Discussing “China’s Voice” (钟声)

The latest commentary on international relations published by “People’s Daily” (4th April 2019) and titled “China’s Voice” (homophone Zhong means Zhongguo – China, sheng means voice) discusses the issue of cooperation between nations. While preparing for the Asian Civilization conference in Beijing (May 2019), the Chinese authorities decided to renew the narrative of China’s peaceful intentions and cultural heritage. The commentary started with a reference to Chairman Xi Jinping’s most recent visit to France where both sides discussed the cultural heritage of Europe and China. But, as stated by “China’s Voice”, international issues such as global warming, terrorism, and economic globalisation should be taken by “not only one country, or one system” but by “all under heaven”. According to the Chinese view: “Those who adhere to the clash of civilisations, the old  singers of cultural superiority, and artificially build up barriers, not only damage themselves but also negatively affect the peace and development of the world”.

This perspective indicates that the one possible direction for the future is to exchange and transcend civilisations, emphasising mutual knowledge, coexisting cultures and surpassing the superiority of civilisation. Although China positions itself as having better solutions due to its traditional principles based on inclusiveness, peaceful culture, and a long tradition of  non-intervention, the Chinese government has given up the promotion of China’s model. It. Is worth mentioning that the Chinese government has used peaceful discourse since America declared “war on terror” in 2001. The „peaceful rise” concept, peace and development, and the harmonious world discourse were all about creating positive feelings towards China.

From the discussed perspective presented by “China’s Voice” the Chinese authorities emphasise the revival of dialogue among nations a pervasive and inclusive theory that should be understood as a symbol of dialogue and mutual understanding. This narrative is in opposition to the current discourse regarding “China as the victor” which should be understood as the vehicle for growing scepticism towards the country. 

In short, Beijing faces the challenge of how to convince the international audience in the developed World. In the context of Sino-American controversies, China tries to navigate the global narrative of its behaviour on the world stage. The revival of “dialogue among civilisations”, “peace and development” or “peaceful traditional values” should be perceived as the vehicle for bringing China’s more peaceful image to the global audience. However, this process might not be possible in the short term. Growing global scepticism led by the United States, and the limited “persuasive power” of Beijing, could play a key role in diminishing China’s efforts.  Moreover, the latest initiative that was taken by France and Germany called “Alliance for Multilateralism”, a network of countries ready to support multilateralism and cooperation, including joint efforts on inequality, climate change and the consequences of new technology, might also counterbalance China’s rising aspirations.

Either way, as the rising – and probably future number one – power, China needs to present its idealism based on the traditional values of “tianxia” – „all under heaven”, similar to what was done by Woodrow Wilson in American foreign policy.