Xi also declared that along with building this community of common destiny, another major goal of China’s foreign policy was to build a “new model” of international relations, based on principles of “mutual cooperation, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.”
In explaining the policy, Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, explicitly told media that the new model is meant to replace the “old” model of international relations, which Wang said was built on the “law of the jungle” and “power politics.”
While Wang did not get into specifics, in the official language of the Chinese leadership, the “old model” of international relations is always associated with the US or the West in general, and is characterized as a zero-sum thinking, or as a Cold War mentality.
“The mainstream view in the West is that the world is essentially competitive, confrontational, and Machiavellian, and that international politics is a zero-sum game where every country should adopt a ‘my interests come first’ mentality,” Professor Qin Yaqing said.
Qin believes China now offers an alternative vision for international relations. “Building a new model of international relations is the means to achieve it.”
In contrast to the Western perception that the concept of a “community of common destiny” being merely political jargon, Chinese diplomats and experts argue that it has been playing a pivotal role in Chinese foreign policy.
For example, the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s ambitious project to link China with Asia, Europe and Africa through a vast infrastructure investment program, and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), have been launched under the “common destiny” concept.
Moreover, Chinese diplomats say they have been applying the spirit of the concept in their work. Wang Yusheng, a former senior Chinese diplomat, told NewsChina that China had adopted its principles in promoting negotiation within APEC.
“APEC recognizes the diversity of its different members, emphasizes the importance of the principles of choice and consensus, allows flexibility and incrementalism in meeting targets, and allows member economies to set up their own goals,” said Wang.
Since hosting the APEC meeting in Beijing in 2014, China pushed to establish a trade pact involving all of APEC’s 21 member nations known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
The plan is still under negotiation. Wang made no direct reference to the US, but Chinese officials have long drawn comparisons between its own “inclusive” approach and that of the US. For example, the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), once described as a “high-standard” trade deal, was seen as taking an “exclusive” approach.
Under the Trump administration, the US has scrapped the TPP, and its “America First” policy has prompted widespread concern around the world over its implications for both global trade and world peace.
Many Chinese officials and experts think the situation provides a rare opportunity for China to advocate and advance its own vision for a new model of international relations, which may be able to head off the so-called “Thucydides trap.”
However, with global affairs still dominated by realpolitik, the West may become even more sensitive as China openly challenges its dominance of the world order, regardless of how benevolent its “common destiny” concept sounds.
To most Western analysts, the prevalent view is that China has now forsaken its reform-era foreign policy of “keeping a low profile,” and launched a more assertive foreign policy under Xi’s leadership.
But according to China-watcher Professor Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, it’s important to remember that no other major power in history has adopted a “keep a low profile” policy in the way China has.
Zheng told NewsChina that historically, most rising powers have only focused on how to expand themselves and control the world, which is what has ultimately provoked conflict and war.
“The fact that China is now exploring and strategizing how to rise peacefully is good news for the world,” Zheng said.