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Strategic imagination

By AUGUSTO SOTO | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-26 10:58
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That's what the world needs, and the Global Security Initiative provides, to prevent crises that lead to war

In one single day last month President Xi Jinping accepted credentials presented by 70 ambassadors to Beijing at the Great Hall of the People, where he announced his country's readiness to work with the international community to follow through the Global Security Initiative. Is such an initiative necessary? Let's look at the several dangerous conflicts configurating a global security deficit and you will see that Beijing has become part of the solution, and is not refraining from playing a role as one of the important powers.

In the last nine weeks we have seen China play a key role in normalizing diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, be a potential broker offering a 12-point peace plan for Ukraine, and a cohesive force striving for strengthening relations with European and Latin American powers, and by offering to hold talks between Israel and Palestine. In a way, the Global Security Initiative peace diplomacy seems unstoppable. On April 26, Zhai Jun, special envoy of the Chinese government on the Middle East issue, attended the consultations of Deputy Foreign Ministers/Special Envoys of BRICS Countries on the Middle East Affairs, including talks on ending conflict in Yemen and Sudan.

It is apparent that the Global Security Initiative aspires to fill the vacuum of the global security deficit or the ins and outs of internal politics with a long-term comprehensive approach, beyond the fate of a single administration, no matter how influential or powerful it might be. With the prospect of a presidential race in which Donald Trump could theoretically win the White House again, the momentum taken by Chinese proposals should be seriously considered. China could and can make a difference in a more peaceful environment for infrastructure, open trade flow, innovation and investments against Trumpist decoupling — followed to an extent by US President Joe Biden.

Halfway, there are also other voices that have better read the sense of our time. In 2015, former secretary general of NATO and European Union high representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana acknowledged in an article titled "China and Global Governance", that "the West has failed to accord China — much less the other major emerging economies — the degree of influence over global governance structures that it merits". He concluded: "But this is about to change, because China has decided that it will no longer sit still for it."

In early 2019, Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani correctly stated in a clarifying article in Harper's Magazine that, quite remarkably, of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is the only one that has not fired a single military shot across its border in more than 30 years, following a brief naval battle in the past century. In contrast, some other members of the UN Security Council have dropped thousands of bombs, shot millions of bullets in several countries each past decade, allegedly for reasons in principle related to "peace" or security or human rights.

The global security trajectory of the Global Security Initiative is traceable back in history and as such it should be understood. In his well-known article published in Foreign Affairs in 2005, Zheng Bijian, founder and chairman of the China Institute for Innovation& Development Strategy since 2010, interpreted China's rise as a peaceful one in sharp contrast to that of the archetypal conquering, colonialist, imperialistic path trodden by the known powers over centuries.

Indeed, the oldest macro historical Chinese antecedent of global security in universal history is the navigator Zheng He's marathon overseas trips between 1405 and 1433. With 317 ships, it was the largest armada in the world until modern times, sailing through Southeast Asia, Arabia, and eastern Africa several decades before Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama's expeditions. Zheng He's armada set a classic example of intellectual exchange propelling civilizational encounters, spreading Chinese civilization and peace thought.

Due to China's historical circumstances and magnitude, its experience is unique. And both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres there is a desire to overcome the thought and practice stemming from unipolarism visible since the end of the Cold War.

In short, we do not need fatalistic predictions but rather "strategic imagination" to maintain global security and prevent crises that lead to war.

The author is a professor of the Esade Educational Institution at Ramon Llull University and the director of the Dialogue with China Project in Spain. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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