Discourse Power | August 23, 2022
Crossing the Great Divide, injecting new blood, strategic demonization, and the changing balance of power
Last month, China’s finest scholars and think-tankers got together in Shanghai for a seminar titled "Changes of our Era and the Questions of our World: Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era in Theory and Practice" 时代之变 世界之问: 习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想理论与实践研讨会.
The event was organized by the state-led Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), China's oldest think tank for the humanities and social sciences, in collaboration with the prestigious Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS), the Shanghai Federation of Social Science Associations (SFSSA), and the China Shanghai Municipal Party School.
Today's Discourse Power will feature some of its highlights.
Good to be back from my proverbial Beidaihe resort.
First, a new (journalistic) article I researched and wrote with Taiwan-based Jordyn Haime for Ha'aretz: A year after a regulatory storm hit China’s educational sector, some CN parents are thinking outside the box and looking to acquire the ‘secrets of Jewish success’ for their children.
I am also delighted to share that last week I joined the new Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Make sure to check out our website and follow the INSS on Twitter.
Sadly, this means that I will no longer be affiliated with the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS), which has served as my professional home for the past two years.
Finally, I'd like to welcome the hundreds of new subscribers who have joined in the past week and a half and urge those of you who find this newsletter insightful and useful to spread the word about it among your professional networks. I am one but you are many, and every share counts.
My inbox is open for comments and recommendations. All you have to do is reply to this email.
Thank you for reading,
“There’s a significant gap between how we see ourselves and how the rest of the world sees us”
Dr. Yu Yunquan, president of the state-backed Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies (ACCWS), explores China's worldview and global role in the New Era.
The ACCWS is affiliated with the China International Communications Group (CICG), a state-level think tank.
“There are two major gaps in contemporary China's renewed relationship with the outside world, which pose a significant strategic challenge for China at the moment.
“The first is the great divide 鸿沟 separating how Chinese people see themselves and how Western society sees China; there’s a significant gap between how we see ourselves and how the rest of the international community sees us.
“Another major difference is in the way we see the world and how people in other nations see it. China's perspectives, narratives, and discourses differ from the rest of the world in terms of understanding even basic ideas and concepts.
“This can be anything from the "great changes [unseen in a century]," globalization, and global governance, to multilateralism, rules, democracy, and human rights. The reasons for these two disparities are complex and variegated.
“The Chinese worldview in the New Era exhibits a number of new characteristics and approaches. The new features of China's worldview include three main aspects:
“It is [more] open and inclusive, and places its overall [global] outlook higher on the agenda; in the past, China only focused on matters related to China, but now it makes the voice of China heard more about what kind and how the world we should create;
it has put forward inclusive concepts that embrace the interests of All Under Heaven 胸怀天下, such as creating a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind 人类命运共同体.
“It exudes more self-confidence and calm. China can now face the world squarely 平视; it is more self-confident and proactive 进取, with a more rational and mature worldview.
“It prioritizes fairness and justice 公平正义 while promoting global governance.
“Regarding the new orientation of China's role at the intersection of the Two Great Overall Situations [Xi: "The world is undergoing great changes unseen in a century, and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation"].
“China must pay attention to how to promote the evolution of the world's unprecedented changes in the direction of building a community of a shared future for mankind 人类命运共同体, as well as to the strategic Overall Situation of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
“When considering China's international role and orientation through the lens of foreign relations, three key areas come to mind:
“First and foremost, China should maintain its identity 定位 as a global developing power. Because we are a global country - a global major power, even - we must assume a greater role in global affairs.
“We should contribute more to resolving global issues that affect all people, and we should show what a great power's role should look like in theory and practice.
“Second, based on its active participation in international affairs, China should emphasize its role as a leader in global governance. China has made it clear that it wants to play a leadership role in global governance, as evidenced by its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“China must continue to pay attention to and consider how to use the BRI and other Chinese initiatives to facilitate innovations of the global governance system that better reflect China's contribution.
“Third, China should share China's development opportunities with the rest of the world, particularly developing countries, and emphasize China's role as a global provider of public goods. China has emerged as a global provider of public goods, with the BRI being the most significant.
“The most pressing challenges of our time are global development and security issues. The Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI) are the most recent Chinese global initiatives, offered as public goods to the world.
“How we make the two initiatives operationally effective and yield more tangible cooperation results will be critical to China's future efforts.” (SIIS)
“What the US is now attempting is to devolve the system back to the old US-led, Western-centric system. China, on the other hand, wishes to see the international system evolve toward fairness and justice”
Professor Wu Xinbo of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies and Director of the Center for American Studies believes that China must work to reform and evolve the international system in response to US and Western attempts to degenerate it.
“The more difficult the reform of the international system, the more important it is to focus on its preservation and development. Therefore, China's international strategy should first maintain the UN's central role in the international system, then establish new international political, economic, and security mechanisms, and finally reform the international system. It is more important to concentrate on expanding on the existing system's foundation.
“First, we seek to inject new blood 新鲜血液 into the existing system to make the body healthier. The international system is always in a state of dynamic adjustment, though it only changes in two ways: evolution 进化 and devolution 退化.
“What the US is now attempting is to devolve the system back to the old US-led, Western-centric system. China, on the other hand, wishes to see the international system evolve toward fairness and justice 公平公正.
“Second, we shall work to better reflect the interests and aspirations of developing and emerging economies. The existing international mechanisms and systems primarily reflect the interests of the US and the West.
“Only by establishing new international political and economic security mechanisms will we be able to better serve the interests of the majority of the world's countries.
“Finally, we must increase the number of platforms through which China can play a constructive role in international affairs. The opportunities for us to play a role are dwindling in light of US strategic competition with China, which is really just strategic containment and suppression.
“Therefore, more consideration needs to be given to creating new institutional mechanisms and introducing novel paradigms in order to effectively encourage the development of the international system as a whole.” (SIIS)
“China opposes the ideologization of international relations, but the US-led group's values-based diplomacy is a systematic and ideologically driven hegemony that must be confronted head-on”
Dr. Jiang Feng, the Secretary of the Party Committee at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), examines how knowledge and action can be combined to enhance Chinese diplomacy and communication with the outside world.
“Marx once said, "The philosophers have hitherto only come up with different methods to interpret the world. The point, however, is to change it." That is to say, explaining the world in and of itself and transforming the world in and of itself form a [dialectical] unity. From this vantage point, communication is also a process of theoretical construction.
“The US-led group of countries sees Russia as a current security threat and China as a longer-term systemic threat. They are strategically constructing a "China threat theory," i.e. the strategic demonization of China 战略性妖魔化.
“This is reflected not only in the media hype and anti-China rhetoric of some politicians but also in the introduction of anti-China perceptions into the social sphere and the daily lives of their people.
“Given that NATO is the largest organization and the platform for this US-led group to communicate and gather, it is critical to pay close attention to what it says amid its strategic adjustment process.
“First, the NATO 2030 agenda [released in June 2021] emphasizes the need for NATO to not only remain militarily and politically strong but also to play a more active social role and use the broad social sphere as a tool.
“This indicates that the traditional military and security-oriented organization is expanding its reach into the political and social spheres and that the politics and societies of NATO countries are becoming militarized as well.
“Second, the document emphasizes the importance of a "values-based approach"...This concept is defined as a split between the Chinese and Western systems; it is at the heart of the US-led group's "strategic demonization" of China. Consequently, it has become a focal point of China's communication with the rest of the world.
“China opposes the ideologization 意识形态化 of international relations, but the US-led group's values-based diplomacy is a systematic and ideologically driven hegemony that must be confronted head-on.
“Third, NATO has increased the social penetration of its policy-making, giving NATO's armed forces a political and social façade that poses to "represent public opinion."
“To be able to speak up, communicate freely, and be heard and heeded, I believe we should concentrate our efforts on the four dimensions of action listed below:
“To begin, we must base our actions on Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. This includes a variety of major philosophies, terms, and concepts [proposed by Xi], that include Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind, the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and genuine multilateralism.
“Second, the substance of our actions must result from the transformation of [Xi Jinping] Thought into theories, making our voices heard. China's external communication remains insufficient.
“If we are to maintain the organic unity of ideas, theories, and voices in our external communication practice and achieve the advancement of knowledge and action in tandem, it is critical to reduce our "external communication deficit" 对外发声赤字.
“Third, the effectiveness of action is dependent on the interaction of internal and external [communication]. China's external communication methodology continues to lack a systematic and consistent supply of discourse.
“It must also vigorously improve its international discourse capacity, particularly by developing new concepts and categories that can be understood and accepted by the international community.
“To do so, one must be familiar with the target country's national characteristics 国别, as well as knowledgeable about its linguistic diversity 语别识 and discourse environments 话语场景.
“Fourth, the supply-side quality of our actions is dependent on the collaboration of participants from various fields and levels. International communication necessitates collaboration among government, academia, the media, and the general public.
“China's external communication should be truly interactive and result-oriented. Professionals, government, academia, and people from all walks of life should be able to participate extensively, in a voluntary effort 形成自觉意识, making their own contributions.” (SIIS)
“Diplomacy has contributed to China's peaceful rise. As such, it is especially crucial to study diplomacy and view the world through its lens”
Professor Zhang Qingmin of Peking University's Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy Research Center discusses why major powers may prefer diplomacy over force.
Prof. Zhang's research center is one of four established last year under the Institute of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The remaining three are devoted to, respectively, XJP Thought on Rule of Law, Economics, and Ecological Civilization.
“The first distinguishing feature of diplomacy is the emphasis placed on the sovereign state. Diplomacy's second characteristic is peace; the essence of diplomacy is the use of peaceful means to achieve national interests. Diplomacy's third characteristic is norms, institutions, and culture.
“Although power politics and hegemony remain as a phenomenon, diplomacy has developed a set of civilized systems and methods to rid the international community of a reality where the strong are praying on the weak 弱肉强食. Diplomacy is thus an artform, the art of compromise and possibilities.
“We have learned a lot from the diplomatic traditions and records of different nations. Since gaining its independence, the US has historically viewed diplomacy with hostility because it perceived it as a way for the Western powers to divide the spoils of war 分赃.
“Following the end of the Cold War, the US was hell-bent on 一味寻求 expansion by force, resulting in a loss of prestige despite its successes in the battlefield. Against this backdrop, the US has proposed the concept of "soft power," one of the main components of which is diplomacy.
“Based on experience, diplomacy has contributed to China's peaceful rise. As such, it is especially crucial to study diplomacy and view the world through its lens.
“When compared to major powers, diplomacy is essential to the survival of smaller states. Diplomacy is what determines whether a small state will rise or fall. It is the externalization of domestic politics, the extension of internal affairs, to the point where a small state's success in diplomacy is dependent on the success of its domestic politics.
“Due to this reliance on diplomacy and its critical significance for smaller states, scholars from these nations have been at the forefront of modern diplomacy studies.” (SIIS)
“The global governance system is becoming increasingly incompatible with the current international situation”
The US and Western dominance of global governance, according to Dr. Xu Bu, President of the China Institute of International Studies and Secretary-General of the Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy Studies Centre at CIIS, renders the system unjust, unfair, and unrepresentative.
“The adjustment of the global governance system is due to a shift in the global balance of power. China is in its best development stage since modern times, and the world is undergoing great changes unseen in a century. The two are intertwined and feed off of each other. The pivotal question that lies ahead is how we can more effectively manage the interaction between them.
“The global governance system is becoming increasingly incompatible with the current international situation. Furthermore, the reality of changing international power dynamics has become increasingly inconsistent with the demands of the international community in the current situation.
“This is due to a number of factors:
"There is a lack of broad membership representation in the current system of global governance. Fundamentally, it fails to take into account the vast changes that have occurred in the world into the 21st century and only reflects the past reality of the global balance of power shortly after the end of World War II.
“There is a lack of requisite fairness in the current system of global governance. Most international financial institutions are dominated by the US and the West, and the majority of developing nations have not been able to fully participate in the rule-making process.
“In terms of action, the global governance system is similarly inadequate. It remains very difficult for the system to operate efficiently due to the persistence of power politics and hegemony, as well as the rise of unilateralism, protectionism, and anti-globalization trends.
“The current system of global governance contains many unfair and unreasonable elements, which severely hamper international cooperation and solidarity as evidenced by an ever-widening chasm, the ever-growing deficits 赤字 in governance, development, trust, and peace.” (SIIS)
Playing in the Background
Last week, Israel lost one of its greatest songwriters and producers, "The Maestro" Tsvika Pick. In addition to being a pop icon, which is pretty cool in and of itself, Pick was Quentin Tarantino's father-in-law (google it). Here’s Pick with Love has no Country:
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia