In 2018 Yang Jiechi, then the POLITBURO member responsible for Chinese foreign policy, declared that “Building a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the New Era.” (Yang 2018). This “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” (also commonly translated as “Community With a Shared Future for Mankind”) refers to the central leadership’s vision for the future of the international order. At its core, building a “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” means leveraging globalization and other types of global interdependence to reshape the international order in China’s favor. Party officials and party-affiliated intellectuals have long expressed frustration with the norms and structures of the post-Cold War order, which they believe are neither conducive to their continued rule nor fully compatible with China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. This slogan signals their determination to build something better.
Though the slogan is strongly associated with the NEW ERA of Xi Jiping, most of the tenets of the “Community of Common Destiny” predate him. The substance of the CPC’s critique of the existing order, as well as a tentative vision for what might replace it, were laid out by Hu Jintao in a 2003 address at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he declared that the aim of Chinese foreign policy was a “HARMONIOUS WORLD” (和谐世界). Hu argued that this “HARMONIOUS WORLD” would improve on existing arrangements for global governance in five specific arenas: politics, security, economic development, culture, and the environment. On multiple occasions Xi has reiterated the importance of these five categories, whose scope reflects both the scale of Beijing’s ambitions and the depth of its dissatisfaction with the existing order, to his own “Community of Common Destiny” formulation.
The thrust of the “Common Destiny” critique goes as follows: the existing international order was created by Western powers for Western powers. The legacy organizations at the core of this order speak for the world but are controlled by the West. The “universal values” enshrined in these institutions are imperialistic impositions of Western concepts on other civilizations. This is just as true of the political institutions and development models pioneered by the West and now seen as normative in international society. Some of these ideas and institutions are useful advances suitable for all peoples; others are simply relics that would have long disappeared were they not upheld by the illegitimate American HEGEMONISM.
The Community of Common Destiny will have no hegemons (in Chinese the word hegemon describes a state whose predominance depends on coercive power). After the defensive blocs and security treaties that make American hegemony possible crumble, bilateral trade will become the central organizing principle of the new order. China will be the center hub of this global community. New international institutions will be founded; existing ones will be altered. All will give China a central role in global governance. None of these institutions will honor dangerous concepts like “human rights” or “universal values.” In light of Chinese wealth and power, the human community will view liberal institutions as the parochial tradition of a few Western nations, not as the default model for development. At this point, as one Xinhua backgrounder explains, humanity will finally enjoy an “open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity” (Xinhua 2018).
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