Wisdom behind the Chinese initiatives
Updated 16:25, 20-Aug-2023
Ong Tee Keat

Editor's note: Since 2021, three global initiatives have been put forward by China, dealing with global development, security and civilization issues. It is a set of new solutions to the growing common challenges, and also a peaceful and cooperative path to the future. What is the wisdom behind the three initiatives? What changes have been brought to the world? Ong Tee Keat, president of the Belt and Road Initiative Caucus for Asia Pacific will share with you his insights. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

Hello and welcome to China Talk. I'm Ong Tee Keat, president of the Belt and Road Initiative Caucus for Asia Pacific (BRICAP).

The Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative unveiled by China successively since 2021, have taken the world by storm. They are by nature the Chinese public goods in response to the common challenges confronting humanity amid the waning global governance.

To me, a consistent observer who has strong interest in China, the successive rollout of the Chinese initiatives is, by itself, a manifestation of its enhanced discourse power on global matters.

While reiterating its commitment to upholding the existing international order, China is bold enough to offer its solutions as an alternative to the prevailing incoherent global governance. This is unprecedented as the global order could hardly be allowed to veer from the Western dictates over the decades.

The Chinese initiatives witness an entirely different paradigm where inclusivity and symbiosis underpin the global endeavors. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) first defied the West dominance 10 years ago. The Chinese proactiveness in sharing the development dividends with the BRI partners has reshaped the landscape of trans-border connectivity worldwide.

A case in point is the China-Laos rail link which at one time was deemed a near insurmountable challenge in the Pan-Asian Railway project. I still could remember when I served as the Transport Minister of Malaysia and was given the honor to preside over the ASEAN Transport Ministers' Meeting on Pan-Asian Railway in Kuala Lumpur in 2008, nobody would ever imagine the possibility of coming to fruition of the China-Laos stretch. Now that not only has this rail link emerged as the forerunner in setting the entire Pan-Asian Railway into momentum, the immediate impact is the rail connectivity has transformed Laos, a land-locked ASEAN member state, into a land-linked country, thus enhancing the economic competitiveness of the nation.

Of course, credit has to be given to China in making the project possible. To my understanding, it is neither a Chinese version of Marshall Plan as was dedicated to rebuilding Western Europe after WWII, nor an entirely altruistic aid. More aptly, it is a symbiotic deed benefitting Laos, China and the entire peninsular ASEAN.

Similarly, the Global Development Initiative (GDI) inaugurated in 2021 stands out as a timely response to the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, immediately after Beijing announced its success in the extreme poverty eradication in 2020. It is a clarion call resonating with the dire needs of sustainable development worldwide. The initiative calls for trans-border collaboration in multi-dimensional development which is well set to facilitate the nurturing of peace through confidence-building across the region. Such a de-risking bid would, in turn, provide a conducive environment for further development.

Unlike the past trans-border developmental models spearheaded by the West, no conditionalities are laid as pre-requisites. To my understanding, its underlying philosophical vision lies in the wisdom of "forging cooperation and harmony for all nations." Or in Chinese, it reads as "Xie he wan bang" that entails the notion of "Oneness for humanity" which is far more encompassing than that of "Prosper-thy-neighbors."

This wisdom is not just an endeavor of collaboration embracing near neighbors in the name of good neighborliness, but rather it is a global endeavor embracing humanity in the interest of preserving peace and harmony.

Meanwhile, the Global Security Initiative (GSI) envisions a new indivisible security architecture that calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security characterized by a model of mutual respect, openness and integration.

Apparently, this has caught the world by surprise as China is largely remembered for its economic role on the world stage. The global security governance has over the years been dominated by deployment of troops on foreign soil, concession of military bases and alignment of military alliances, which constitute the key elements of the West's security priorities.

Amid the cacophony of the West's platitude in labeling Beijing as the main threat to their national security, I am indeed baffled by their collective action in turning a blind eye to the areas of possible international cooperation under the framework of GSI. The emerging non-traditional security concerns, such as the insecurities of food, energy and climate change, just to cite a few, remain obscured on the radar screens of these former colonialists. Coherent and coordinated international cooperation in the face of common threats continue to remain on back burner though after bitter lessons learnt amid the pandemic.

The stark contrasts in responses to the global challenges as are manifested by the U.S.-led West vis-a-vis China has dawned upon me that both sides are virtually having diverse priorities when the existential rights of humanity is at stake. This is unrelated to the ideological disparity, I presume, but is more likely attributable to the civilizational norms developed along the different trajectories of history pursued by both sides.

I became more convinced with such a notion when the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) was unfolding before the world. Glaringly, the GCI is an inclusive model of civilizational co-existence and mutual interaction that is in stark contrast with the theory of a clash of civilizations prevalent in the West.

To me and many others who were brought up in the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural social fabric, clash of civilization is simply too far-fetch if the basic acceptance of cultural co-existence is acceptable to all parties. This is no Utopian. Neither is it a distant ideal. But it's a norm that I learn since my childhood days in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Malaysia.

As an ethnic Chinese myself, I was taught the traditional Chinese virtues of "harmony in diversity," "willingness to aid others when we have the means," and the collective sense of shared destiny. These are no geopolitical rhetorics but the Chinese civilizational values inherited worldwide among the ethnic Chinese who choose to preserve the cultures.

On the world stage, the reigning hegemon has a choice of staying recalcitrant in the face of changing global paradigm and dynamics. But certainly, it should have the desired decorum and latitude in acknowledging the rights of co-existence for all civilizational values. Any prejudicial judging of others' values and norms through the same old Western prisms will merely mirror the myopic arrogance of the past colonial powers amid the reshaping global order.

The initiatives that China proposed have elevated its active participation in the world affairs to a new height in its pursuit of good global governance.

China's ideal of shared growth and co-existence underpinning the GDI, GSI and GCI, the three Chinese global initiatives, is a more realistic and prudent approach to addressing the current deficit in global governance. This wisdom has its origin in the various Chinese philosophical thoughts which constitute the rich heritage of the Chinese civilization.

The element of inclusiveness has an entrenched spot in the Chinese civilizational philosophy which encapsulates "harmony in diversity." This has shaped the Chinese global view for ages. It could only be appreciated in the right perspective if we really stay true to our commitment to striving for a better world where we call home.

Thank you!


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