Text | CCG President Wang Huiyao speaks at 2023 Kearney Global CEO Retreat

CCG | June 25 , 2023

On June 25th, 2023, the Global CEO Retreat hosted by Kearney Global Business Policy Council was held in Cannes, France. Over 70 CEOs, think tank experts, and senior politicians from worldwide attended the meeting to discuss and exchange ideas. CCG President Wang Huiyao was invited to deliver a speech at the first session with the theme of “What if… the post-WWII global order continues to erode?” The full text of the speech is as follows:

I think this discussion is really fascinating because we have the brightest minds and business leaders from around the world attendin thsi roundtable.. The topic we are discussing is what if the post-World War II global order continues to erode? That’s really a million-dollar question. What I’d like to share, actually, is that I think we are really at a crossroad now. And using a common Chinese saying in the media, we are witnessing a change that occurs once in a hundred years, which is unprecedented, probably.

So the first point I’d like to make is that the world is becoming a multipolar world. Last month, I was in Berlin attending the Global Solution Summit, where German Chancellor Scholz emphasized that we are in a multipolar world. The multipolar world is a reality, and the unipolar world is gone. So I think he is probably right. Additionally, President Macron has expressed the desire for a more independent Europe, and others around this table are adapting to the multipolar world. In the unipolor world, where one country like US dominates and establishes institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and WTO. We are grateful for the US’s leadership in establishing this post-World War II global order, which has been tremendously successful for several decades. However, as we are in transition to a multipolar world, global governance is falling behind global practice. We now need to upgrade a new global governance system from old one. This is the root of the problem and the dilemma we face in transitioning from a unipolar world to a multipolar world. We need to deeply contemplate the solutions, alternatives, and frameworks required to address this upgrading challenge.

The second point I would like to make is that I still believe economic globalization is probably the answer. We are witnessing a clash between economic globalization and an overemphasis on security globalization. Economic globalization has faced significant setbacks due to concerns over security. However, globalization has proven to be beneficial for all of us. It has fostered prosperity and prevented major conflicts. Unlike during the Cold War, we are all interconnected and share the same planet. How can we fight each other when we are all on the same boat? For example, since 1990, the world’s poorest population has decreased by three-quarters, international trade has increased 20 times in the last six decades, and per capita income has risen 27 times according to the IMF. China’s success story is a testament to the benefits of globalization. The IMF projects that China will contribute over 22% of global GDP growth in the next five years, and the BRICS countries have already surpassed the G7 in terms of purchasing power parity. Globalization has lifted 800 million people out of poverty in China alone, accounting for 70% of global poverty reduction as outlined in the SDG 2030 agenda. However, we now face significant challenges. NATO is expanding, it might even want to set up an office in Tokyo, and the Five Eyes alliance wants to expand to South Korea. There have been the Quad, which is a military alliance in Asia, there is also AUKUS, which is a arrangement of nucler submarine techonloy proliferating to a non nuclear country, and there is the ongoing Russia war on Ukraine. These have all raised concerns on globalization. Nevertheless, Asian countries, including China, remain committed to globalization. Initiatives such as RCEP, the largest free trade agreement in the world, and CPTPP, which China and the UK are seeking to join, demonstrate a push for economic globalization. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the largest infrastructure plan for developing countries. The US has its B3W initiative, and the EU has the Global Gateway. Perhaps we should work together, combining B3W, Belt and Road, and Global Gateway initiatives. We should focus on economic globalization because it provides the safest path for mutual benefits.

The term “decoupling” is often heard in trade discussions, and now “de-risking” has emerged. I wonder, what are the risks? I believe the biggest risk is losing our prosperity, our quality of life, and our global business connections. That’s the biggest risk we face. We must address this directly.

Therefore, my third point is that in a multipolar world, where are the “multis”? I believe we should probably have more poles. Of course, the US is still the biggest, and we have the EU. Now, we have China and the Global South. So I think we should establish a G4, with the Global South represented by the BRICS countries. This would enable more effective discussions and the establishment of a G4 framework. Additionally, for the G3, I believe China, the EU, and the US could set up a trilateral dialogue to address bilateral issues. European countries can serve as good mediators in China-US relations. Similarly, China can act as a mediator in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. G3 or G4 discussions could also focus on challenges such as climate change, which poses the greatest threat we face. Recently, Beijing experienced historically high temperatures in June, and the pandemic continues to be a concern. Additionally, AI is an important topic of discussion. The G4 should address all these challenges faced by mankind. Instead of fighting each other like people in a village, we must work together. This is my third point.

My fourth point concerns the debate between autocracy and democracy. It’s not the binary world we perceive it to be. For example, China has a thousand years of meritocracy. While Western countries use voting systems, China employs an examination-based system. Every year, 12 million young people take the college entrance exam, and 2 million take the civil servant exam. Selection is based on examinations, which can be more effective at times. China has a consultative democracy, and it must have done something right to become the second-largest economy in the world. China has also become the largest automaker globally, with auto exports topping the world in the first quarter of this year. China has extensive infrastructure, including 5G and 4G stations, the largest education system, social security systems, and a healthcare system for 1.4 billion people. The total length of Chinese fast train network equals to the next ten countries combined. In contrast, the US military budget equals the combined military budgets of the next ten countries. This shows that China’s focus is on economic construction and globalization rather than security globalization. We need to come back to the basics of economic globaliaztion. That’s the message I want to convey.

Lastly, I believe that global business is rebounding. Unfortunately, China has experienced a three-year lockdown. But now we see European leaders, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and many others coming to China. JP Morgan recently held 2500 business executive meetings in Shanghai, which received little coverage. Starbucks CEO visited China as well. Despite the US imposing sanctions on 1300 Chinese companies and the Chips Act restricting chip sales not only from the US but also from the Netherlands, South Korea, and Taiwan, we see businesses returning. China accounts for about 30% of global GDP growth, yet companies are losing business, and South Korea’s trade with China has declinedby 10% so far this year. In conclusion, over the past three years during the pandemic, I have had one-on-one dialogues with 30 or 40 individuals, including Lawrence H. Summers, Joseph Nye, Graham Allison, Martin Wolf, Thomas Friedman, Henry Paulson, and Pascal Lamy. The common conclusion they have reached is that we should avoid a Cold War and decoupling. Some believe that in five or ten years down the road, we will need to work together and reach a new equilibrium. Ultimately, we must accept each other because we are all part of humankind. We need to collaborate and work together towards that objective.

Note: The above text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. It is posted as a reference for the discussion.