James W. Pfister: China’s global security initiative

James W. Pfister
James W. Pfister

China has come out of its COVID-19 period with international energy, having recently brokered an accord between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and with Chinese President Xi Jinping planning to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Feb. 21, China released a “Concept Paper” regarding its “Global Security Initiative” (herein GSI). It is a security plan for the world based on the Charter of the United Nations. My purpose here is to describe the highlights of this plan and to see how it relates to United States foreign policy.

It begins: “The issue of security bears on the well-being of people of all countries, the lofty cause of world peace and development, and the future of humanity … and the world is once again at a crossroads in history.” Regarding basic principles, it emphasizes “common security, respecting and safeguarding of every country….” One should take the “legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously.” The GSI is also committed to respecting “…the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.” (Of course, they do not consider Taiwan to be a “country”). Each country should be able to choose its own social system and development path. There should not be external interference in the internal affairs of countries; there should be sovereignty and equality, regardless of the power of the country.

The UN Charter should be “…the main platform for global security governance…. The Cold War mentality, unilateralism, bloc confrontation and hegemonism contradict the spirit of the UN Charter and must be resisted and rejected.” (This latter is a criticism of the United States). China has a veto in the Security Council which, I think, the GSI means by the “spirit” of the Charter, whereas the U.S. has used Article 51 individual and collective self-defense for its unilateral actions, escaping the veto.

Regarding disputes, “only dialogue and consultation are effective in resolving differences.” Communication should be strengthened on an “equal footing,” facilitated by good offices and mediation. Probably referring to the United States, the GSI states: “Abusing unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction does not solve a problem, but only creates more difficulties and complications.” Non-traditional security concerns are also addressed: terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.

Regarding priorities, the GSI includes a “bigger UN role in global security affairs” and “coordination and sound interaction among major countries … complying with the UN Charter and international law.” On nuclear war, the GSI states that it firmly upholds “…the consensus that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’” “Hotspot” issues, like Ukraine, should be resolved “through dialogue and negotiation,” addressing both “symptoms and root causes.” In Asia, the GSI points to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), founded by Western-oriented states in 1967, now expanded, as a focus to be utilized for a “…regional security mechanism and architecture.” Regarding the Palestinian question, to advance a two-state solution, an “authoritative” and “influential” international peace conference should be convened.

Commenting on the GSI, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said that the Concept Paper supports a “UN-centered governance structure … and balanced relations between major countries.” He called for “…all countries to practice true multilateralism,” that “external suppression and containment of China (poses) a serious threat to China’s sovereignty and security.”

GSI seems to be consistent with major-country balance of power, UN Security Council multilateral collective security, respect for the permanent-member veto, and not consistent with American unilateralism and intrusion into the internal affairs of countries, say in the human rights or democracy areas. (For example, the United States is constantly complaining about China’s civil rights). The GSI seems to say the UN, with the veto, not the United States, should be the world’s policeman. Negotiation and dialogue should be the basis of resolving disputes. There is no attempt in the GSI to push China’s socioeconomic system on others.

The GSI concludes: “China stands ready to work with all countries and peoples to … jointly create a better future for mankind, so that the torch of peace will be passed on from generation to generation and shine across the world.”

American unipolar thinking is inconsistent with GSI and will be a source of friction. It is useful to put ourselves in China’s shoes as they view the United States. Empathy may be a channel to peace for both countries in the unknown, and dangerous, future.

James W. Pfister, J.D. University of Toledo, Ph.D. University of Michigan (political science), retired after 46 years in the Political Science Department at Eastern Michigan University. He lives at Devils Lake and can be reached at jpfister@emich.edu.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: James Pfister: China’s global security initiative