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Community of common destiny is the key to building new Asian regional order

Author: Zhong FeitengSilver Editor Source: CCTV.comTime :2015-03-30 10:10:09

By Zhong Feiteng, associate professor, National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

The international community should jointly formulate a better regional order for Asia and the world, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed at the Boao Asia Forum on March 28. Xi emphasized that Asia and the world are so closely linked to each other, and what’s better for Asia is better for the world. The key to promoting the establishment of shared community of common human destiny is constructing an Asia community of common destiny.

The four key phrases are “mutual respect and equal treatment”, “win-win cooperation and common development”, “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” and “inclusiveness and mutual learning among civilizations” for this emerging community of common destiny.

In Beijing’s thinking, states have the right to determine which development road to follow, and all states should be endowed equal rights to participate in international affairs based on their own national interest.

For Asian countries, development is still the key to solving major problems and difficulties. While not all states are in the same stage of development, Asian countries need a stable and peaceful regional environment to promote common development. In the process of seeking that common development interest, states need to take an innovative perspective on development and security.

With Xi’s proposal, Asian’s new security thinking should be based on common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. He believes that Asian countries can work together to build a shared, win-win security architecture.

If we take a historical perspective on China’s community of common destiny, it is differentiated from two regional orders out of Asian history. The first is the tribute system that once dominated East Asia for centuries, and the second is the Western power system that originated in the late 19th century.

The dominant regional security structure before the mid-19th century in East Asia was the tribute system. China occupied the central position in terms of its comprehensive power, especially its cultural advantages, while neighboring countries were located in a relatively lower position. Under this system, the tribute states enjoyed their sovereignty and political independence while maintaining a virtually equal relationship with China.

Although this system maintained a relatively stable and peaceful regional environment, one of the biggest flaws of this architecture was that it could not accommodate outside industrial forces. Instead the tribute system relied on agriculture, which was insufficient to guarantee sustainable economic growth.

Asian countries could not upgrade to the modern economic system developed by Western countries after the industrial revolution. When the British government asked Imperial China to open its doors, China refused. Hence, military force became the choice for the then great powers to solve trade conflicts. At the same time, many Asian countries became colonies where European countries used force to change the regional architecture. The only exception was Japan, who followed the Western development model through militarism at the end of 19th century.

The second unique regional architecture is bilateral security alliances led by the United States after the Second World War. Due to the Korean and Vietnam wars, it is difficult to say this system ensured East Asian stability. In the 1970s, the US changed its policy towards China, and exercised a retreat from Asia. To many countries in this region, the US is crucial to regional peace. However, the hub-spoke system was not accepted by all countries in this region. Not all states benefit from the system.

A much more diffused power structure has emerged since then. In the economic arena, Japan began to play a leading role through its “flying geese” model. In the security arena, cooperation between China and the US was also important. Besides the great power games of Asia, middle power and small countries also began establishing their own security cooperation architecture.

The best example is ASEAN. During recent decades, economic cooperation between China and ASEAN has achieved great progress. The experience China learned is that political trust is the prerequisite to economic cooperation, and economic cooperation can promote bilateral relationships. Thus, as a regional security building model, the ASEAN method received high praise in China. Some argue that the ASEAN way is much better than the typical Western way. To some extent, the community of common destiny has a close relationship with the ASEAN way.

China’s development experience is very different from the Western countries’ history of logical expansion. China wants to develop a new road to create a balance in its development and the outside peaceful environment. As a major power, however, China gradually understands its security interest is not always identical to neighboring countries. China is willing to be much more reasonable than small countries in maintaining regional peace and stability.

Contrary to the outside world’s assumption, China is still a developing country in terms of GDP per capita. China’s international responsibility is still constrained by serious domestic challenges. It is not easy for the Chinese government to convince public opinion of this when China donates massive foreign aid to neighboring countries. And also it is difficult to compromise when Chinese people think the Chinese government should exercise its growing power in disputes. Thus seeking common development and a new Asian security concept is crucially important not only for China, but also for neighboring countries.

The community of common destiny proposal is a great and meaningful contribution to regional peace and stability. China would like to pay due respect to other countries’ development experiences, focus on pan-regional security cooperation and contribute more to regional stability. Security and economics should evolve harmoniously. With deeper security cooperation and improving common development, we can expect the community of common destiny to emerge.





Community of common destiny is the key to building new Asian regional order