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Cover Stories Series 2015> Strengthening Regional Partnership> Archives
UPDATED: March 24, 2015 NO. 6 FEBRUARY 5, 2015
China's New Diplomatic Horizon
A new geopolitical vision for China will see more active global engagement
By Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Philosophically, to promote the Silk Road spirit, Xi described four fundamental principles: boosting mutual learning between civilizations, respecting each other's choice of development path, focusing on mutually beneficial cooperation and advocating dialogue and peace.

Practically, to implement the Silk Road spirit, Xi called for Chinese and Arab sides "to be both farsighted and down-to-earth" and suggested a "1+2+3" cooperation pattern: "1" refers to cooperation in energy, the whole industrial chain of oil and natural gas; "2" refers to "two wings"—one being infrastructure and the other being trade and investment, including Chinese investment in energy, petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing, and services in the Arab states; "3" refers to using three advanced technologies—nuclear energy, space satellites and new energy—as breakthrough levers.

For China to fulfill its potential as a global leader, it must gain the world's respect for its principles and philosophies, not only for its economy and military. This involves appreciation for China's self-determined "road of development" and for its political system.

This is a larger topic but such appreciation can develop only with a kind of convergence, where China's political system continues to reform, with increasing transparency and freedom, and where foreigners come to understand that pragmatic competence managing China's complex society trumps idealistic ideologies of multi-party democracies.

For China not to view the United States as its adversary, not as a threat to its system and government, Washington will have to accept that the Western democratic model may not be ideal for all nations at all times (the recent Middle East should teach this lesson). The United States must appreciate that China must continue to determine and develop its own system.

In my dream of a post-adversarial world, China would assume increasing responsibility for world peace and prosperity. In seeking the moral optimum, China may have to tear up old scripts, which may be in China's own best interests.

For its part, the United States should reject the Cold War mentality of "containing China," as resisting China's rise would be both archaic and self-defeating. Of course there would remain areas of contention—balance of trade, human rights and territorial disputes—but different political systems should not be one of them. Politico-economic theories constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries have little utility in the 21st century, where all nations seek optimized models of free markets and government regulation that by nature can be neither generalized nor static.

I believe that it is in the national interests of China and the United States to work together such that their foreign policies begin to converge. Surely there are nationalistic issues, and conflicts can compound when parochial media focus on disputed borders. But border disputes do not determine national wealth, and national dignity is not ultimately measured by maps. The real achievements of nations—increasing citizens' standard of living—are not the zero-sum games of jousting over slivers of land or sea but are the synergistic accretions of advanced education, knowledge creation and technology utilization.

I do not advocate that China follows the U.S. model; it must pursue its own self-interests, which stress improving the standard of living and the country's increasing prominence and prestige. To secure the former, China requires international stability. To enable the latter, China must take the moral high ground in international affairs.

China becomes a leading nation by asserting, not by resisting, moral leadership, even if problems are complex. I applaud China for assuming more responsibility in promoting global stability. In today's world, the real conflict is not between opposing political systems but rather between the forces of modernity, competence and development and those of ignorance, exploitation and oppression.

As such, China's increasing engagement with global diplomacy should be celebrated.

The author is an international corporate strategist and political/economics commentator in the United States

Email us at: liuyunyun@bjreview.com

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