Global Governance in the Era of Globalization

By Jiang Zhenxi

Global governance has become a hot topic in the international community and captured wide attention. Against the backdrop of globalization, it is of great significance to explore the impact of global governance on the international landscape, strengthen governance reform of international economic and security institutions and enhance the status and voice of developing countries in international affairs.  

I. Basic Idea of Global Governance

The concept of global governance was put forward in the context of globalization. In 1992, Willy Brandt, former President of Socialist International and Chairman of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues, called for the establishment of the Commission on Global Governance, which issued a special report entitled Our Global Neighborhood in 1995 when the United Nations celebrated its 50th anniversary. The report called on the international community to carry out extensive cooperation and jointly tackle public issues that emerge around the world.
As global governance is a theoretical concept, different schools of thoughts worldwide have different understandings, which have kept changing as well. Detailed illustration has been made on global governance in Our Global Neighborhood, and many scholars have put forward different thinkings on it. The author of this article believes that global governance refers to actions of governance adopted by sovereign states, international organizations and non-governmental institutions to address global issues and such actions include negotiations and consultations, formulation of international treaties, establishment of laws and regulations and implementation of compulsory measures. Global governance covers multiple areas such as international security, economic development and the environment and ecology. The core of global governance should be the universal participation and shared benefits by all parties concerned in the international community and better use of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations so as to achieve win-win outcomes and common development. 

Global governance is a wide-ranging global agenda aimed at addressing global issues in political, economic, security and other fields. First, it refers to global security governance, including settlement of armed conflicts between/among nations or at regional level, cessation of civil wars and turmoil in certain countries, prevention of global proliferation of nuclear weapons and control of international trade and illegal flow of conventional weapons. Second, it refers to promotion of economic globalization, including protection of global trade, circulation of financial markets and handling economic crisis. Third, it covers protection of the environment and ecology, including reasonable use and development of resources, preservation of biodiversity and tackling climate change. Fourth, it includes countering international terrorist activities and transnational crimes such as smuggling and drug trafficking. Fifth, it covers protection of basic human rights, provision of humanitarian assistance and prevention of epidemics. 

There are three tiers of players in global governance. The first tier is the governments and administrative authorities of sovereign states. This is the basic tier in global governance and the most important player globally. Government institutions are in possession of power and resources for national governance and shoulder the responsibility and obligation of global governance. The second tier is inter-governmental organizations, including international organizations and special organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund, etc. It also includes regional organizations composed of countries in certain regions such as the European Union, African Union and APEC. These international and regional organizations, by putting various countries into inter-connected networks, have played their unique role and exerted distinctive influence in different fields. The third tier is non-governmental institutions composed of non-state actors, including private business institutions, non-governmental organizations and social organizations. According to the statistics of the Union of International Organization, there are over 67,000 international organizations in more than 300 countries and regions. Most of them are non-governmental ones, including academic institutions, research institutes, special associations and transnational business organizations. The most well-known ones include the International Committee of the Red Cross and Green Peace. Some of these organizations hold global forums to pool elites around the world, produce research results and provide ideas and solutions to governments. Some work with the general public to organize large events and become important forces for humanitarian assistance and environmental protection. Some events are co-organized by non-governmental organizations and governments such as the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland, which invites both top economists around the world and government officials to share views and provide prescriptions to the world economic development. 

The goal of global governance is to put in place a sound international regime, formulate effective international rules and achieve fair and effective governance. Global governance puts special emphasis on participation, negotiation and coordination instead of resorting to forces and maintains that international treaties and rules such as the UN Charter should be observed to settle international disputes and regulate behaviors of parties concerned. Many scholars of international politics believe that the world is actually in a state of “Anarchy”, namely, there is no supra-government that stands above governments of individual countries. Therefore, advocates of global governance underline that the goal of global governance is not to create a “world government”. Instead, it pursues the establishment of a more democratic, transparent and effective international regime and greater international cooperation so that various forces can be mobilized to exercise plural and multi-tiered governance of global affairs. 

As globalization is evolving, global governance has made visible progress and played an important role: first, it is conducive to the development of globalization. Globalization has closely connected various regions and countries in the world and has been the context in which global governance is growing. Both developed and developing countries have shown greater interest in the agenda and goal of global governance. Second, it is conducive to jointly coping with global issues. Global governance has promoted the processes of restructuring world economic order, advancing the UN reform, tackling climate change and protecting the environment. Currently, the scope of global governance keeps expanding to new areas such as the cyberspace, polar areas, the aerospace and the sea. These global issues cannot possibly be solved by any single country, no matter how strong it might be and can only be jointly tackled through strengthened international cooperation. Third, it is conducive to enhancing international cooperation. The key to global governance is to step up international coordination and cooperation. Sovereign states are of fundamental and crucial significance to solve global issues. Their participation in international organizations and efforts to strengthen regional cooperation have put in place a multi-tiered and wide-ranging international network and provided extensive platforms and channels for global governance. Fourth, it is conducive to establishing a new international order. Global governance follows universally recognized international laws and regulations, norms governing international relations and international practice to properly handle global issues, while reflecting fairness and efficiency and safeguarding rights of countries and the international order. In a nutshell, global governance maintains that through multilateral governance mechanisms represented by the United Nations, members of the international community should be mobilized to participate on a broad basis to realize win-win outcomes through equal-footed consultation. 
II. Some Thinkings on Global Governance

Global governance, as an internationally recognized concept, is feasible for the following reasons: first, global governance serves the fundamental interests of all countries so they can benefit from it. Second, after years of efforts, the existing international system is still running in a reliable way. For instance, the Bretton Woods system composed of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund has kept improving, the World Trade Organization has made remarkable achievements and the World Health Organization has made indelible contribution to epidemics prevention. Third, international treaties have played an important role in global governance. The UN Charter has set rules for international relations and safeguarded world peace and security. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea have played a major role in upholding the international order and will continue to do so in future. 

Global governance, however, is not aimed at establishing a “world government”. Though some scholars are in favor of establishing such a government for global governance, the mainstream thought does not recognize it, neither is it realistic. Many scholars emphasize that global governance is not to establish a world government or world federation. Despite its crucial role in global governance, the United Nations is not a world government. And it is unlikely for the international community to establish a supra-government above the governments of individual countries. Only when it works to strengthen cooperation and coordination between sovereign states and relevant organizations, can the United Nations fulfill its mission.

Though global governance is the consensus of the international community, the development of globalization has not changed the basic realities of international politics and there are some constraints in global governance: first, the concept of globalization is rather general and abstract without a clear definition. And there are misleading interpretations which can hardly guide specific actions. Second, without a “world government”, the idea of global governance lacks the execution power. The current global governance regime has no adequate power and resources, and thus it is underperformed in international governance and coordination of actions as its execution power is limited. Therefore, global governance can only rely on effective international cooperation. Third, as sovereign states have different interests and values, it is often difficult to reach consensus on global governance. The fact that sovereign states place their national interests above anything else is an obstacle to global governance and puts it in a serious dilemma of collective action. In the current international relations, it is hard for certain countries to reach agreement and understanding as they lack mutual trust. In particular, the hegemonist international strategy pursued by the United States has directly undermined global governance in its fairness and efficiency. Fourth, non-state actors have participated in global governance on a large scale and as a result, it has added difficulties to reaching consensus on some major global issues and to the conclusion and enforcement of resolutions as different parties pursue different interests. Therefore, it is a long way to go before turning global governance from a slogan into a reality.

Under the current circumstances, global governance should be based on realities to advance the reform of the global governance regime: first, priority of global governance should be clearly set and governance on major international issues such as global security, international economic cooperation and control of communicable diseases should be strengthened. Second, cooperation and coordination among sovereign states, major countries in particular, should be enhanced. Sovereign states are the foundation of modern international relations, and without their participation and cooperation, global governance would only be an empty talk. In international relations, the basic principle of peaceful coexistence must be followed and the legitimate rights and interests as well as major concerns of sovereign states should be upheld in real earnest. In the process, it is crucial to establish a new model of state-to-state relations featuring mutual respect and win-win cooperation. Third, the role of coordination of international organizations should be boosted. International organizations are the bond of international relations. They not only uphold the international order and make decisions in international affairs, but also set international rules. Global governance is first and foremost integrated governance that the international system carries out together with sovereign states. Fourth, non-governmental organizations should be more involved in international affairs. Such organizations and the general public should widely participate in global governance to reflect the aspirations of the people. In future, the positive role of non-governmental organizations should be better displayed. 

Global governance is the consensus of the international community and enjoys a broad prospect. Despite the emergence of de-globalization, slow growth of world trade, rising trade protectionism and even doubts of some people on globalization, it does not mean that globalization will backtrack. Globalization is an objective rule based on the development of productive forces and cannot be changed by the will of mankind. Therefore, the international community should make unremitting efforts to bolster global governance and jointly push for the sound development of globalization. 

III. China’s Role in and Contribution to Global Governance

Recent years have seen rapid economic development of China, which has become the second largest economy and the largest manufacturing and trading nation in the world. In 2016, China’s GDP reached RMB 74.41 trillion. As its aggregate national strength grows fast, China has been increasingly involved in international affairs. 

China has now been deeply integrated into the international system and become an important member of major international organizations. It has taken an active part in global governance and endeavored to change from an onlooker to a participant and a leading player in international affairs. 

China has put forward the concept of common security. In 2014, President Xi Jinping proposed the concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and emphasized that efforts should be made to promote multilateral diplomacy and advance the reform of the international system and global governance.

Over the years, China has been committed to building a world of lasting peace and universal security. China stands for establishing partnerships of dialogue and cooperation with mutual respect rather than confrontation and alliance to seek win-win outcomes. And it is in favor of improving global economic governance and strengthening cooperation in financial oversight, international taxation and anti-corruption to improve the capacity of the world economy in warding off risks.  

China has participated in the UN peacekeeping operations. China firmly safeguards the international system with the United Nations at the core, the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter as well as the authority, status and the core role of the United Nations in international affairs. China has for years shouldered the common responsibility as a member of the international community and provided various support to and cooperated with the United Nations and other international organizations. The share of peacekeeping contribution that China bears ranks the second among all the UN member states, making up for 10.2% of the total. Since 1990 when China for the first time sent its military personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations, it has in total dispatched 30,000 peacekeepers and 21 Chinese peacekeeping soldiers and policemen lost their lives during the operations. Currently, over 2,000 Chinese peacekeepers are stationed in conflict areas. China has been playing an increasingly important role in and made greater contribution to the UN peacekeeping operations. 

China’s Navy participated in escorting missions in the Gulf of Aden. On 26 December 2008, the Chinese government sent its naval fleet to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters for escorting missions to protect China’s vessels and personnel traveling in the area as well as the ships transporting humanitarian supplies from the World Food Program and other international organizations. The Chinese fleet also worked hard to help ensure security of foreign vessels traveling through these waters. By far, 25 batches of fleets have been sent to the area. These fleets also held joint military exercises with naval forces of relevant countries, paid port visits and participated in counter-piracy trainings. 

China hosted the G20 Hangzhou Summit. The G20 Blueprint on Innovative Growth was adopted at the Hangzhou Summit in 2016, which demonstrated the determination of G20 countries to find the fundamental path to sustained and sound growth of world economy and fully enhance the medium- and long-term growth potential of the global economy. The G20 Strategy for Global Trade Growth was formulated as well, which offered continued support to the multilateral trading system, reiterated the commitment to opposing protectionism and set forth the action plan for implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will deliver tangible benefits to the people of developing countries. The G20 should keep improving the international monetary and financial system, the governance structure of international financial institutions and the global network of financial security.

China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2013, China put forward the Belt and Road Initiative, which is a China plan of great vision designed to advance common development of China and the world. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, China stands for the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Extensive consultation focuses on strengthening the complementarity of development strategies of countries concerned to seek common development. Joint contribution is aimed at linking closely the interests, future and responsibility of countries along the route to jointly promote the Belt and Road Initiative. Shared benefits mean that win-win outcomes should be achieved to the benefit of the countries and people along the route. 

Recent years have seen impressive achievements of economic cooperation and trade between China and over 60 countries along the Belt and Road. In 2016, the import and export between China and the countries along the route reached RMB 6.3 trillion. China’s newly signed engineering contracts in these countries totaled US$126 billion and its direct investment amounted to US$14.5 billion. Chinese companies have built 56 zones of economic cooperation and trade in over 20 countries along the route, covering multiple areas. In May 2017, China hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. Heads of state and government from 28 countries were invited to the forum in an effort to jointly promote the sound development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

China is committed to safeguarding world peace and advancing common development. In international relations, China has followed the principle of equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and cooperation for win-win outcomes to uphold international fairness and justice. The realities have proved that China is a participant, facilitator and contributor in the international order.  

Jiang Zhenxi is Member of the Executive Board of the U.N. Association of China.