middle Kingdom’ to the brink of collapse by 20th century.
Rejuvenating Chinese Renaissance
The national humiliation that China suffered in the 19th and 20th century had left deep scars in the hearts and mind of the Chinese people. However, from the rubble of national disgrace rose again the wave of patriotic sentiment far and wide in China under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the birth of which had been on July 1, 1921, that triumphantly won a victory against both external aggressors and their reactionary lackeys at home in 1949 to establish the People’s Republic of China. On October 1, 1949 Mao Zedong, who physically and ideologically led the party and the revolution, declared from the podium in the Tiananmen Square, ‘China has stood up’. Truly indeed, China has stood up firmly and has, since then, been moving resolutely ahead never to look back again. In the tumultuous journey of 65 years with the triumph of people’s power for nation building, China has made a stunning progress to convert itself from an impoverished nation to a prosperous country and a world power. Hundreds of millions Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty over the last few years, thanks to its founding fathers mainly Mao Zedong and all five generations of leadership. China’s global influence is expanding and its economy is expected to overtake that of the United States, possibly, within next decade.[ii]
While Mao laid the foundation of modern China, Deng Xiaoping came in to give a new dimension to China’s history with the image of an architect of China’s prosperity. The later generations of leadership like Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, too, gave continuity to Deng’s vision but with innovations and added impetus that have left an indelible mark on the history of China. President Xi, apart from giving continuity to reform process initiated way back in 1978, appears to be determined to add a new and markedly unique dimension to China’s history as Xi era. In his first weeks in power as the General Secretary of the CCP and country’s president, Xi Jinping proclaimed a new ethos of the Chinese Dream followed by an international vision for better China and a better world. Some China watchers and analysts tend to liken the Chinese Dream as a copycat of ‘American Dream’ popularized way back in 1930s in the United States with the ethos ‘life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’[iii]. However, the Chinese Dream that President Xi has announced is not a copycat version of American Dream but has its own roots and origin in China and existed in Chinese culture for centuries. China is a cradle of civilization with many of the world’s inventions and innovations having been made and developed in China when the Anglo-Americans were in a primitive stage. The Chinese Dream is, therefore, President Xi’s pet project to revive the old glory of peaceful, prosperous and powerful Chinese nation that matters a lot not only within China but will have a far-reaching impact in the global scale. It is a path to a more prosperous and equitable society, and an optimism about the future. The Chinese Dream is also not what some Western pundits tend to describe as a well calculated design to project China’s power abroad. This is a well-thought concept for creating environment for peaceful development at home and atmosphere conducive for collective initiatives and cooperation in the international arena. In other words this is a vision for building a culture of cooperation in the international arena on win-win basis and without any string attached to contribute to well-being of less fortunate people in the world, which, in turns, would contribute to creating an equitable, just and peaceful world. The 18th Congress of the CCP has explained in clearer terms that China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and the Chinese Dream is its practical realization.
Chinese Dream, Asian Dream
The Chinese Dream has had visible implications in the international arena including in its neighborhood. In the period of one year since President Xi came up with the powerful narrative to express the Chinese zeitgeist, the new leadership in Beijing has been busy in reconnecting the spirit of reforms that China has initiated for over three decades with the world especially in the neighborhood and the developing countries. The Chinese Dream is, of course, a proposition to raise people’s living condition and enable them to live a dignified life at par with some moderately developed countries in the neighborhood by 2020, when China would be celebrating the centenary of the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party and upgrade China to the status of developed countries of the world by 2049, the year that would mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The new leadership in China is of the firm belief that its prosperity will be meaningless if its neighbors remain mired in poverty and backwardness. Poverty and backwardness are the breeding ground for instability, conflict, war and terrorism, which will ultimately have spillover effect also across the border of other countries. The Chinese leadership seems to be well aware of this scenario and possible consequences in China when its neighbors are afflicted with poverty and its resultant social unrests. The Chinese Dream, thus, envisions a mechanism for cooperation in the international arena so that its friends and neighbors, too, benefit from this great vision of prosperity and development. It is against this backdrop, China has come up with the slogan of ‘Chinese Dream: Asian Dream’ in order to connect the entire Asia with this vision and create a cozy Asian community with common oriental culture and civilization.China’s world dream
The Chinese Dream is not a new concept and phenomenon as this had always been in the heart and mind of Chinese people throughout history. While this is China’s dream and national renaissance at home with particular focus on peaceful development and raising people’s living condition, this ethos is understood as the world outlook of new Chinese leadership and a world dream to create a harmonious world that visualizes achieving lasting peace and common prosperity. This has had a great significance on the sphere of international diplomacy as President Xi Jinping has clearly put forth his grand world vision with ‘neighbor first’ policy, and sought, with fresh vigor and zeal, to reconnect Chinese outlook and approach of development and international diplomacy with the broader Asian culture of greater reawakening of human, social and community values against the onslaught of Western notion of individualism. This is a vision of self-consciousness for wider societal well-being based on collective approach. The Chinese Dream in the international front is peace against war, cooperation instead of conflict and collectivism against individualism. This is not what some Western pundits often equate with China’s ambition of cultural and economic hegemony. History is witness that China has never had any appetite for territorial gains not has it ever pursued an ambition of hegemony, interference. It has always sought to maintain peaceful and cooperative relations with other countries in the world and China’s new leadership has just asserted it over the period of last one year, which is the crux of its world dream and world vision. The developments and hectic diplomatic initiatives over the last one-plus year since the new leadership assumed China’s leadership are directed towards connecting the world with its message of peace and brotherhood. Connectivity is, thus, key to fostering more exchanges, interactions and partnership, which Beijing has taken as a mantra throughout history. Exchanges, interactions and partnership have been the bases of international diplomacy of China throughout history. In late 14th and early 15th century, a Chinese businessman cum adventurer Zheng He led west bound trading fleets several times, carrying the message of goodwill, peace and friendship. His mission had succeeded to establish China’s goodwill contacts and relations with more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, whereas some western countries that now boast of their superiority in human prosperity and development were either totally locked in sectarian conflict or busy in petite mercantilism. It is guided by this purpose of connecting the world and creating a ‘one world and harmonious world’ that the Chinese built the Silk Road linking China with central and western Asia and Europe. The Silk Road was the road for peaceful cooperation. Under the Chinese Dream, the new leadership in Beijing is effortful not only to revive the old Silk Road but also further expanding and extending it to connect with wider areas in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Chinese people are aware more than anybody else in the world as to how painful and disgraceful is the foreign intervention and invasion as they suffered humiliation and bullying at the hands of foreign invaders. Thus, peace is most precious for the Chinese people. China is, thus, against any kind of interference and hegemonic behavior in anywhere in the world. The stunning progress that China has achieved over the last three-plus decades since reforms and opening up were introduced is also the manifestation of Chinese people’s endeavor and desire for the pursuit of peaceful development. Peace and prosperity are interconnected. Chinese people seem to be fully aware that peace is a must for prosperity in the country, in the region and in the world. It is against this background that China along with some other Asian countries got so deeply involved in drawing a blueprint of principles of handling foreign relations and international cooperation, which are globally known and hailed as the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence or the Panchasheel. In a keynote speech at a conference organized in Beijing to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence on June 28, 2014, in which Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein and Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari were also present, President Xi reiterated China’s adherence to its ideals in conducting diplomacy and said “the notion of dominating international affairs belongs to a different age, and such an attempt is doomed to failure[iv]” China strictly adheres to these Five Principles of conducting foreign policy and international cooperation which include: mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; non-interference in each other's internal affairs; equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence. President Xi further noted: "Considering the development trend and China’s fundamental interests, it is a strategic choice to stick to a peaceful development path. We Chinese people believe in the idea of, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want to be done to yourself.’ And we don’t agree that a strong country will always seek hegemony, as Chinese people have never sought hegemony[v]”. The present leadership in China is more determined to strive for development in a peaceful global environment and also to promote world peace through self-development and meaningful cooperation and sharing of knowledge and experiences among the comity of nations. This is what the Chinese vision seeks to achieve and promote in the present interlinked and interconnected world. The Chinese world vision is, therefore, a dream for fostering a common global comity with effective sharing of values, knowledge, experiences and prosperity, capital and technology. It will benefit the Chinese people and the humanity at large. Under this grand vision, China, apart from bilateral mechanism for augmenting mutual cooperation, is seriously effortful in fostering new regional mechanism and reshaping the older ones for bilateral, regional and international cooperation. In the process of creating regional and international cooperation mechanism, China has already created China-Africa Cooperation Forum, China-Arab Cooperation Forum and is working out to create such forums in the East Asia and the Pacific region, South Asia, South and Central America, Central Asia and Europe. These forums seek to carry out comprehensive and meaningful cooperation characterizing mutual and shared benefits with all countries and regions that are willing to build such mechanisms. In addition to its positive role and stance in the United Nations and several other international forums for the cause of the developing countries, multi-lateral diplomacy, world peace and the just world order, China’s initiatives in creating different international cooperation mechanisms have been wholeheartedly appreciated by the global community. The creation of New Development Bank (NDB), also called as BRICS bank, and the mechanism for contingent reserve arrangement (CRA) are yet other landmarks in fostering international cooperation and augmenting development endeavors. 'The BRICS bloc has a special responsibility to help the world achieve its goal of ending extreme poverty, reducing inequality and achieving sustainable development, as its member states collectively face some of the world's greatest challenges and have made great achievements in these areas’ [vi]. Headquartered in Shanghai, the NDB aims at facilitating fund for bigger projects not only in BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) but also in other cash-strapped developing countries in Asia, Africa, South and Latin America. In creating international cooperation organizations like BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China’s role and initiatives were crucial. These are all parts of the overarching goals and objectives of Chinese diplomacy set forth by the Chinese Dream, which seeks to further strengthen these mechanisms and arrangements for the larger interest of both China and the world.
Focus On Neighborhood DiplomacyWhile the Chinese Dream seeks to strengthen and deepen China’s pragmatic cooperation with the rest of the world, it has laid especial emphasis on enhanced cooperation with the neighbors. The year 2013 was the new Chinese leadership’s first year in conducting neighborhood diplomacy and 2014 has been its continuity. The new Chinese leadership has realized with more clarity that maintaining a peaceful and stable neighborhood is necessary for China's development and also for the countries in the region. As good neighborhood policy is necessary for regional stability and world peace, China has vigorously advanced its neighborhood diplomacy with new concepts, new expressions and new initiatives followed by several important events to ensure that neighbors, too, benefit from China’s growth and prosperity. President Xi, while directing the Foreign Ministry to evolve new friendly political, economic and security cooperation policies to tie the neighboring nations with China, said "we must strive to make our neighbors more friendly in politics, economically more closely tied to us, and we must have deeper security cooperation and closer people-to-people ties”. After assuming the leadership of the CCP and the government, President Xi visited neighboring countries including Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, while Prime Minister Li was busy in visiting several other neighboring countries including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam. President Xi chose Russia as the destination of his first foreign visit and Prime Minister Le began his foreign trip from India, which manifests more priority to the neighbors or ‘neighbor first policy’. Similarly, Beijing hosted a flurry of dignitaries from the neighboring countries over the last one and a half year. China’s basic tenet of diplomacy with neighbors has been to treat them, irrespective of their physical size and level of development, as friends and partners; make them feel safe; and help them develop based on win-win reciprocity and through ‘accurately identifying convergence points for cooperation; making use of China's advantages in economy, trade, technology, and finance and actively taking part in regional economic cooperation’[vii]. While proposing a ‘series of strategic concepts aimed at promoting regional prosperity and development, including a Silk Road Economic Belt with Central Asian countries; an SCO development bank; and a 21st-century maritime Silk Road ; and a scheme called ‘Southeast Asian countries for more concerted approach in building partnership with the ASEAN and its members in building a China-ASEAN community of common destiny’’[viii], China’s initiative for ‘Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia’ (CICA) is yet another project under China’s neighborhood diplomacy that seeks to create a broad Asian community—much larger and broader than the present ASEAN Regional Forum. China has also proposed setting up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new multilateral bank to fund for development projects in Asia.
With prediction that 21st century would belong to Asia, China is determined to make it a reality though greater and meaningful cooperation among the countries in Asia. If realized, Chinese Dream and its international diplomacy will not only reinforce China’s leadership in the world but also benefit its neighbors as the Chinese Dream is also an Asian dream and global dream for peaceful, better, and more prosperous world based on oriental values. The initiatives and actions that China has envisioned and advanced have clearly demonstrated that China's image and intention for peaceful development and prosperous co-existence in the world in general and in the neighborhood in particular would definitely triumph and contribute immensely to the larger cause of building a harmonious neighborhood, stable region and peaceful world.
[i] The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21577070-vision-chinas-new-president-should-serve-his-people-not-nationalist-state-xi-jinping
[ii] Xinhua Net
[iv] The Economist-China’s Peripheral diplomacy: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21606320-president-xi-goes-south-korea-china-looks-increase-regional-clout-balancing-act
[v] The Global Times: http://www.globaltimes.cn/daily-specials/peace-principles-60th-anniversary/index.html
[vi] China Daily: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2014-07/23/content_17904463.htm
[viii] China Daily: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-11/03/content_17077732.htm