Push forward the Reform of the Global Governance System

By Mei Zhaorong

Global governance concerns the international order. The world is in the middle of changes. With the profound shift of international balance of power, the world is entering an important period of restructuring and reordering. As China sees it, the world is experiencing changes unseen in a century. In this context, it is imperative for countries to build a more equitable and reasonable international political and economic order and, in particular, to strengthen global economic governance and reform the global governance system. As countries have different values, historical experiences and interests, they have their own visions and blueprints for the global order.

Let’s look at history. Since 1648 when the Westphalia System was established, the West has been dominating the order of the modern world. The framework of the existing international order was established by Western countries after the end of the Second World War, mainly led by the US. But over the past 70 plus years since then, a large number of former colonies and semi-colonies have become politically independent sovereign states. As economic globalization continues, a group of developing countries and emerging market countries have been on a collective rise, growing to be a major force in the global economy. Under such circumstances, the international order as a superstructure must be reformed to facilitate the harmonious development of international relations and human progress. The existing international order has three increasingly prominent deficiencies.

First, under-representation. The existing international system and order mainly reflect the interests and aspirations of developed countries in the West. The wider developing world and emerging market countries are under-represented in global affairs and international organizations. Their interests and aspirations cannot be effectively safeguarded. With three quarters of the world population,if these countries’ voices go unheeded and their rights and interests cannot be upheld for too long, such a system and international order won’t be sustainable.

Second, the existing international order is not adequately equitable and reasonable. One important reason for the anti-globalization surge is that the Western-dominated economic globalization, while having promoted the free allocation of resources and boosted social productivity, has led to wealth gaps, unbalanced development, and social polarization. The anti-globalization and protectionism that have emerged under such circumstances won’t help to solve problems. The real way out lies in the reform of the global governance system and the establishment of a new order to make globalization open, inclusive, beneficial to all, and shared by all.

Third, the existing order is ineffective. In today’s world, global challenges are increasing, including financial crisis, climate change, pandemics, terrorism, and cybersecurity. In the face of these transnational issues, no country can stay unaffected and solve these issues alone. There must be international cooperation to meet these challenges.

In short, without reform, the existing order will fall short of effectively solving emerging challenges. To build a new international order is both a prevailing trend and an inevitable result of the shifting international balance of power.

To reform the international system and build a new international political and economic order that is equitable and reasonable is not only necessary, but also possible. Good progress has been made towards this end in the past few years. A case in point is the Paris Agreement on climate change. Although President Trump has announced the US withdrawal from the agreement, most of the countries insist on its implementation. In 2016, the United Nations approved the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, setting 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which embody the important principles of justice, inclusion, equality and sustainability. It is another important achievement after the MDGs towards a new order in the development area. Also in 2016, the executive board of the International Monetary Fund officially approved the 2010 quota and governance reform plan. This shows that the international community is fully aware of the necessity of reforming international organizations and the international economic governance system.

China calls for the reform of the global economic governance system and the establishment of a new international order. But this does not mean reinventing the wheel but reforming and improving the existing system. A new order won’t be established overnight. As the process is essentially about adjusting interests, it won’t be free from resistance. It requires determination, confidence, patience and perseverance to press ahead.

To build a new international order, there seem to be three priorities.  

First, a shift must be made from old concepts to new ideas. The cold war mentality, zero-sum game and law of the jungle must be replaced by new ideas, such as win-win cooperation, working in concert, consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, and building a community of shared future for mankind.

Second, old mechanisms must be reformed and new ones must be made. In many aspects, existing international organizations, institutions, mechanisms and platforms can no longer adapt to the changes in social productivity and the international situation, and must therefore be reformed. It is thus important to promote greater democracy in international relations, increase the representation and say of developing countries and emerging market countries in international organizations, and establish new organizations and institutions to adapt to the changing times. The newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a successful example, as it is not to replace the World Bank and Asia Development Bank, but to act as a complement.

Third, old rules must be updated and new ones must be made. Since rules-making reflects will and interests,competition and wrangling are inevitable. Complicated and demanding as it is, it is of great significance.

In the face of profound changes in the international situation, especially the growing uncertainty and instability in international order and international situation, the 19th CPC National Congress put forward new thinking, ideas and measures for China’s diplomacy. It is made clear that China’s diplomacy must serve domestic economic development and at the same time make more active contribution to the world. On major issues concerning peace and development, China must speak out and put forth its solutions. The 19th congress also set two overarching goals for China’s diplomacy: working toward a new model of international relations and a community of shared future for mankind. A new model of international relations means that a new path must be blazed. And at the core of it is mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation. Mutual respect means that one should not interfere in other’s internal affairs or impose its will on others. Fairness and justice calls for the abandonment of the law of the jungle. Win-win cooperation means that the zero-sum mentality must be ditched. The vision for a community of shared future for mankind is built on the following understanding. There is only one earth. People on this planet come from different cultures, races, religions and social systems. They have the awareness of helping and depending on each other like passengers in the same boat. A community of shared future for mankind is all about building an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world of lasting peace, common security and shared prosperity. This is also an extension of the five-in-one principle for China’s domestic development. It provides a Chinese solution to global challenges. The two goals are a testament to China’s commitment to pursuing peaceful development and win-win cooperation on the basis of the five principles of peaceful co-existence and never to seeking hegemony. Grounded in these ideals, China adopts the policy of building partnerships, not alliances. These new ideas are also the context in which China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. This platform for international economic cooperation focuses on building infrastructure and aligning the development strategies of countries along the routes to spur growth and achieve shared prosperity.Therefore, China has since the very beginning undertook to follow the principle of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits. It also made clear that the BRI is a public good and a Chinese initiative that will create opportunities and deliver benefits for the world.

Mei Zhaorong is former Chinese ambassador to Germany and former president of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs.