Creating New Dialogue Between the East and the West

Ecns | January 29 , 2024

Wang Huiyao is the president of the Chinese think tank Center for China and Globalization (CCG), vice president of the China Association for International Economic Cooperation under the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and vice president of the China Public Relations Association. He is the author of over 80 books and his research areas include globalization strategy, corporate internationalization, U.S.-China relations and talent development.

As the world undergoes unprecedented changes, it is increasingly evident that the existing global governance system is failing to keep pace with global needs. In the context of globalization, in the face of pandemics, climate change, resource scarcity, war and conflict and other issues that affect human survival and development, it is an urgent task to seek common ground while reserving differences, reform the global governance system and maintain peace and stability through the joint effort of all countries.

CNS: You have said that the existing global governance system has failed to keep up with the times. What are the shortcomings of global governance vis-à-vis the current problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change?

Wang Huiyao: Globalization has entered a new historical turning point. The development of globalization has brought about new changes in infrastructure, data security, technology development and business models, which have created new requirements for global governance. The rise of emerging countries such as China has also changed the balance of power in the international landscape. The old global governance system dominated by the United States and other Western powers is not representative and inclusive enough for developing countries. Although the U.S. and Europe have declined in power, they still have the ability to control the system. Developing countries have limited influence and rulemaking power, and their interests are not well represented, even ignored or sacrificed.

Climate change, environmental pollution, rampant international terrorism, and the outbreak of global pandemics have demonstrated that we live in an interconnected world where sustainable human development can be achieved only through the cooperation of all countries. However, the existing global governance mechanisms are lagging in terms of reconstruction and reform. They clearly lack effectiveness as they are unable to promote cooperation among all countries.

The root cause of the current dilemma in global governance is the incompatibility and contradiction between the existing global governance system and the current global political, economic and social developments. Due to this, the governance mechanisms can’t function well as their reform and improvement have been restricted, nor can new global governance mechanisms be created or innovated. Lack of leadership is the main shortcoming of the current global governance mechanisms, causing their repeated failure.

The times call for multilateralism, and the leadership of all the major powers is the key to successful multilateralism. The United States and China can establish a healthy competition if the former returns to multilateralism and the latter plays a greater role. The establishment of a new type of great power relationship between China and the United States that goes beyond zero-sum game and keeps their competition manageable will be an important contribution to the stabilization of U.S.-China relations and peace and stability in the world. It will create more mechanisms for bilateral and multilateral communication, dialogue and cooperation on global issues.

China, the U.S. and Europe, as the three important world powers, can establish a coordination mechanism among themselves. Through a permanent, institutionalized, multi-level and broad-ranging dialogue and cooperation mechanism, they can conduct regular dialogue on outstanding issues in international relations and global governance, thus enhancing mutual understanding, trust and cooperation. It will also improve the efficiency of global governance and better maintain harmony, stability, prosperity and development in the world.

CNS: Given the differences in the interests and ideologies of the East and the West, how can they seek common ground while reserving differences and jointly promote changes in the global governance system?

Wang Huiyao: The differences and similarities between the East and the West are not static. It is necessary to take a systemic and developmental view of their differences and the relationship between cooperation and competition by promoting dialogue and cooperation. The basis of seeking common ground while reserving differences is mutual understanding and trust as well as common interests.

China’s development path has broken the “end of history” concept (the theory that the development of a particular form of political or social system may be the end point of human sociocultural evolution), but this does not mean that China is different from the West in terms of its development model, ideology, political system and interest demands. In addition to the economy, the concept of democracy is now deeply rooted in people’s minds in terms of political philosophy and the development model, but the model of democratic development is different in China and the West. The West advocates election-based parliamentary democracy, while the Chinese environment is suitable for consultative democracy. At the same time, people’s choice in the development of the market economy and new technology development can also be seen as a kind of market economy democracy and modern technology democracy.

Today, deepened globalization has increased the common challenges and interests between the East and the West, which can revitalize international leadership, bind interests, consolidate the basis of cooperation and lead nations to face challenges together by reforming the existing mechanisms and establishing new international institutions. It is relatively simple and reasonable to start with concrete practical cooperation and then gradually find, expand and build up mutual understanding or recognition of concepts and acceptance of the differences in models. Perceptions, though deep-rooted, change constantly. The East and the West can learn from each other’s strengths and improve each other’s weaknesses. China can strengthen the construction of free trade zones, raise the level of its opening up to the outside world, and establish extensive, deep and close ties with the West through the “invisible hand” of the market, so that seeking common ground while preserving differences between the East and the West becomes a spontaneous and market-oriented choice made by the public.

Compared with the existing international free trade agreements (FTAs), China is lagging behind. It has only 19 FTAs and 26 trading partners, which make up 36% of its trade volume. In contrast, South Korea, Japan and Canada have more than 50 FTA partners, which account for 75 to 85% of their trade volume. Also, China is lagging in making rules to regulate labor, state-owned enterprises, e-commerce, fair competition and environmental protection.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, China ranks 43rd out of 46 countries in the service trade restrictiveness index and 76th out of 84 countries in the investment restrictiveness index.

International FTAs cover issues such as e-commerce, intellectual property rights and the environment, and are subject to dispute settlement. In contrast, China’s FTAs are based on exchanges and cooperation, with many principles and sensitive issues that are not subject to dispute settlement, such as state-owned enterprises and e-commerce. While China’s institutional opening up is accelerating, it is still a relatively slow process, taking into account the need to improve the domestic support system and the impact of institutional changes on Chinese society.

CNS: How can China and the West establish a value-based dialogue? Can China’s governance experience be disseminated more widely? Is there anything in the Chinese approach that needs reflection?

Wang Huiyao: The West’s misinterpretation of China in terms of ideology and values is a main reason why some Westerners have been hostile to China for a long time. But many of them may not have actually been to China, while foreigners who have studied, worked and lived in China are often friendly toward China. From the perspective of institutions and rules, China’s economic and social practices highlight the advantages of its political system and development model. China’s globalization has entered a phase of institutional reform to build a unified domestic market, further connect with the international community, and participate in the reconstruction of international rules. In this new era, strengthening international communication capacity and establishing a dialogue between China and the West is a systemic and multi-faceted project that requires bottom-to-top participation.

The analysis and interpretation of each other’s values in China and the West mainly comes from the opinion leaders and related organizations in the academic, political and business sectors that have authority and influence. To establish a dialogue between China and the West in terms of values, the first step is to establish a dialogue between the intellectual elite and authorities on both sides who have a degree of discourse power. Dialogue is a two-way, equal, moderate and rational exchange of information between two sides for enhancing mutual understanding. This requires listening and speaking in detail on an equal footing, enhancing mutual knowledge and understanding through mutual interpretation and frank sharing, and establishing empathy.

In the omnimedia era, the dialogue between Chinese and Western values has expanded to all fields of public work and life. Therefore, to establish a dialogue between Chinese and Western values and to disseminate China’s governance experience, it is necessary to carry out diversified exchanges via multiple groups as well as different classes, modes, channels and calibers. In 2020, Dr. Miao Lv, Secretary General of the Center for China and Globalization and the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies launched the Global Young Leaders Dialogue to promote cross-cultural communication, which has proved to be a success. There is great potential for civil society organizations to develop international communication. They can combine their own fields and resources to bring about a broad and far-reaching impact on international communication through multiparty cooperation.

Changes in the times are accompanied by changes in technology, industry, social practices, institutional mechanisms, concepts and ideas. During the transition to new ideas, China’s foreign relations and communication should also involve new and more inclusive ideas and styles. To promote the reform of the global governance system in the post-epidemic era, new global governance concepts and narratives are needed. This requires people from various countries and spheres to create and disseminate new global governance narratives through knowledge innovation, exchange and dialogue, and practical cooperation.

From, 2024-1-29