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China’s 20th National Congress: A re-affirmation of commitment to responsible global governance

By Osidipe Adekunle
25 October 2022   |   8:28 am
Heralded by intense global media reportage, China’s weeklong 20th National Congress concluded its session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing over the weekend. Amidst the intense coverage, positive and some otherwise, a reflection on the Congress showed some salient issues that have kept the country consistently on the path of stable growth…

A general view shows delegates attending the opening of the Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Photo: AFP)

Heralded by intense global media reportage, China’s weeklong 20th National Congress concluded its session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing over the weekend. Amidst the intense coverage, positive and some otherwise, a reflection on the Congress showed some salient issues that have kept the country consistently on the path of stable growth and development for over seven decades going. The country has maintained an unbroken focus and dedication to its founding principles of peaceful development and responsible governance which have remained relevant as it is fine-tuned through self-review and reforms in preparation for and in response to the dynamics of development requirements locally and internationally as the nation and the global community evolves.

The Chinese experience has demonstrated a proven sustainable governance from 1949 when the new China was founded till now. There has been consistent actions of nation building that has led more than half a billion people out of poverty into wealth within four decades. According to the World Bank, over the past 40 years, the number of people in China with incomes below the International Poverty Line ($1.90 per day) has fallen by close to 800 million. China single-handedly contributed close to three-quarters of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty. Apart from this, the citizenry was transformed from a dependency mentality to self-sustaining mentality. Overall, it is not just the system of government that experienced transformation through internally built self-reviewing and self-reforming mechanism, but the people too.

The consistency of government’s focus on putting the people first in all policy formulation and implementation has made the country to rise from 4.45 billion dollars foreign reserves in 1978 when the “reform and opening up policy was launched” to become the number one country in the world with the largest foreign reserves (3.43 trillion dollars), more than the combined foreign reserves of the G7 countries (3.19 trillion dollars) in 2021, the world’s largest high speed rail network (over 40,000kilometers already completed and more than 20,000kilometer under construction), the world manufacturing base with the largest technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system in the world (over 11,000 TVET schools and 30 million students) supporting its high tech manufacturing and global competitiveness stead and according to Forbes, six out of the ten (60%) top ten biggest banks in the world in 2022 are Chinese banks. China has achieved these, including solely building its own space station after being unfairly pushed out of the international space station due to politics and successfully manufacturing a 100% made in China commercial aircraft among other accomplishments.

The same governance posture that has brough the country so far is what the Chinese President, Xi Jinping strongly emphasized in the 20th National Congress that the country will not only stick to but engage in it in a deeper dimension through reforms and innovations to ensure that the vision of the founding fathers is sustained for the second one hundred years of the country. An ambitious plan as it may sound, China has been known to have the ability to do what it has made decision to do.

China’s commitment to ‘peaceful development’ is complemented by a commitment to advance harmony both domestically and internationally from 1949 to date, which on its own is a commitment to responsible global governance. Each administration has consistently adhered to this core value that formed the foundation of the new China from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao and now Xi Jinping. For instance, the principle of the three harmonies pursued under the Hu Jintao’s administration underpins the statecraft of China’s generations of leadership. This includes seeking peace in the world (和平:he-ping), harmony in Asia and reconciliation with Taiwan (和解:he-jie) and harmony within Chinese society (和谐:he-xie).

The pursuit of these three harmonies complemented China’s peaceful development objectives which sought to build a more people-centred and humanistic administration, committed to helping the poor at home and promoting mutual development abroad. Under the current leadership, China has relentlessly toed the same path of peaceful development by vigorously promoting the total eradication of poverty at home and abroad through various initiatives such as the establishment of a “moderately prosperous society” (小康社会:xiao kang she hui) locally and the Belt and Road Initiative (一带一路倡议:yi dai yi lu chan yi), a massive international platform for promoting global development and building a human community with a shared future in countries that subscribed to the initiative.

The moderately prosperous society initiative has successfully reduced poverty to the barest minimum in China giving credence to the country’s advocacy that the number one human right is “freedom from poverty”. Through consistency in policy, from 1978 to 2020, China’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) grew 8.2 percent per year on average, while the poverty rate fell by 2.3 percentage points every year.

Unwavering policy implementation since 1978 prompted rapid economic growth, improved agricultural productivity and expanded nonagricultural sectors, thereby creating more and decent-paying jobs. According to president Xi, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was conceived to “achieve policy, infrastructure, trade, financial, and people-to-people connectivity and thus build a new platform for international co-operation to create new drivers of shared development.”

The investment projects of the BRI have been estimated to have added over USD 1 trillion of outward funding for foreign infrastructure over the 10-year period from 2017. According to studies carried out by the World Bank, 71 economies geographically located along the BRI transport corridors, including China received 35% of global foreign direct investments and accounted for 40% of global merchandise exports in 2017. Due to the interconnectedness of the modern world, in taking steps to eradicate poverty and building a peaceful and prosperous society within its territory and globally, China has shown itself as a leading example in responsible global governance.

Irresponsible global governance on the other hand include, among others, reckless actions of violence  (unilateral and joint) by state actors against other states, seeking and engaging in dividing a sovereign nation as well as adopting non-violent but punitive actions, like sanction, which have the potentials to trigger widespread crisis in the global community. These, among others, over the years have been major causes of unprecedented humanitarian catastrophes in many countries.

Millions have died directly and more indirectly in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and many other places due to unbridled interventions of some countries in the internal affairs of other countries through the channels of military actions instead of the peaceful option of the negotiation table. The consequence of such indiscriminate actions is that it is not the countries being pummeled with violent act or sanctions that suffers the effects, but the global communities as a whole.

However, reflecting on the checkered history of such military actions and sanctions, the pungent truth is that the fundamental issue (s) which necessitated such military actions and sanctions remain largely unresolved. A lesson showing that military operations or sanctions are not always the best options to resolving such issues. This is evident in the ongoing global economic and energy crisis with its attendant humanitarian crisis in the developing world and mostly felt by the vulnerable and poor masses who have no means of escape from the cycle of disadvantages foist on them by the actions of countries that are meant to provide the beacon of hope in responsible and good global governance. Responsible global governance must seek the good of all by taking actions that promote common peace, unity, prosperity and overall human security in every sphere.

The global community today is experiencing heightened uncertainties like never before due to actions and inactions of the promoters of high-sounding ideals of human rights, liberalism, justice, democracy and so on. Often, due to gradually moribund geo-political interests, they often choose to support the path that aligns to their own interests no matter the level of negative impact such positions will have on the collective global community. Global governance has come to the phase where the active players in decisions that will affect the world would have to be those who have crossed the threshold of self and group interests and have embraced a more globalized “collective interests” in their world view as seen in the Chinese approach not only in national governance, but in international relationship. The approach which emphasize collective interest, multilateralism and mutual respect.

Over the years, China, Africa and the developing countries in the global south have prioritized the South-South cooperation underpinned by shared ideological beliefs in anti-imperialism and the sanctity of sovereignty. They have subscribed to be guided by the principles of sincerity, friendship and equality, upholding the principles of pursuing the greater good and shared interests, mutual respect and common development and upholding openness and inclusiveness among others. These ideals set a new agenda in global governance which all countries should subscribe to in order to guarantee a mutually secured and sustainable future.

History has taught us that following the path of peace through strategic negotiation plays significant role in promoting sustainable growth and development. China’s commitment to continued pursuit of peace within and beyond its borders is a clear example of responsible global governance. In almost one hundred years of the new China, the country’s adherence to peaceful coexistence locally and internationally has helped it build a globally acclaimed success economically, socially and technologically, bringing it from the lower rungs of global development to the frontline as it becomes the second largest economy in the world. The concise meaning of sustainable development is that the current generation is able to use well the resources available to it now without jeopardizing the next generation’s access to the same resources or even more than the resources as a result of responsible practices of sustainability. From every indication, the pursuit of actions inimical to national, regional or global peace, unity and prosperity is unsustainable and should not be condoned.

In conclusion, China’s secret of sustainable growth and development is in its commitment to follow the path of peaceful development and pursuit of the common good within and beyond its borders. As China’s new leadership steps into the saddle of service to the people of China and playing its role in promoting international peace and development, it is obvious that good governance in any society is not about the so-called systems of government (democracies, monarchies, and authoritarian and totalitarian regimes) but it is about the people in government. China has enjoyed the privilege of having people in government who are committed to the common interest both home and abroad and has resulted in a prosperous society with confidence in the country: an indispensable ingredient for nation building and lesson for leaders in the global community.