Despite the fact that the world has crumbled and with Russia’s military operation in Ukraine still ongoing, the Valdai Discussion Club’s annual convention this year is therefore more important than ever, and the fact that it has still gathered over 100 participants from 41 countries alone has shown the due respect towards the club by experts, diplomats, politicians alike from around the world who care about not only the current crisis but also the way forward for us humanity.
Coming from China, I would take this opportunity to share some of my personal observations and also my urge to encourage a better understanding of China’s role and perhaps its contributions to hopefully make the world a better place for us all.
Keep offering financial support and sending weaponry and mercenary troops to Ukraine by the West is adding fuel to the fire and will only make the situation worse. The massive scale of sanctions against Russia by the West that are meant to deter, weaken and possibly bleed out Russia are counterproductive and have resulted in almost all of the EU countries having now found themselves as victims and suffering collateral damage. And if this conflict gets dragged on with more countries getting directly involved, the growing fear and resentment among the general public may eventually turn into a widespread antagonism, thus making the final outcome of the war even more unpredictable. To prevent the situation going from bad to worse, attention of the international community must be called upon to take immediate action to bring the conflict to an end.
The isolation of Russia by the West on the economic front has prompted Russia to turn towards the East to expand its export of energy to India, China and other Asian countries in exchange for everything Russia needs to import. The global supply chain built up over the last few decades has boosted the economic growth of so many countries around the world, and any effort to disrupt the globalisation process, no matter who is starting this, is definitely on the wrong side of history.
It is not justifiable for any country to use the term of “rules based order” to manipulate the world when there is actually no such list of rules to be found anywhere under that title.
If we believe that the world is on its trajectory to become multi-polar and that this transition period may as well last for years or even decades, then at least we can start discussing about what the new rules might be to ensure our peaceful coexistence. For the sake of argument, therefore, I would propose that we can perhaps start with the following statement that “the act of alienating a country because it has a different culture and traditional values, or decoupling economic ties with a country because it has a different social and political system, or meddling with the internal affairs of another country simply because one wants to, or trying to simply separate the world into “them” and “us”, or relying still on gunboat diplomacy, these acts must be considered as uncivilised and unworthy and must hence be denounced and condemned by the international community.
What we must also admit is that in this fast changing world, seeking an absolute security may not be a realistic pursuit for any country including Russia, nor is it realistic for the US to expect itself to act as the world’s policeman forever. For either side of the conflict, pushing the envelope too hard or trying to drive the other side to the very corner will only lead to reckless reactions, thus bringing disasters to humanity. Disputes among nations are always better to be settled through peaceful negotiations and that’s where diplomacy comes into play. And if the official channels get blocked due to increasing tensions and conflicts among the parties, then we must use second and third channels whereby the contributions of unofficial exchanges between and among strategists, consultants, and even scholars can also be very important.
Recognising the cultural and historical differences among nations is the basis for us to look at the world and to rationalise the different behaviour of countries in times of global crisis. Of the many reasons that have caused the current global disorder, one that might be fundamental, in my opinion, is the fact that our forever advancing technological development has changed greatly the way and pattern of our everyday life, and this change has been advancing much, much faster than the development of our social and economic sciences. In other words, there has been very little achievements over decades, if not none, in the development of our political thinking, our research into the pros and cons of different social structures, our understanding of security, to the extent that “the voice of the people” has been largely unheard, if not ignored completely.
In that respect, even though the US has named China its biggest competitor, China still considers itself a new comer onto the world stage and most people in China are therefore feeling a bit unprepared and confused when put under the spotlight. But as we can see over the past few years, China is quickly adjusting itself to the new challenges and has been responding accordingly. What I want to share with everyone here is that the Chinese government has been spending the last 40 some years focusing on the development of its own economy, by trying to make friends with everyone. This, I have to say, has a lot to do with the collective national character of the Chinese people in that we are after all traders and are always willing and ready to do business with everyone.
In a separate occasion when I was giving a talk, I told the audience that what the rest of the world might need to understand is that while other countries have spent years and decades talking and arguing about freedom and democracy, we Chinese (at least since my generation) have been brought up to understand that peace and development is of utmost importance. Also, China doesn’t have a history of practising colonialism or meddling with other countries’ internal affairs. This is why China believes in peaceful co-existence among nations and settlement of disputes are to be settled by peaceful negotiation rather than relying on force or gunboat diplomacy.
Aliens and outer-space forces may not be able to destroy us, only we humans can make ourselves perish if we let our greed and reckless actions go beyond control. In this context, I believe China’s leadership is right to have called for the building of a community of shared future for mankind.