The world order is an invisible deep structure shaped by the behavior model of dominant countries. Before 1945, the fundamental structure of the world order was imperialism. During the Cold War, the world order was veneered with ideological covers, which have made many people believe liberal democracy is the world order.
However, foreign policies of the Trump administration have revealed the nature of the world order, which has always been the liberal imperialist order in essence that leads to hegemony and inequality. But such order is changing as China is changing the world with its own development. Nevertheless, many Chinese people still seem to hold an outdated view of the world order that features Western-centralism.
China was once poor and weak in history, and was marginalized in the global system. The main targets of our reform and opening-up were to catch up with Western countries. We used to be overwhelmed by the West and were less confident, hence naturally regarding them as the central beacon. To make it worse, social science in China has been under Western influence since 1980s.
For example, the Chinese worldview is indeed universal, but is regarded by many as peculiar. As a matter of fact, Chinese culture has combined Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, and has opened to the West. Our culture is secular, and thus the most inclusive.
The exclusive culture of the Western world is recognized as advanced. Due to such a biased filter, China could never do anything right. Our Foreign Ministry spokespersons’ active remarks are labeled “wolf warrior diplomacy.” People turn a blind eye to the hegemonic actions of the West, blaming China for the decline of China-US relations. Such behaviors vividly demonstrate Western-centralized world views and value systems.
However, what the Trump administration did has demonstrated again the imperialist logic of traditional dominant countries. We should learn from this lesson that it’s time to see the world in a new way, that the real US is way more complicated than being pure justice and friendly.
China has gone through the suppression in past years. Yet it has shown the world that it is not as weak as some people imagined, and that the US is not as strong as many believed.
The founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 brought change to the order of East Asia. In 1979, the US established diplomatic ties with China partly in a bid to counter the Soviet Union. Even though materially poor, China evidently has managed to affect the world order with its own inner changes. China’s rapid development after adopting reform and opening-up is a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
In the first two decades after the Cold War, the US was the unquestionable hegemonic force in the world. But after that, Washington began to talk with China about global governance. The history of China-US relations can give us quite some implications.
First, China was a builder of the order in East Asia long before globalization. Second, China united is capable of affecting the world order. Third, becoming prosperous has enabled China to stand tall on at the center of the world stage.
China is the first major power in the world’s modern history to thrive by its own development instead of by loots and wars. This has provided an alternative to the Western countries’ patterns which made them strong by looting others across centuries of history.
Being capable of proposing the Belt and Road Initiative, founding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and promoting the community of shared future for mankind, China has offered to rectify the unequal world order. Both history and current events have shown that Chinese people have no reason to not have confidence to play a key role in world affairs.
Therefore, Chinese people really don’t need to be so sensitive, or even nervous, about what the US has said or done. Nor care so much what it is up to. Most large countries in history collapsed due to internal chaos. As long as we do our business well and stay sharp, the external factors will hardly affect China.
The article is an abstract of Yang Guangbin’s arguments at the “national rejuvenation and Communist Party of China” think-tank forum hosted by Tsinghua University and China.org.cn on April 25. Yang Guangbin is a distinguished professor of Renmin University of China.