The Chinese vision of a “Community of Shared Destiny for Humanity”: a prelude to a universal humanist moment?

09.09.2019 - Argentina - Javier Tolcachier

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The Chinese vision of a “Community of Shared Destiny for Humanity”: a prelude to a universal humanist moment?
Chinese leader Xi Jinping earlier today in Beijing.

by Javier Tolcachier

The 70th anniversary (1/10) of the founding of the People’s Republic of China is approaching. This anniversary will be celebrated by the Chinese people, now a world power. Far from demanding revenge for a past of hunger, humiliation and poverty, bloody wars, invaders and colonial impositions, China is today spreading, through its highest representative, a message of high moral standing: the so-called “Community of Shared Destiny for Humanity”.

Mentioned for the first time in 2011 in a document of the Information Office of the Council of State, the idea appears as overcoming the “dangerous mentality of cold and hot war and all the worn roads that have repeatedly led humanity to confrontation and war”[1].

The White Paper on China’s Pacific Development already mentions the alternative of finding “new perspectives from the angle of the community of common destiny, sharing advances and afflictions, seeking mutually beneficial cooperation, exploring new ways of improving exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations, determining new dimensions of humanity’s common interests and values, and seeking new ways of addressing multiple challenges through cooperation among countries and achieving inclusive development.” The White Paper also mentions the alternative of finding “new perspectives from the angle of the community of common destiny, sharing advances and afflictions, seeking mutually beneficial cooperation, exploring new ways of improving exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations, identifying new dimensions of humanity’s common interests and values, and seeking new ways of addressing multiple challenges through cooperation among countries and achieving inclusive development.

The concept was made public in Secretary General Hu Jintao’s report to the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2012. In his speech, the outgoing Chinese president called for building a “harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.

At the same congress, Xi Jinping took over, who from then on placed the idea of a shared destiny of humanity at the centre of his country’s foreign policy, promoting the idea in multiple forums and visits.

The message found a seat at the United Nations for the first time in 2017, in a resolution of the 55th Commission for Social Development and was subsequently adopted in resolutions of the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and the First Committee for Disarmament and International Security of the 72nd General Assembly.

The conception was elevated by China to constitutional status in the October 2017 amendment, adopted by the XIII National People’s Congress in March. In that reform, Xi Jinping’s thought on “Chinese socialism for a new era” was added in the preamble at the same level as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Further on, the renewed Article 35 of the Constitution reads: “The future of China is intimately linked to the future of the world. China pursues an independent foreign policy and adheres to the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, no mutual aggression, no interference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence, the path of development and strategy of reciprocal opening in the development of diplomatic and economic relations and cultural exchanges with other countries, promoting the construction of a community of shared destiny for humanity.

The most recent document (July 2019) China’s National Defense in the New Era[2], is practically presided over by that idea. However, this idea of peace and good intentions is relativized by the enormous armament impulse. Between 2010 and 2017, the country has doubled its military spending, continues to adhere unhindered to the doctrine of “nuclear deterrence” and is firmly committed to making maximum use of new technologies for its armaments industry.

As justifications for this inconsistency, the analysis points to the U.S. intention of military technological hegemony alongside the efforts of other nations to advance in this field. In the same way, it argues that the needs of defense, of preventing separatism and terrorism, the growing participation in peace missions, among others, make such policies irreplaceable.

It is evident that China is well aware that its advance as an economic and geopolitical power makes it an enemy and direct target of the aggressive war power of the United States and its allies, who see in the Dragon a certain threat to the status of the illegitimate world hegemony of the West. A hegemony that, after more than five centuries, seems to be coming to an end.

Visionary or pragmatic concept?

Doubt, in a world full of power intentions, is obvious. Is the proposal of a community of a shared human destiny an empty discourse, a way to gain time to complete the ascent to the first step of the superpower? Is it the way to hide an elephant behind a screen, the way to prevent China from being attacked before becoming a decisive pole? Or on the contrary, it is a sincere proposition, which for its effective realization does not neglect the existing relations of force.

According to Dr. Denghua Zhang, a researcher in the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University, “initially proposed by China to repair ties with neighbouring states in the context of escalating territorial disputes, the concept is part of China’s long-term strategy to maintain a peaceful period of “strategic opportunity” in the first two or three decades of the 21st century to continue its own development.

In his study, the scholar indicates that the need for full development to prevent the invasion of great powers is “a hard lesson learned by Chinese elites through the “century of humiliation” – in reference to the period after the Opium Wars, towards the middle of the 19th century and until the proclamation of the People’s Republic in 1949.

For Hong Liu and Yuxuan Zhang, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the world has entered a new era in which it shares risks and benefits. “[4]

“An issue specific to a country or region may attract global attention and become a global concern. A country can hardly gain on its own an absolute sense of security or long-term benefits in a turbulent world. Hence the need for a new kind of human community.

In relation to significance, scholars point out that “the shared future is a development trend that combines universal manifestations with particular interests” and “advocates the liberation of national states from traditional international relations to renew the world order towards common development in the spirit of achieving a common foundation with respect for differences.

As is customary in China, innovative proposals go hand in hand with references to the roots they have in China’s broad culture. Indeed, beyond any historical turning point, social harmony has been a constituent element of that culture.

Moreover, pragmatism is also a characteristic element of Chinese thinking and doing. Although from a certain orthodox or critical perspective in the West, it may appear as a “betrayal” of principles, the Confucian side of Chinese philosophy, predominant in affairs of state for most of its history, has been concerned not so much with metaphysics but with a morality of concretion of virtue in public life.

The well-known phrase of Deng Xiaoping, conductor of the opening era since 1978, perfectly synthesizes this view: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, the important thing is that it catches mice”. A look that, with its defects and shortcomings, has certainly served to meet the Chinese objective of socioeconomic development experienced in its last four decades.

Solving the riddle of how far the motto of “a community of shared future” is an interested advertising move or an honest vision of a new world-system is not easy. From now on, for the Chinese imaginary, little affection to the absolutes of dialectical binarism, the answer may be: both.

Humanist Moments in History

In all cultures there have been times when the humanist attitude permeates the social environment. Moments in which discrimination, wars and, in general, violence are repudiated. The freedom of ideas and beliefs takes on a strong impulse, which in turn encourages research and creativity in science, art and other social expressions. These are times in which tolerance prevails, human universality is affirmed, social awareness is extended and changes are sought at the root accordingly. These are revolutionary moments.

A humanist attitude gains strength in these periods, an attitude that “outside of any theoretical approach, can be understood as a “sensibility”, as a place before the human world in which intention and freedom are recognized in others, and in which commitments are made to nonviolent struggle against discrimination and violence. [5]

While it is possible to trace these moments in the history of each culture with their respective nuances, the current scenario of interconnection of peoples and cultures invites us to think of a globalized phenomenon, a perspective in which a humanist moment could take on global characteristics. This type of aspiration is what the thinker Mario Luis Rodríguez Cobos – better known by his pseudonym Silo – has called “Universal Human Nation”.

In the book Letters to My Friends, Silo says: “Moving from the field of necessity to the field of freedom through revolution is the imperative of this era in which the human being has been hindered. Future revolutions, if they are to go beyond military barracks, palace coups, class, ethnic or religious claims, will have to assume an inclusive transforming character on the basis of human essentiality. Hence, beyond the changes they produce in the concrete situations of the countries, their character will be universalist and their objective will be planetary”.

How far from the Universal Human Nation?

The general situation of the world shows us a panorama far removed from the one described above. Far from seeking convergence, solidarity or at least reciprocal understanding, nationalisms, fanaticism and secessionism achieve the adhesion of important human groups. Such adhesion is dictated by popular suffocation. Vast segments find themselves unprotected before a technological revolution that destabilizes and threatens to exclude and again leave behind the majorities already segregated today. Inequality and the elimination of alternatives to overcome it produce a desperate rebellion artfully manipulated by the elites within the framework of the terminal crisis of a system governed by capital. This is how retrograde leaderships appear that capture discomfort through stereotypes and hatred of what’s different. Leaders who embody regression, division, disintegration, violence.

Faced with this corrosive scenario, the Chinese proposal for a “Community of Common Destiny for Humanity” appears as a geopolitical balsam, as a demonstration that human intelligence is always capable of finding a way out of crossroads.

This proposal of inclusion and multilateralism constitutes a dialectical element in the face of economic wars, sanctions, blockades, unipolar interests and the affirmation of superiority based on a supposed and indemonstrable “manifest destiny”, topics that animate today’s geopolitical practice of the current government of the United States.

The total failure of the dictatorship of financial capitalism and its main ideological support, individualism, will increasingly lead to a rethinking of the need for new horizons for human existence.

The idea of a complementarity of peoples from their best virtues and experiences with a view to the common welfare of all humanity, can be a path that leads, as a moment of synthesis, to a massive adhesion to the image of a Universal Human Nation.

The fact that the world is moving in this new direction will not be the exclusive responsibility of governments, nor of China, much less of the current leaders of a decadent West. Populations and people will have to do something about the reality in which we aspire to live and with ourselves.

(*) Javier Tolcachier is a researcher at the Center for Humanist Studies in Córdoba, Argentina and a communicator at the international news agency Pressenza.

References:

[1] China’s Peaceful Development, Information Office of the State Council, The People’s Republic of China, September 2011, Beijing. From 08/09/2019  http://www.gov.cn/english/official/2011-09/06/content_1941354.htm

[2] China’s National Defense in the New Era, Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, July 2019. From 08/09/2019 http://eng.mod.gov.cn/news/2019-07/24/content_4846443.htm

[3] Denghua Zhang. The Concept of ‘Community of Common Destiny’ in China’s Diplomacy: Meaning, Motives and Implications. Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd and Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University, From 1/9/2019  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/app5.231

[4] Hong L., Yuxuan Z. Building a community of shared future for humankind — an ethnological perspective. International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology, volume 2, Article number: 7 (2018)

[5] Silo, Dictionary of New Humanism, Magenta Ediciones (1996) Buenos Aires.

 

Translation Pressenza London

Categories: Humanism and Spirituality, International, International issues, Peace and Disarmament, Politics
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