China’s support of global governance fits with its sense of history

BEIJING, March 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — China’s annual two sessions began this week. This critical series of meetings in spring is vital to defining China’s approach to economic, political and foreign policy issues for the whole year. It also offers observers a window into the latest ideas and practices of China’s development in various aspects, including the whole-process people’s democracy, high-quality development, Chinese modernization and the wisdom the country provides to global governance. The Global Times selected the opinions of foreign scholars to shed light on these concepts.

Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London

China’s path to modernization in the last half a century has had the advantage of being able to observe what other countries, including the US, European countries and Japan, did earlier in their programs to change their economies and develop. What China did over this period is, as the phrase in the late 1970s put it, emancipating the mind, seeking truth from facts and keeping pace with the times. It adopted a pragmatic approach and one that allowed many different ideas about how to develop itself to be tried and tested, for example, township and village enterprises. These were tried in some places and then when they showed potential, were promoted in others, to the point that they became national policy. So China was very open-minded about what models it took from the outside world, but it also made sure these were adapted to the unique situation within the country. This was mostly about acknowledging the scale and diversity of China, a country that is continental in size and complexity. I think this made the Chinese experience very different than anywhere else. It was a remarkable mixture of the local and the international.

The changes in China over the past 40 years as “earth-shattering.” The main change has been in people’s material living standards. At the start of 1978, per capita GDP was about $190. Today it is coming close to about $12,000. That means immense changes in people’s general living standards. Over the last 40 years, more people than ever before have seen their living standards generally increase in China. The changes show themselves in the infrastructure the country has, and the remarkable transformation of its population from a largely rural living one to one where more than half are now living in cities. Broadly, this has been achieved by flexible policy-making and in the early decades by the government allowing space for innovation and improvisation. It has also been nurtured by a huge desire among the Chinese people themselves to see their living situation change and improve. 

China has a unique identity – like everywhere else. While China has taken many ideas in the last decades from the outside world to develop itself and its economy, it has also remained at its core culturally very distinctive. This means that successful engagement with China means acknowledging its differences, but being respectful of that. It also means embracing a China which often is coming from a different background and thinking in a slightly different way. 

Martin Albrow, an eminent British sociologist and one of the first globalization theorists

China has got a very unique and well-developed system of consultative democracy, which means that people can engage with the policies of the government at every level of society, and they are being consulted at every level. I think the notion of consultative democracy is actually very appropriate for the current age. 

Most countries in the world, and most people in the world accept concepts such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as very fine concepts. I think the countries that obviously adopt the most will be the ones that have already benefited from the BRI. As most countries in the world have now benefited from the Belt and Road, they obviously will see a shared future as an example of the way China reaches out through its relations with other countries.

China is very much in favor of global institutions and global governance, and it does everything it can to support them. It fits with China’s own sense of history. It fits with the idea of the middle kingdom, because it builds relationships through the world as a whole. And global governance, as we know it today, is bringing people together with shared values and shared purposes, like the Millennium Development Goals. If you belong to the United Nations, you belong to that mission to save the world. So I think it fits very neatly with Chinese history. 

China must take the leading role in bringing peace and harmony as far as possible in all the troubled spots of the world, and that includes Israel, Ukraine and Yemen. All the troubled spots are the areas where Chinese diplomacy has got to be very active in trying to create peace because peace is obviously in the best interests of the world.