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Community with a shared future for mankind’ contrasts sharply with Western thesis of ‘clash of civilizations’: scholars

By Global Times

Upon the Global Times’ invitation, renowned British sociologist Martin Albrow (Albrow) had a conversation with Chinese scholar Wang Yiwei (Wang), director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, to discuss what it means to build a community with a shared future for mankind and how to promote it, as well as China’s role in it. Albrow, as a pioneer in the study of globalization in the West, has been focusing his research on China’s development, system, and governance. The scholars exchange their views on understanding the wisdom of the CPC in building the idea of “sharing” which provides an impetus and smart solutions for the development of globalization. 

(British sociologist Martin Albrow Photo: Xinhua)

China leads the globalization narrative

Wang: The concept of globalization first emerged in the 1990s. And your book Globalization, Knowledge, and Society: Readings from International Sociology is the first book with “globalization” in its title. In recent years, your interpretation for globalism is very progressive.

Albrow: From my own earliest engagement with globalization as a theme at the World Congress of Sociology in Madrid in 1990, I have been concerned to distinguish the discourse of the global from geopolitics and trends in the world economy. Looking back, there is no single story of globalization. The twists and turns in discourse have reflected geopolitical events. In particular, geopolitical events have interrupted any sense that there is a single direction to world history. Events on 9/11 ended any euphoria that might have lingered from the celebration of the arrival of the third millennium of the Western calendar. 

There is no straight line in economic development. No one could have predicted the impact of continuing innovation in computing technology and the power of the internet. And the most recent shock has been COVID-19, which not only upends the idea that countries’ borders will become ever more open, but also points to human dependence on scientific cooperation.

In globalization, the big story has been the growth of China and its success in bringing half a billion people out of poverty. 

Wang: China is not only a participant, beneficiary, contributor, and architect of economic globalization, but has also put forward the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind. Answering the question “What has happened to the world and how should we respond?” on January 18, 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping explained his vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind in a speech at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland, as China’s answer to the challenges and problems facing the world.

Through your research over the years, what do you think about the idea of building a community with a shared future for mankind as proposed by the Chinese leader?

Albrow: The concept is in sharp contrast to the Western thesis of the Clash of Civilizations. It corresponded to the needs of a world with different cultures, ethnic groups, skin colors, religions and social systems, and all people on the planet have become members of an intimate community with a shared future.

From economic development, to culture, to green ecology, through cyberspace to international politics, the scope extends ever further, including perhaps the most decisive and far-reaching commitment to that shared future at the Paris Conference on Climate Change on November 30, 2015. 

Efforts toward a greener future held up a mirror to all aspects of working for a shared future. It was a shared mission for humanity, a new kind of win-win international relations. 

(Professor Wang Yiwei Photo: Courtesy of Wang)

Innovative devt of excellent traditional culture in the new era

upholding of harmony and respect for diversity in the process of building a community with a shared future for mankind? What does traditional Chinese wisdom offer?

Albrow: The act of joining concern for our future with the idea of sharing reshapes global public discourse. It shifts our focus of attention from the future, as a vista of open and endless possibilities, to an examination of what holds human beings together. It refers us then to basic existential issues. 

In English, the homespun wisdom of the saying “charity begins at home” has some affinity with the spirit of these ancient Chinese ideas. But it was hardly charity that governed the quest for markets and the desire to convert the natives to Christianity that inspired the British Empire. Neither was it altruism that motivated the desire to spread the American way of life. For Western powers, the world was to be built in their image. 

Unlike the West, traditional Chinese culture promotes harmony and coexistence. The concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind is the creative transformation and innovative development of the excellent Chinese traditional culture in the new era. China believes in the old saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

China will not repeat the historical cycle of “when a country is strong, it will be hegemonic” as you said earlier, and will not impose its will on other countries. 

China is trying to create relations with emerging countries, for example, by proposing a new vision of security featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, advocating harmonious regional and global relations. 

China actively advocates for the establishment of a security partnership of a close sense of shared interest, transcending the “Asian paradox” of “relying on the US for security and China for economy,” and the system of bilateral military alliances. In terms of China’s relations with developed countries, China proposes to establish a new type of major power relationship with the US and advocates the joint development of third-party markets with European countries to achieve a win-win situation.

On the other hand, China’s successful development path can have a strong appeal to a wide range of developing countries. 

Currently, developing countries and emerging market countries are playing an increasingly important role in China’s diplomacy. China’s cooperation with other emerging powers also has the strategic significance of promoting the direction of democratization and legalization of international relations.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has promoted international cooperation in the fight against the global pandemic and carried out global public health assistance, which is also a reflection of socialist China’s advocacy of international equity and justice, and international responsibility.

China a model of sharing with comparative advantages

Albrow: China gives high priority to its national commitment to the UN, WTO, WHO, and other multilateral agencies. It commits, for instance, the highest national share of the personnel of the UN peace keeping forces. It has established other multilateral bodies such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has, since 2013, taken investment in transportation and communication to more countries. 

The success of achieving the goal of a moderately prosperous society in 2020 demonstrates the capacity of the governance system of China as a whole, with the CPC as the motivating agency, for the total national effort. If there is a case for one country to lead global governance, as some scholars suggested, then China would now appear to be rather more qualified than the US. 

Wang: The successful achievement of the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in China proves the overall governance capacity of the country under the leadership of the CPC.

It is also important to emphasize that the concept is also a highly concentrated and sublimated version of the human themes of peace, development, and cooperation, focusing on the common development of all countries rather than dwelling on differences and conflicts of national interests.

Today, globalization has developed to the point where non-traditional security threats, the growing gap between rich and poor countries, and other thorny problems have emerged, intensifying conflicts and turmoil in the world. However, these global problems cannot be solved from the root only by the efforts of certain countries. 

Albrow: In China’s case the deeply embedded emphasis on cooperation and the central place that harmony has within its outlook on the world are valuable assets for any alliance or multilateral arrangement between nations. Over and above this contribution of Chinese culture, socialism itself is an ideology promoting an outlook on human welfare beyond national borders. The success of Chinese socialism encourages people-to-people ties across the world, ones that will help to soften the acute competitiveness of Western capitalism.

Beyond any ideological contribution, however, what is most important for the future configuration of international relations is that China has broken the mold of the rift between first and third world countries, developed and developing. This opposition has shaped the debates in the UN and created predictable deadlocks on issues where it is in the common interest for all to agree upon. China is now the bridge nation, linking poorer nations, through its past experience, to richer nations by its presence among them.

Wang: How can China and the rest of the world promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind in near future?

Albrow: When it comes to meeting global challenges, then alliances between countries, especially on a regional basis, can achieve a level of capability beyond any one country. In the context of multilateral arrangements such as the European Union, BRI, and ASEAN, then we see a differentiation beginning which allows one to see the comparative advantage of each in respect to communications, agriculture, and shipping.

Cooperation in the pursuit of global goals is a strategy in which China can and does provide a lead, something most recently displayed in its commitment to green strategies to combat global warming. It is a model, a demonstration of its comparative advantage in sharing with other countries for the achievement of global goals.

IMF data revealed that two-thirds of the world trades more with China than with the US. Given China’s share in the world economy, the world should let China continue on its own path.

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