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The Promise of the Global Security Initiative

May 10, 2022
  • Dong Chunling

    Deputy Director, Office of the Center for the Study of a Holistic View of National Security, CICIR

At the 2022 Boao Forum for Asia annual conference, President Xi Jinping laid out the Global Security Initiative in his keynote speech, systematically outlining China’s global security concept and international security governance in the new era.

It not only provides a united response to the increasingly complex and severe common challenges confronting our world but, more important, represents a Chinese solution to jointly address increasingly complex and serious common global challenges. It also provides inspiration and proposes a course on which China and the United States can promote cooperation in global security governance.

It is reflected mainly on the following three fronts:

First, it is imperative to understand China’s overall national security and global security concepts, which underpin its foreign strategy and enhance the strategic mutual trust between China and the United States. The overall national security concept is the core guiding ideology of China’s national security strategy in the new era. One of its important theoretical features lies in the word “overall,” which is both determined by the reality that national security involves more fields and aspects than ever before. It’s meaning is also dictated by the principle and basic attributes of the indivisibility of binary compositions of security — internal and external, traditional and non-traditional, individual and collective — which have long been organically linked and cannot be separated. We must approach the issues in a systematic and organic manner and examine them from a development perspective using dialectical thinking.

The vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable global security crystalizes the features of the overall national security concept. China’s foreign policy strategy is not only guided by the five basic principles of peaceful coexistence but also follows the basic rationale of the overall national security concept. China does not seek to engage in a “you win or I win” competition with other countries, but focuses on people’s sense of happiness, sense of gain and sense of security.

China has done away with the zero-sum thinking — what one party side gains is what the other party loses. Instead, it seeks common ground while reserving differences, and seeks mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, hoping to achieve its own development in the process of common development and to better safeguard its own security in the course of pursuing common security.

If China and the United States can view bilateral relations from the height of common development and common security for all mankind, and handle it to serve their own security development and people’s well-being, there will emerge more strategic consensus and common responsibility, and the two major countries will be able to deliver win-win cooperation. The Pacific Ocean will prove to be vast enough. 

Second, increasingly severe and multifaceted global security challenges present more opportunities for China and the United States to collaborate on global security governance, which holds the potential to expand the basis for strategic cooperation between the two countries in the new era. The fallout of the pandemic has taught us an important lesson: A small virus can cause massive damage to human economic development and social life — as much as a world war. In the face of global security threats, no country can remain immune, nor can any country handle it effectively on its own.

In the absence of strong cooperation between major countries, the “tragedy of the commons” triggered by these global security issues will only grow more serious over time. Eventually all countries will suffer from the global insecurity. It is necessary to go beyond the traditional way of thinking and work together from the height of a community with a shared future to facilitate a solution.

The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has added to the disaster and widened the rift caused by the pandemic. It has cast the shadow of a new cold war and even nuclear war over the world. The issue of strategic stability between major powers has never been more prominent; the spirit and principles of the UN Charter have been blatantly violated. The postwar global contour and international order, as well as the theme of peaceful development, may risk of collapse. If we continue to focus on so-called great power competition and ignore imminent security threats, the entire international system will face unprecedented systemic risks.

In the aftermath of 9/11, China and the United States have had productive counterterrorism cooperation, which not only provided an important boost to the global fight against terror but also a new strategic underpinning that advanced bilateral relations between the two countries. That is a historical experience that is both a source of ideas for global security initiatives and a source of reference and food for thought for China and the United States at present.

Third, the Global Security Initiative also provides a concrete path for cooperation between China and the United States.

On one hand, both countries should endeavor to avoid adding to the strain in the bilateral relationship, thereby aggravating the division and insecurity of the world today.

Both countries should transcend ideological differences, respect each other’s development paths and social systems and forestall any old problems from becoming the source of new conflicts. Both sides should build on their obligations as great powers, focus on global security and development, refrain from defining the world along ideological lines and suppress the impulse to provoke bloc confrontation, which will only divide the world into camps akin to what defined the Cold War.

Both countries should pay more attention to and control the risk of miscalculation arising from the Taiwan issue, so that it will not be used by the Taiwan independence faction to breach the red lines of China-U.S. relations, which would lead to a new great power conflict and push humanity to the abyss of a world war.

On the other hand, China and the United States should focus more on internal security — that is, solving their own domestic development and security problems — and actively explore cooperation in the field of global security governance with a view to maintaining common security and integrating traditional and non-traditional security.

As senior American expert Kenneth Liberthal said about China, the Biden administration should distinguish itself from its predecessor, who tended to play up external threats to deflect attention from domestic problems. Rather that focusing on China, Biden needs to focus more on domestic governance to solve the growing problem of political polarization and social division at home. The two countries should strengthen dialogue and consultation; leverage established bilateral channels of communication; jointly seek ways to govern on hot spot issues that have a bearing on global and regional security; jointly explore rules of governance in new areas, such as nuclear security, AI security, data security and financial security; and jointly contribute their wisdom and strength in vital areas such as counterterrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.

They need to drive the cooperation in traditional security fields with non-traditional security governance and seek common security for both countries and the world through co-evolution and common development. 

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