Today's date:
Spring 2011

Toward a Global Convergence of Interests

Zheng Bijian is the former vice-chair of the Central Party School and the author of China’s “peaceful rise” doctrine.

Beijing—The first two decades of the 21st century are a crucial period in China’s endeavor to “build a moderately prosperous society at a higher level benefiting more than one billion people.” It is a period of development focusing on improving the lives of people and raising the quality of life in a sustainable manner. It is also a period of transformation of China’s economy from quantitative growth to qualitative ascent. Now half of this relatively independent historical period has passed. On the whole, we have done quite well in quantitative terms, but not so satisfactorily in qualitative terms.

In the second decade of the 21st century, China’s development faces a number of challenges, such as resources and environmental constraints on economic growth, unbalanced economic and social development (including imbalances between investment and consumption, between the city and the rural areas and between the eastern and western regions), difficult industrial restructuring and insufficient R&D. Human resources are unable to meet the needs of an employment structure. Distribution of incomes is inequitable.

To meet these challenges, our work in the second decade of the 21st century will concentrate on accelerating the transformation of the economic development patterns, ensuring and improving people’s livelihood, consolidating and expanding our achievements made in our response to the international financial crisis, facilitating long-term, steady and reasonably fast economic growth. All this will lay a solid foundation for building a moderately prosperous society.

To this end, we must transform our economy from one mainly driven by external demand to one driven by both domestic and external demands, mainly domestic demand. China, a lower-middle-income country, will move to an upper-middle-income country at a faster pace. China will devote more efforts to realizing domestic-development and raising ethical standards and inspiring people to work for a lofty ideal. China will become a dynamic country enjoying harmony and stability. Thus China will achieve the goal of peaceful rise and cultural renaissance. Without any doubt, such a China will provide the rest of the world with a bigger market and greater opportunity for development.

China’s path of peaceful rise accords with the trend of history. Today the trend of the world development is economic globalization and interdependent international relations. In this context, dialogue, consultation, coordination, proper management and reform in a peaceful, cooperative and mutually beneficial manner will be the means to tackle the existing and emerging problems—such represent the main trend of mankind’s future development. The world as whole will face both opportunities and challenges, with the former outnumbering the latter.


China’s Path of Peaceful Rise and the Building of “Communities of Interests”

As we move forward, China’s path of peaceful rise and policy of “building a harmonious world” need to be concretized. The important thing is “to expand and deepen the convergence of interests of all parties” and foster “communities of interests” with other countries and regions in different areas and at various levels. This is the policy China has adopted for this decade.

This strategy has become the policy of the Chinese government. It has been incorporated into the CPC Central Committee’s 12th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development. In an address to the opening ceremony of the 8th ASEM Summit Meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao proposed that ASEM members should become a “close-knit community of interests.” President Hu Jintao, in his telephone conversation with President Obama, said further: “We face an important subject, i.e., how to actively elevate the positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship to a higher level and enter into a cooperative partnership in areas of common interests.”

I would say that in fact the convergence of interests between China and the United States has already existed. Let us recall briefly what happened in the past few years. Since 2008, our two countries joined hands to cope with the impact of the financial crisis. It was a significant convergence of interests under the special conditions of that time.

Now, we need to adapt to each other and make the necessary adjustments in order to work together to deal with changes in the post-financial crisis period and handle the domestic restructuring of each country. This may become a new convergence of interest between our two countries. In this regard, one thing is worth our attention:

The Chinese and American economies are mutually complementary and interdependent in trade, and now they are increasingly complementary in investment as well. Chinese investments in American infrastructure projects and middle and small enterprises in America’s South and West will help with US economic recovery and increase jobs. I think this will show that China-US common interests are moving from the strategic macro level to the micro level, i.e., to concrete businesses.

We need to explore ways to develop convergence of interests and build communities of interests between our two countries in certain important areas of clean energy. I believe this kind of discussion will not only contribute to the global efforts to address the challenge of climate change but also help promote the low-carbon development and energy security of our respective countries. In addition, it may create more business opportunities for our two countries; China-US practical cooperation in clean energy can surely expand and deepen the convergence of interests and become an important part of the “communities of interests” that we are building.

Even on sensitive issues, China has set store on the overall interest of our bilateral relations and given priority to a stable relationship. It has tried to expand the convergence of interests with other parties based on mutual respect for each other’s core interest. For instance, on the issue of the Korean Peninsula, we have stated in explicit terms our opposition to provocative acts by any side that may lead to tension and any attempt to develop nuclear weapons on the peninsula. On the question of Taiwan, we have adopted the policy of “reconciliation, peace and harmony” and made efforts to advance the common interests of the people on both side of the Taiwan Straits. On the issue of maritime security, we have intensified cooperation with countries concerned in joint efforts to preserve international shipping safety.

Looking down the road, the next ten years will witness peaceful and gradual transformation of the global governance system and international division of labor. This will again present strategic opportunities for China and the US. In the process of world economic and political changes, the basic factors and driving forces that pushed forward China-US, China-Europe and China-Japan relations in the past ten years still exist, despite our problems and differences with those countries. This requires us to seek new growth points in both bilateral and multilateral relations with a view to expanding and deepening our convergence of interest and building “communities of interests,” which will be beneficial to all parties.

In short, it is both necessary and possible for us to work together with a global vision, pragmatic spirit and political wisdom to build bilateral and multilateral communities of interests in different areas and at different levels in the second decade of this century. To achieve this goal, one must transcend the differences in ideology and social system and discard the parochial attitude of closing the door to others. When there is an accumulation of converging interests, there will be a solid foundation of common interest. Then the conditions will become ripe for building communities of common interests.