Leading global governance depends on the spirit of neo-internationalism

Global governance represents the mission of neo-intemationalism. Similar to the great discussion on peace and development 40 years ago, the emergence of global governance aimed at addressing global issues has also prompted the shift of China's diplomatic goals. For the first time, the common destiny of mankind— survival or destruction, development or retrogression, war or peace—has been seriously laid out in front of all sovereign nations and international organizations through extreme crises, such as the increasingly severe and seemingly irreversible global climate change, international terrorism, frequent financial downturn, and global health issues. Both the hegemonic United States and the emerging BRICS nations feel the necessity to be united to respond to global problems, which thus resulted in the formulation of the G20 summit. Therefore, global governance becomes the main task for international society to govern world public affairs under the current situation and provide a practical scenario for emerging powers to implement their internationalism, and it is recognized as a historic mission of the future world-leading countries. As for China, global governance also brings opportunities and challenges to display its voices, solutions, wisdom, and national image to the international society.

How can China seize the chance of global governance? Recently, many experts on international politics and strategic studies have been discussing intensively a core issue related to world order: whether China can play the role as a leading power in global governance with its continuously rising, but not yet powerful enough, national strength. Apparently, the Chinese government has attached great importance to China's leading role in global governance in its official documents; while in the studies of Western countries, they prefer to discuss China's position in global governance. However, both Chinese and overseas studies have mentioned the issue of "China’s further participation and its leadership in global governance”.

It should be acknowledged that around the time of the 2016 G20 Hangzhou summit, two opposing views at home and abroad were formed on "China’s leadership”. One view argues that China can only assume leadership responsibilities when its politics, economy, and society achieve development positively, and it has the comprehensive ability to provide global public goods. Further, it says that China should not go beyond its reach but should promote systematic advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative and global governance step-by-step to prevent strategic overload due to lack of capacities, resources, etc. Another view argues that even if China remains not strong enough—due to the constant changes in international situations and the prevalence of isolationism, conservatism, and populism in the United States and Europe—there has appeared a historical opportunity for China to achieve the revival of its civilization and take the lead in international governance. When the West dulls, the East shines. In this context, motivated by the spirit of the times, its historical responsibilities, and comprehensive practical capacities, China should step forward and voluntarily take the leading position in global governance. Many outsiders even appealed that only China can fill the gap and absence of the United Stated to save global governance.

The author agrees with the first view and conditionally supports the second one. The key to answering the question of China's leadership should be found in the decisive conditions for the second perspective. Therefore, it is necessary to first understand the global trends relevant to China's development before discussing it further. At present, there are at least three prominent features in the changes in international order. The first feature refers to the acceleration in the process of world power transfer. Western Europe's stagnation and the decrease of relative economic strength and global influence in the United States have become a problem. At the same time, regions along with the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian-Pacific region have become the frontier of global power transfer. Second is the rejuvenation of Chinese civilization which has achieved remarkable progress. China's economy remains the only one thriving in the global economic downturn, leading emerging countries under the guidance of the Two Centenary Goals and becoming a representative country of non-Western civilization. The third feature refers to global and regional governance deficits which have been continuously increasing. The United States’ return to isolationism and retreat from providing public goods for global governance have conversely enhanced the global expectations for emerging countries to offer public goods.

These three “accelerations” in world politics have exceeded not only the expectations of most Chinese strategists, but also those of the majority of Western scholars, affecting current understanding of world order and global governance. Under the three circumstances, as mentioned earlier, discussion on the issue of China’s leadership in global governance requires an intrinsic combination of idealistic spirit and realistic prudence. With the consciousness of neo-internation-alism and in the spirit of serving international public management, we can overcome the conservative mode of thinking that defines external behaviors solely by ability, and we can consciously engage in global governance or even internationalism actions. From the perspective of “operational ideology”, it is necessary to find a suitable way for China to participate in global governance and the key lies in the appropriate form of leadership. From a theoretical and realistic perspective of international politics, China has been constrained by various factors to pursue leadership in global governance, and this can easily result in strategic overload considering the current “capacity gap” between China and the established powers. From this point of view, China must stick to the bottom line of realism. However, if we only look at leadership from the perspective of material strength, the fact might be that China still does not have enough confidence to lead the world even after 20 years of development. Therefore, the perspective of soft power might bring us another way to consider global leadership. If China follows a spirit of neo-internationalism, pursuing “joint leadership” of global governance, obtaining soft power from win-win cooperation and theoretical innovation, and supplement material shortage with spiritual strength, it is possible for it to avoid strategic overload and confidently lead global governance. Generally, this can be recognized as a neo-internationalism path with a realistic background but is more progressive in practice. To some extent, we can only achieve leadership in global governance with the help of neo-internationalism.

Hence, how do we implement neo-internationalism in reality? In current circumstances, implementing neo-internationalism requires powers to provide international society with concepts, systems, and other public goods of global governance. Furthermore, to realize the joint leadership of global governance also depends on a series of instimtional guarantees, including building the necessary international negotiation and coordination platforms. To be more specific, the joint leadership mainly aims to coordinate major countries in global governance, of which the China-U.S. coordination has become the most significant. However, although China-U.S. relations play a remarkable role, the joint leadership also focuses on the broad participation of other major countries. Therefore, the concept of “G2” will not be accepted and remains improper as well. It is foreseeable that joint leadership will become a typical political pattern after hegemony. For a long time, the Group of Seven (G7) has been operating as a crucial international negotiation platform for the United States and its allies. Therefore, if China were to obtain joint leadership in global governance, it also needs a similar negotiation platform. Thus, strengthening in-depth communication, enhancing common values, promoting cooperation in crucial areas, and reducing differences all become essential aspects of building a partner-based negotiation platform. However, the achievement of joint leadership needs negotiation and collaborative platforms to solve sophisticated organizational guarantee issues. In the past, the collaborative platform of the United States mainly relied on the United Nations and the U.S.-Soviet Union dialogue mechanism. Nowadays, there needs to be a new coordinated platform to bring China, the United States, and other major countries, including the BRICS countries, together. Hence, with the help of common interests and shared future and responsibilities, all these countries can participate in global governance, realizing joint leadership and establishing a world united front to govern global affairs.

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