Kishore Mahbubani: China's global initiatives better for the developing world
Updated 15:52, 21-Jul-2023
Reality Check

Editor's note: The 21st century has witnessed a remarkable geopolitical shift with the peaceful rise of China and the subsequent development of other Asian countries, laying the groundwork for what many envision as the dawn of an Asian Century. Amidst this transformative era, renowned Singaporean diplomat, scholar, and author Kishore Mahbubani stands as a prominent advocate for this paradigm shift, earning him the title of "the Muse of the Asian Century." Mahbubani was in Beijing on July 18, 2023, to launch the Chinese edition of his popular book "The Asian 21st Century," where CGTN's Sr. Editor Abhishek G. Bhaya sought his insightful perspectives on China's global role and its profound impact on this unfolding landscape. The book release event was hosted by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), which has translated the book in Chinese. The views expressed in the video are his own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

Edited excerpts:

CGTN: In your book, you discuss the peaceful rise of China and the return of Asia as a major geopolitical force. What potential contributions can China make towards fostering regional and global peace and stability?

Kishore Mahbubani: On the question of China and why has China risen, that's a very deep question. But what is shocking is that many Americans, especially, are not aware that China represents the world's oldest continuous civilization – at least 4000-5000 years of history. And therefore, it was, China's civilization has gone up, it's gone down, gone up, gone down, and of course it went down recently in the century of humiliation from 1840 to 1949. But the history of China tells us that when it goes down, it goes down, but when it goes up, it goes up.

And China's recovery may last at least another 100 years. So far, it's only been 44 years since reform and modernization were launched in China, when China began to open up.

So, China's growth still will continue for a long time, but driven by, what I call, the Chinese civilizational cycle. Of course, you have good leaders. They have learned the best practices from the West. And when China embraced free market economics, it's quite amazing how China was the first country to propose a free trade agreement to ASEAN and so on and so forth. It showed you how much China has changed and grown and developed. So, it was actually when China was underperforming, that was normal. And now that China is performing well, that's normal.

CGTN: Chinese civilization has also long cherished principles of peace, as evident in the teachings of Confucius and Taoism, and China has a historical track record of not invading other countries as the other Western powers have done. How do you believe this civilizational, cultural and philosophical foundation can influence China's role in shaping the Asian Century?

Mahbubani: When China launches the Global Civilization Initiative, the most important word is "global." And why is that word important? Because the opposite of global is local.

Now, if you look at what [former U.S.] President [Donald] Trump said all the time, President Trump never used the word global, his only goal was what they call MAGA – Make America Great Again. And his only focus was making America great. If you had asked Donald Trump "Do you have time to develop African countries?" he used a very rude and impolite word to describe the African countries. That shows the difference, right?

So therefore, in that sense, with China launching global initiatives, I hope other countries will follow China's example and also launch global initiatives, which is what, frankly, the developing world needs. So, the more global initiatives there are from China, the better it is for the developing world.

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