China's role in the era of uncertainty
Encouraging inclusive globalization
By Liang Xiao  ·  2022-07-04  ·   Source: NO.27 JULY 7, 2022
Academics specializing in globalization share their latest research achievements at a forum in Beijing on June 21 (COURTESY PHOTO)

Whether or not to globalize has always been a debate throughout human history, particularly when populations face the increased risk of disease transmission. Recently, the Financial Times published an article on the big mistakes of the anti-globalizers.

"Some seem to imagine that such discussions could take place without China's participation. But China is too important to too many for that to be possible," the June 21 article read.

Coincidentally, that same day, 30 Chinese experts presented their views at a subforum titled "Round Table of 30 People on China's Globalization," during the Eighth China and Globalization Forum, hosted by China's leading non-governmental think tank, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), in Beijing.

Globalization continues

China was an early promoter of globalization, both through the Silk Road, which is generally believed to have begun during the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D. 220), and Zheng He's seven exploratory voyages in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which established links throughout East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa.

Many scholars say that modern globalization began with Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World in 1492. "In the 15th century, Portugal and Spain opened maritime trade on the world stage, but they did not strictly want to establish a consistent world order," said Chen Zhiwu, Director of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong, who has a strong background in research on the history of globalization.

During the subforum, Chen pointed out that the Netherlands in the 17th century, and Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries mainly relied on warships and cannons to exploit their maritime trade market. It was only in the 20th century that the United States began to highly advance globalization through the promotion of a rules-based world order.

Gu Xuewu, Chair in International Relations and Director of the Center for Global Studies at the University of Bonn in Germany, believes that globalization has been driven by the modern market economy that is capital-oriented and that has profit as its ultimate goal and driving force. "From this perspective, globalization is unstoppable."

In contrast, Li Xiangyang, Dean of the Institute of Asia-Pacific and Global Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that the role of production relations in globalization cannot be ignored. Relations of production is a Marxist concept that refers to all the social and economic relationships an individual or entity must engage in to facilitate production. According to Li, this is another dimension of globalization that affects the rules and order of cross-border flows, and needs to be constantly adjusted and optimized. "If the rules and order of production relations cannot adapt to the cross-border flow of production factors and commodities, it will hinder globalization," Li said.

"Globalization is not only a natural market behavior; it also needs to be supported by a corresponding political will," said Wu Xinbo, Dean of the Institute of International Studies and Director of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University. During the subforum, Wu contended that the future trend of globalization depends on the balance between the market logic and political logic. The market is the driving force of globalization, while political factors such as populism and strategic competition among major powers may be the factors that inhibit globalization and foster counter-globalization.

Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, believes that although the whole world is unbalanced and, to some extent, in chaos, the trend of globalization is still irreversible.

"The basic pattern of the world economy, the essential structure of the geopolitical economy, and the rules that are recognized by all nations in the world have all been formed in the 77 years since the end of World War II," Chen said, adding the current interconnected architecture will continue to be facilitated by the global investment and trade layout and hi-tech development.

"As a result, it is inevitable that the global economy and community will be more and more closely connected, rather than decoupling, challenging, blocking and realigning. If some politicians insist on pushing to isolate other countries for the sake of de-Sinicization, there will eventually be a backlash against these actions."

China's participation

Since its reform and opening up in 1978 and its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has continued to promote globalization, accompanied by a vast number of developing countries which have gained opportunities in the current wave of globalization, said Xie Tao, professor and Dean of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"China wants to maintain connectivity with the world, while the West wants to cut off and weaken this connectivity," said Da Wei, an international relations professor and Director of the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Da suggested China should ensure the resilience of its industrial chain, a continuous information supply and the security of its national boundaries in this scenario. At the same time, China should also put forward stable plans on global issues such as food safety, epidemic prevention and control, public health and climate change, and take the lead in implementing them.

Gu Xuewu also gave the following advice: "Firstly, [China should] establish a multilateral mechanism; secondly, balance bilateral interests and values; and thirdly, open up and win everyone's trust, even if we do more at our own expense."

Huang Renwei, Executive Vice Dean of the Fudan Institute of Belt and Road & Global Governance, said that China is promoting the 2.0 version of globalization, which is consistent with the development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He pointed out that the initiative is currently one of the world's largest investment and trade projects, with the main goal being the full connectivity of the Eurasian continent, and the core being the New Eurasia Land Bridge and multimodal transportation. At the same time, the BRI's goals are also expanding from infrastructure construction to digital, clean energy, healthcare and other fields, which are new areas of globalization.

Huang believes, at present, the U.S. and its Western allies want to establish a new economic, trade and technical rule system in which China , or other non-Western countries cannot participate. "But this attempt will eventually lead to global shortages of commodities, energy, food, capital and labor. Then we will see a global governance deficit, or lack of rules," Huang said. 

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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