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A better or a battered world?

By Xin Zhifeng, Guo Jiulin | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-04-19 14:22

A sculpture of doves of peace flying into the sky. [Photo/IC]

On April 13, 2023, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang chaired the second informal meeting of foreign ministers of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran on the Afghan issue in Samarkand. He stressed that the political settlement of the Afghan issue under the new circumstances should abandon the Cold War mentality and camp confrontation, adhere to the principle of indivisible security, address both the symptoms and root causes and take comprehensive measures to guide the moderate and steady governance of the Afghan Taliban through mutual respect, consultation on an equal footing and friendly dialogue. China encourages and supports Afghanistan to follow a modernization path suited to its national conditions and help Afghanistan enhance its hematopoietic capacity and integrate into the regional economy.

The United States, however, has ignored its involvement in Afghanistan after fleeing the country in a hurry. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has yet to be fully alleviated. Nearly 19 million Afghans, including 1.1 million children, still face deadly food shortages. The United Nations estimates that 97 percent of Afghans were living in poverty by mid-2022. Instead of reflecting the harm it has inflicted on the Afghan people, the US instead imposed embargoes and sanctions, freezing $7 billion of its overseas assets.

So, why are the approaches of China and the United States, as major powers in the world, so different in dealing with global crises? The answer can be found in their respective traditional culture and historical trajectory.

China's efforts in promoting the reconciliation of conflicts among rival countries, turning their swords into ploughshares, helping poor countries achieve common progress are enlightened by Chinese traditional concept of "home, country and world". However, the abnormal and irresponsible behaviors of the US reflect the deep-rooted colonialism mentality of the West.

The ancient Chinese believed that benevolence begets benevolence and they fulfilled the spirit of "home, country and world". One of the most basic laws of nature is that all things live forever. In nature, everything including people is doomed to death from birth and becomes the survival energy of other things after death. Life is an endless cycle where everything can coexist. While considering his own survival, every individual should take into account of others' or that of our natural environment. The principle of benevolence underscores neutrality and peace, honesty and undeceiving, love and being loved. Although competition is unavoidable, the virtue of calmness and optimism in it could not be ignored. Only in this way can the participants achieve mutual benefit and then a mutual-aid society could be secured.

The time-honored idea of "harmony among all nations" is derived from the concept, which advocates being friendly to its neighbors and keeping harmony with all nations. The core of it is peace and mutual benefit. Guided by this philosophy, the values of harmony and kindness to others have been valued and passed down from generation to generation. The concepts today are being more valued by Chinese leaders in dealing with bilateral or multi-lateral relations.

At the World Peace Forum in 2013, Wang Yi, the director of Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, said that "the unique features of China's diplomacy originate in the rich and profound Chinese civilization. Throughout its 5,000-year history, the Chinese nation has developed the humanistic-oriented concept of loving all creatures as if they were of your species and all people as if they were your brothers, the political philosophy of valuing virtue and balance; the peaceful approach of love, non-aggression and good-neighborliness, the idea of peace as of paramount importance and harmony without uniformity, as well as the personal conduct of treating others in a way that you would like to be treated, and helping others succeed in the same spirit as you would want to succeed yourself. These traditional values with a unique oriental touch provided an endless source of invaluable cultural assets for China's diplomacy."

However, the brutality and hypocrisy originating from European colonialism has characterized the US diplomacy in dealing with other countries. In the 19th century, European countries, driven by profit, power and a sense of mission, set off a wave of global colonization. They changed the political map of the world by means of colonization and conquest, turning weak countries, nations and backward areas into their colonies and semi-colonies. In the process, they were convinced of the superiority of their institutions and moral values and began to believe that it was their duty to spread them across the world.

In the 20th century, the United States inherited the mantle of European colonialism and developed a new colonial system for the purpose of obtaining "output" on land, and the Monroe Doctrine is a case in point. On the surface, the United States respected the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the American countries, but soon after its rise, it began to export goods and capital to these countries, control their economic lifeline and interfere in their internal affairs on the grounds of excluding the interference of European powers.

The United States also pursued "dollar diplomacy" to expand its influence throughout Latin America. After turning itself into a creditor, the US took control of the customs, fiscal, and financial systems of these countries and sent "advisers" to their armies. In the meantime, America's United Fruit Company has formed a "state within a state" in many countries, capable not only of holding sway, but also of rigging elections and subverting governments.

The US strategy is to ensure its permanent hegemony, while not tolerating the emergence of a regional hegemony anywhere else, and if it does, the US will do whatever it can take to bring it down. The US crushed Germany as a rising power in continental Europe during the World War II, then Japan as an economic power and the former Soviet Union as a political and military superpower in the last century. Graham Allison, the author of the Thucydides Trap, also pointed out in his article The New Sphere of Influence that the reason why American policymakers did not recognize "spheres of influence" after the Cold War was because "the whole world had essentially become an American sphere of influence".

Enlightened by Chinese history and learned from a century of national humiliation and cruel reality, Chinese government chose to be committed to world peace, common development and mutual benefits. China's efforts in promoting post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan, brokering reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, putting forward China's peace plan to resolve the Ukraine crisis are the testimony to the Chinese people's desire for building a community with a shared future for mankind and creating a new form of human civilization.

Nowadays, we have entered a dangerous crossroad: the new colonialism pursued by the US went into a dead end; the old world order is teetering; a new order is still in no sight. Our world is full of uncertainty, turmoil and anxiety. We have to ask ourselves the question: Do we really need a better world or a battered world? The answer is obviously up to us, but most importantly, to the US.

Xin Zhifeng is an associate professor at the College of Liberal Art and Law, Dalian Minzu University and Guo Jiulin is a  professor at the College of Liberal Art and Law, Dalian Minzu University.

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