By Callum Wilson
The Hundred Flowers Garden
“A single flower does not make spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden.”
From an ocean-blue background, the Communist Party of China zoomed into an online meeting titled CPC dialogue between political parties with the theme being modernization on March 15th. It was a star-studded event with several world leaders and hundreds of leaders of political parties were present including Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Nichols Maduro of Venezuela, Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, former President of Bolivia Evo Morales, Salva Kiir of South Sudan, and Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene of Mongolia, and Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea. Over 600 representatives from political parties from all over the world but with a strong focus on the global south were present and shared their views.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently secured re-election and started his third term as President of the People’s Republic of China, gave the keynote speech during the event in which he announced a new foreign policy plan: the Global Civilization Initiative. Announcing the new initiative, Xi said “We advocate the respect for the diversity of civilizations. Countries need to uphold the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusiveness among civilizations and let cultural exchanges transcend estrangement, mutual learning transcend clashes, and coexistence transcend feelings of superiority.”
Xi is something of a poet with his penchant for quoting couplets, but behind the flowery language we can see plainly what this new vision of the future offers; a world of equality and democracy in foreign affairs, of detente rather than conflict. The title of ‘Global Civilizations’ acknowledges the rich history and culture the nations of the world have to offer, and more to the point, that each has their own ideas and traditions on how to govern their own countries.
We can compare how Xi talks to what Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said “Europe is a garden. We have built a garden… The rest of the world – and you know this very well, Federica [Mogherini] – is not exactly a garden. Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden.” Borrell’s statement is an expression of the argument used by imperialist powers to justify their conquests and atrocities against the peoples of Africa and Asia, that they are protecting their “civilization” from “savage jungle people with no civilization.” Of course, Borrell later apologized for this proverbial “Freudian slip”, but it shows the stark difference in the mindset between EU leaders and Chinese leaders when it comes to the rest of the world. For all the talk of a dangerous rising China, what we’ve seen is a deep respect from China to the global south, whilst European leaders often appear to loathe and mistrust those that are not a perfect reflection of themselves.
And despite the US and EU’s warnings to global South countries about “debt trap diplomacy” – which is a rhetorical weapon developed in 2017-2018 to undermine the trust between China and global South countries and itself not a real phenomenon – there have been no tangible alternatives to Chinese projects like the Belt and Road initiative, despite G-7 pledges in 2022. There is no serious will in Europe or in the States to spend the massive amounts of money on infrastructure required to re-create a western OBOR project. Western governments are content to announce dazzling new projects but soon let it fizzle out and die as Congress and EU parliaments guard their treasury and refuse to authorize new spending. The US and EU are more interested in these announcements, a short term media buzz, than actual investments.
In President Xi’s speech, he also called for closing the development gap between the global north and south. “We will continue to support and help developing countries in their pursuit of faster development, industrialization, and modernization and offer Chinese solutions and strength for narrowing the North-South gap and achieving common development.” This is in direct opposition to the U.S EU policy of increasing that gap and ” represents a potential game changer in international relations and has been welcomed by much of the global south, as seen by the number of leaders and representatives in the meeting.
But the message of a new global paradigm resonates in more places than in the global south. Xi’s statement has been welcomed by progressives in the US as well. The International Department of the Communist Party USA said:
“The Global Civilization Initiative represents a bold, new vision for the future of humanity.
In this future, every country can choose their own development path.
In this future, every nation has the right to security and prosperity.
Security for one country cannot be had at the expense of the security of another, and prosperity for one nation cannot be had at the expense of the prosperity of another.
As President Xi said in his keynote address to the meeting: the ultimate goal of modernization is to realize people’s free and comprehensive development. Political parties all have the responsibility to put the people first, and to work in accordance with their local conditions.
The Communist Party USA wholeheartedly supports the development of full multilateralism and shared prosperity in accordance with the trend of history. We are encouraged and deeply gratified by meetings such as this which give all political parties, all countries and all peoples an equal seat at the table.”
Even the Biden White House energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, has recently stated that the US could learn from China on combating climate change, though she was hounded by Fox News, it shows that not all in Washington, even in the Biden administration, are determined to have a conflict with China. Detente is a word we should all re-familiarize ourselves with.
“A modernized China will strengthen the force for world peace and international justice,” Xi said during his keynote speech. And in an area where China has already been at work has been the war in Ukraine where war rages on with no end in sight, until recently. Prior to the announcement of the Global Civilization Initiative, President Xi put forth the Global Security Initiative, which upholds the primacy of the UN charter and informs China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, which was published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls for the following as apart of a peace settlement can be viewed in full here. Below are its main points:
1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries
2. Abandoning the Cold War mentality
3. Ceasing hostilities
4. Resuming peace talks
5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis
6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war
7. Keeping nuclear power plants safe
8. Reducing strategic risks
9. Facilitating grain exports
10. Stopping unilateral sanctions
11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable
12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction
China’s initiative for peace has been warmly met by Russia, while Ukraine’s Zelensky has welcomed China taking an active role in discussing peace and has announced his intention to seek a meeting with President Xi Jinping soon after the plan was announced, and as of March 21st, met with the Russian President in Moscow. Even if Zelensky remains skeptical of China’s plan, the fact that both Russia and Ukraine welcome Beijing’s initiative and show an interest in peace is a sign that the war does not have to continue indefinitely. The biggest critics of China’s plan have come not from Kyiv or Moscow, but from Washington and Brussels. American and EU leaders are unabashed warhawks and appear to have an insatiable bloodlust to destroy Russia. When asked about the Peace plan, President Biden said to ABC “Putin’s applauding it, so how could it be any good?” China has shown itself to be the adult in the room, refraining from funneling weapons to the conflict zone and from making incendiary comments about removing leaders from power.
While we hear so much that “the world is against Russia,” countries such as India and Egypt have remained close to Russia and even Turkey, a US ally and member of NATO, has been continuing to trade with Russia. So whilst the UN general assembly has largely condemned Russia’s invasion, the world has stopped short of sanctions or weapons, and are likely to view China, as a rising economic power, as a more responsible global actor than the United States, which has refused to address its own bloody invasions of smaller countries, attempting to gaslight the global south countries. The US and EU are paying the price for not respecting the global south who are weary of supply chain issues and fearful of food shortages, and have little patience for fairy tale narratives of European values.
The US’s image as a peace maker is further hurt by outright rejecting any talks of a ceasefire sponsored by China, demonstrating that the Biden administration lacks any imagination or vision to provide an alternative peaceful solution to the conflict precisely because conflict is what the administration desires and the world must watch on.
But China can put its money where its mouth is, having recently mediated the restoration of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, perhaps a closing chapter to the middle eastern cold war. The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran has agreed to stop arming Houthi rebels as per the agreement with the Saudi Kingdom which could signal the conflict is soon to be over, though the humantian disaster is far from being over. This comes as a massive blow to American and Israeli influence in the region, as efforts to isolate Iran have now failed and with growing Chinese influence, why risk domestic blowback with Israel? Just recently Haaretz reported that the UAE has halted arms purchases from Israel during the chaos from Neythuahu’s government and Saudi Arabia has refused to grant visas to some Israeli officials. The consequences for “Western” disengagement from peace is clear; the collapse of foreign policy plans.
The Perils of Cold War Politics
The Chinese world order is the promise of no Chinese world order. The Global Civilization Initiative rejects the imposition of any model of governance, even its own socialist system, onto other countries. For those of us living in the US, Europe, Australia, Japan, etc the so-called “Western world”, there is a responsibility to push for sensible policies of de-escalation. The US has united its allies against Russia, this is true, but China is making great strides in uniting the rest of the world, and unless we in the states start to have an imagination for a peaceful world, we will be more alone than ever.
US diplomatic isolation is a long way off, but if we look at, for example, the blockade on Cuba, everywhere, an overwhelming majority of the world votes to end the blockade, with the US and Israel voting against every time. When the United States made an issue of China’s Xinjiang province, only the Western world voiced objections, whilst many Muslim majority countries were uniform in backing Beijing. World opinion is moving away from the US and US foreign policy needs to recognize this reality if it does not wish to be hated and feared for advancing policies of militarism, imperialism and war.
There is a lack of global will to join a New Cold War against China, and if push comes to shove, the US will find that its friends are becoming isolated from the wider world and that empty slogans of “democracy vs autocracy” mean very little to poor countries who are tired of being poor.
U.S. politicians, progressive or otherwise, should come to the stark realization that if they want to maintain some American leadership in the world, in the next world order, one that will inevitably rise with the emergence of new economies and the demonstration of the futility of US support in places like Afghanistan, there must be a policy of peaceful and productive co-existence to salvage whatever credibility on the world stage our country still has.
Climate change, cancer research, pandemic prevention, infrastructure building, people to people diplomacy, are all areas where serious work can be done. We can and must learn from each other. However, nothing can be accomplished without mutual respect. China’s has clearly expressed that respect for the U.S. The U.S. continues to be locked in the prison of anti-Communist ideology and Cold War 2.0 posturing, which makes both respect and cooperation impossible.
Unless the US starts to respect China place today in world affairs there can be no basis to address the huge problems facing the world’s peoples.
The link to Xi’s full keynote speech during the meeting can be found here.