The recent visit of PM Imran Khan to China on the occasion of opening of winter Olympics in Beijing shall hopefully highlight on appraising Pak-China relations, exchanging views on mutual perspectives on regional and global developments, especially the Afghan situation, and further fortifying the CPEC collaboration.

With one-sixth of the world population and the second biggest global economy it brings into focus the evolution and views on China’s theory of international relations (IR). It is hence natural that the version of the theory and practice — a departure from the Cold War be seriously considered.

In fact, this process of change was initiated in the late 1970s-early 1980 by then enlightened leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Starting with the inauguration of “Four Modernizations” programme this started a new credo of development. In this transition period, China witnessed a broadening of perspectives and maturing of concepts in international relations and dealings with the outside world.

The trend started firstly in the academic world, when a number of Western theories were studied and translated by Chinese scholars in the US and Europe. Then it was realized that a fresh approach was warranted in formulation of a scientific theory on the new realities in business, diplomacy and aid — going beyond national, linguistic or cultural boundaries.

Yet some others advocated that as a Third World developing Asian nation China should reflect on its cultural identity which bears marked Chinese ethos and stamp without needless confrontation or conflict.

A third view however posited that it should be an amalgam of both applicable Western thoughts and experiences but with a distinctly Chinese flavor based on own heritage and experiences and ongoing failings of the US-dominated world.

Since the mid-1990s and early 2000, renewed self-consciousness amongst Chinese scholars has increased while cogitating and crafting a revised view of international relations theory. Besides, Confucian thoughts on governance, harmony and culture were given importance to be imbibed in IR theory.

The Confucian ethics of “all-under-the-heaven system” is an inclusive system that eliminates ‘self-other’ boundary. Institutions designed and established in such a system are global in a real sense. They constitute the prerequisite for establishing a globally peaceful, conflict-free inter-dependent system while solving global challenges. In other words, the world order must be based upon genuine world institutions as embodied in the Confucian world view.

Most of the Western-oriented theories of IR are based on neo-realism, and neo-liberalism — relying on the dogma of hard-core national interests, conflict, rivalries and military alliances. Also, Western developmental approach betrays high superciliousness together with cultural hauteur and believes that its model is superior to all existing ideologies. It advocates cultural homogenization that will follow globalization and liberalization from dietary habits to political aspirations in the quest for freedom and democracy.

The above thesis propounded was of the view that changes in institutions should be an extension of historical traditions, as the base of cultural root is wisdom, which does not mean possessing only material knowledge. Military might is necessary but so is ‘soft power’ as exhibited by Beijing world view and calculus.

This vision of harmony, respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs of other nations, peaceful development and win-win philosophy of inclusive development —are the hallmarks of this refurbished thinking. It makes a case for “moral realism” while shaping the tone and texture of China’s international relations theory.

The ongoing BRI and its western arm, CPEC, are reflective of this paradigm shift and greatly admired across the developing world.

(The writer has been Visiting Faculty inthe Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, former Adviser COMSATS, and ex-President, Islamabad Policy Research Institute)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Dr Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

The writer is former Adviser, Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, Islamabad, former President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, and ex-Head Department of International Relations, NUML University, Islamabad

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