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Through Chinese eyes: Pang Zhongying (part 1)

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COMMENTS

22 December 2011 11:07

Interview with Professor Pang Zhongying of People's University about China and global governance by Peter Martin and David Cohen. Peter and David are conducting a series of interviews with Chinese academics and journalists, using reader-submitted questions.

Anna: China's lack of developed NGOs limits its participation in international civil society. Is this a weakness for Chinese diplomacy?

Pang: I think so. For example, this university, like other leading universities in China, has established and operates Confucius Institutes around the globe. But you know, such behavior is not led by NGOs or private organisations. This university is a national university, and the Confucius Institute is owned and managed by the Chinese Government. This a limit of China's projection of soft power, and maybe this is 'Chinese characteristics'. But in my view, the experiences of others show that you project your soft power not by the government, but mainly by civil society organisations.

China should encourage the full development of Chinese civil society, and let them play larger roles in Chinese diplomacy. And maybe a very good news is in recent years, is China promotes public diplomacy. Maybe the Government now takes the lead, and if it faces some failures and setbacks, China will realize the importance of NGOs and civil society in pursuing Chinese objectives.

Jacob: I would like to know, what does China plan on using its growing power in international institutions for?

Pang: This country's relations with the world are so different from others, because it has one-sixth of the population of the globe. Also, this country represents one of this world's civilizations. China's goal in intervening in universal international institutions is to promote the peaceful coexistence of different civilizations and solving the differences of different civilizations, and avoiding the 'clash of civilizations'. It includes the continuations of civilizations around the world, many other small languages, small countries, promoting peaceful coexistence and dialogue.

Pete and David: What about China's more specific interests? Such as the economy and the WTO, or diplomatic interests like Taiwan and Tibet?

Pang: You know, China joined the IMF and the World Bank in the 1980s, and then China was in its early years of reform and opening and very much needed assistance from the World Bank and the IMF. And later on China wanted to find global markets, so China joined the rules-based WTO. But you know this era is over and China is now talking about how to protect China's increasing global interests. And some people in China say, we need a modernised PLA to protect its interests, and China should have a smart navy, to protect it interests. But China's international institutions say China should continue to stress a multilateral system. But the multilateral system is now facing a crisis of effectiveness because of so many bilateral relationships.

China's global interests continue to increase. But you have to face the so-called security dilemma — if China strengthens its navy, the US and so many others will respond negatively. So in my view China should go to multilateral bodies to seek solutions to protect and to increase its interests.

Pete and David: How is China's increasing power affecting its attitude to non-interference in international organisations?

Pang: There has been legal evolution, and it is a complicated issue. In 1950s, China intervened in the Korean War, and China was standing with North Korea, but at the same time, China, India, and Indonesia helped to develop the common rule of developing countries, of non-interference. At that time, it served two purposes: one is to have a common rule, common norm, to resist the interference and interventions imposed by the West and the Soviet Union, and the other was to consolidate their newly-obtained sovereignty. In 1960s, China received intervention from the Soviet Union, and also China faced strategic pressure from the US, so conflict happened between China and the Soviet Union, and China was so isolated, but at the same time Mao Zedong exported revolution to African countries and Asian countries. So this is Chinese history — so many conflicting messages in the 1960s.

In the 1970s, China allied with the US against the Soviet Union, and China supported the international opposition against Soviet Union's invasion into Afghanistan. China and Vietnam had a military conflict in 1979, China opened up formally in 1979, and China finished isolation, and also began to explore the new direction of foreign policy. In the 1980s, it seems China just pursued the so-called 'independent foreign policy for peace.' And China had no interest in supporting the African liberation or independence movements, no interest in consolidating its relationship with North Korea, and China reduced foreign aid to poor countries.

So if you take a historical perspective, strictly China only carried out its non-interference foreign policy in the 1990s, when it had the 'laying-low and biding your time' policy. That was when the US was declaring the end of history — politically, China had to take a low-key foreign policy.

In my view China should declare clearly that China intervenes globally, regionally, and multilaterally, but conditionally. But Chinese interventions should be strictly regarded as Chinese contributions to international stability and peace. They should be contributions to international missions, authorised by the UN and by regional organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

So the big question for the West, and others, is this: yesterday you criticised China for non-interference, and China was not so active in dealing with countries in Africa, using the non-interference as an excuse. But if tomorrow China intervenes, how will the world respond to an interventionist China?

A global China, you know, has to intervene. The question is how to use the Chinese power, how China can intervene effectively and legitimately. So Chinese intervention is a new kind of international intervention. And I do believe China now lacks enough paradigms to conduct such a Chinese approach. China must not intervene in the name of protecting Chinese interests — some American interventions are seen as protecting American interests, and the world takes them as a challenge. From the beginning, China should intervene multilaterally as a part of international interventions like peacekeeping. China should collaborate with regional organisations, with the African Union, even with NATO if invited.

When the Interpreter returns in January we will post Pang's analysis of China's role in international institutions. Photo by Flickr user FriendsofEurope.

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