Future of cultural communities and global powers

Ideally, the leading position in new global governance generally will be held by established world powers. However, in a specific context, it is possible for quasi-global powers or regional superpowers to win recognition for their leadership in international governance, as long as they shoulder the responsibility and mission to promote world development, sharing the leadership with other international relations actors, and contributing to the organization and implementation of global public actions with their powerful national strength and progressive governance ideas.

With the deepening of globalization, China's benign growth should take three factors into consideration: power, institution, and identity. The foundation of China’s rise relies on the rise of power. That is, China must boost its overall national strength, become a pole of prosperity, and gradually enhance its rank in economic and military capacities among countries all over the world. Meanwhile, the rise of China also relies on institutional progress, which means it must fully integrate into the existing rational international institutions and actively participate in the design of a new global system, using power resources to oppose the formation of an international system that is not beneficial to its national interests. Since the beginning of the 21st century, China has made significant institutional participation progress, such as the formal ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2000 and the official accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002. Furthermore, from 2001 to early 2003, China, the United States and Russia successfully formulated a series of documents under the Security Council and settled arrangements for major international security issues such as opposing international terrorism, Iraq’s weapons inspection, and the North Korean nuclear crisis (Regional Anti-Terrorism Agency Agreement in 2002, Leaders’ Counter-Terrorism Statement on the APEC Tenth Informal Leaders' Meeting, UN Security Council Resolution 1441). Besides, China also established various rules and regulations with the United States and other countries for the G20 summit, constructed the BRICS group's cooperation platform with other emerging powers, and initiated the Belt and Road cooperation with more countries worldwide.

Moreover, China’s peaceful rise also demonstrated the requirement of identity recognition for great powers. China should be folly engaged in international society’s established identity system, supporting the cognitive symbols, value standards, and ideological forms commonly owned by civilized societies. However, it should also make new contributions to the world in terms of identity recognition, producing more influential cultural appeal that could transcend the traditional model of great power identification. For instance, in the 1950s, China came up with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which has been widely accepted as a principle in international relations. Recently, it was the initiative to build “a community of shared future for mankind” that attracted the attention of international society, and this discourse has thus been written into the U.N. resolution. In general, the key to realizing China's fundamental national interests lies in the comprehensive achievements of China’s power growth, institutional progress, and identity evolution, particularly in a pattern that could be well accepted by the international society.

Under the context of globalization, an important aspect of China's power strengthening is based on establishing a cultural community to support the country’s rise. Specifically, the so-called cultural community means a concentric community formed by different countries with the same cultural background and, among them, there is a power serving as the core of the community, both in terms of culture and power. Huntington called this cultural community a “civilization” or "civilization group”. His research shows that states tend to follow nations with cultural similarities and oppose those with no commonality. More importantly, the core country in the cultural community not only plays the role as the order and stability provider, influencing the cultural region with its recognized power, but also in return it can depend on the strength of the whole community to compete and cooperate with other groups of countries, international organizations, and cultural communities in world affairs. The United States of the Atlantic civilization, Russia of the Orthodox civilization, and China of the Confucian civilization all demonstrate the power of cultural community in increasing their leading countries’ global influence (Huntington. 1996). Perhaps Huntington inadvertently provided China a meaningful inspiration, that is, as an emerging power. Before China became a global power with enough strength to make world contributions, it would be necessary for China to go through a stage with a specific regional economic community as its strategic backing. This community is likely to take the form of “cultural China” or "Greater China Economic Circle”. Some scholars have suggested using the “fan model” for describing this cultural conununity.

In the fan-shaped model, China lies in the fan's axis and faces south, which covers the Asia-Pacific region. The connections between countries in certain regions could be recognized as ribs of the fan. However, it is the traditional Chinese wisdom that plays the role of a hand to shake this fan.

(Wang, 1995b, p. 463)

This cultural community also serves as both an economic community and a security community. In other words, when analyzing the various security communities around the world, whether it is NATO, the South American community, ASEAN, or the U.S.-Canadian community, we find that they all have a standard identification system among member states (Adler & Barnett, 1998). It is foreseeable that the future cultural community will become a crucial power-dependent resource for China’s peaceful rise.

In addition to relying on the community of culture, China’s rise also depends on strengthening the accumulation of cultural “soft power”. Zbigniew Brzezinski, diplomat and political scientist, once said that there must be four indispensable factors to maintain the status of the United States as a world power, which include military superiority, economic leadership, advanced science and technology, and remarkable cultural influence. Nye (1990) also suggested that the "hard power” of a country after the end of the Cold War, such as military power, natural resources, and other tangible forces, has declined in the competition among nations. In contrast, the status of “soft power”, which is composed of culture, knowledge, ideology, and other factors, has risen significantly. It is possible for every single country in history to achieve super economic strength, rapidly advanced science and technology, and quickly expanded military capabilities. However, it is difficult for any of them to accomplish global cultural influence in the short term. The rise of culture requires rich and profound cultural traditions and ideological heritage and depends on the historical attractiveness and realistic persuasiveness of certain cultures. Therefore, under established economic, technological. and military strength, cultural power becomes increasingly significant for a regional power to grow into a global power.

Theoretically, China has basically shown favorable conditions and bright prospects of rising into a global power in the next century. The international society has recognized its fast-growing economy, military strength, world-renowned intellectual resources, and scientific and technological potential. Meanwhile, it also has strong support from a Confucian cultural community composed of Chinese people at home and abroad (such as the Chinese economic circle), coupled with the strong charm of Chinese culture. In general, cultural soft power does provide us with a rare strategic inspiration and optimistic prospects, but we should be vigilant about possible challenges. Despite the various advantages mentioned above, in reality, China has faced challenges of domestic market economy transition, the backward development in some sectors of science and technology, and a challenging period of political reforms. Nevertheless, and more importantly, whether Chinese culture has a strong appeal that is compatible with the status of a great power in the next century has become a serious question for all Chinese people. Chinese scholar Du Weiming once said that Confucian culture had entered a critical stage of evolution from East Asian culnire to world culture. Whether it can keep pace with world cultures (such as Christian and Islamic cultures) depends on its success in integrating traditions with modernity and effectively communicating with Western civilizations and the world (Nye, 1990). In other words, the success or failure of cultural modernization is considered a decisive factor in whether China can exert its influence as a global power in the next century.

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