China should follow same rules it expects others to follow in Global Security Initiative

Collins Chong
06 Jul 2023 05:40pm
China should first walk the talk of being a responsible global player in respecting the rules based order and in restraining from coercive tools of policies and approaches. - AFP PIX
China should first walk the talk of being a responsible global player in respecting the rules based order and in restraining from coercive tools of policies and approaches. - AFP PIX

SHAH ALAM - Referring to the arguments put forth by Chinese Ambassador Ouyang Yujing in his op-ed on the importance of China’s Global Security Initiative and the role of Beijing in stabilising global order and peace, it is important to be aware of the facts and realities on the ground and the forces at play in the current global and regional security architecture.

While Ouyang has raised the commitment of the country in upholding the principles of cooperative and comprehensive security and in respecting the rights and sovereignty of countries, the actions of China in disregarding the rules based order and ignoring the arbitration ruling on the South China Sea dispute, as well as the various violations of the agreed norms run contrary to the tenets enshrined in the Security Initiative being championed.

Since 2021, Xi has launched three strategic initiatives aimed at reorienting the architecture of global governance and security structure in halting the Western momentum.

As Beijing canvasses for international support for two of the major initiatives, the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, those countries signing up to become “friends” of China’s vision also become debtors to Chinese creditors.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) at the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference on 21 April 2022. The Global Security Initiative (GSI) is the latest manifestation of China’s international aim to advocate a China centric approach in using the Asian way of security governance.

While Beijing has called out the US led containment measures and Washington’s steadfast upholding of the international law as being hypocritical and biased by pointing out the bloc mentality and Cold War mindset approach of the West, its own measures through the GSI and other soft power sway and hard power intimidation have been conveniently bypassed.

The GSI has also caused fear and caution in the region, together with other increased hard power postures and aggressive grey zone tactics.

China’s own hypocrisy is laid bare in the GSI core tenets as opposed to its own actions on the ground.

The GSI is encapsulated in “six commitments”: (i) pursuing common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security; (ii) respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; (iii) abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; (iv) taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously; (v) peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation; and (vi) maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains.

Beijing’s past and current actions in the region in particular, over the South China Sea and beyond, have all made a mockery of these so-called six commitments.

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The “six commitments” of the GSI are embedded in China’s national and international security architecture, consolidating the basic tenets of modern China’s foreign policy as codified in the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference.

However, its actions on disregarding the rule of law and the norms as set in international trade practices and the law of the sea are in direct opposition of the values espoused in this initiative.

The GSI replays the terms “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” from the New Asian Security Concept.

It also includes the indivisible security concept, which works on the need for “legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously”.

The workings of this indivisible security approach are based on the mantra that the pursuit of one’s security should not be at the expense of others’ security. Again, realities and happenings on the ground which have created ripple fear and insecurity of others as a direct implication of Beijing’s militarisation and intimidation have run contrary to these affiliations.

The GSI, together with the BRI and the Global Development Initiative (GDI), are all continuation of Beijing’s narrative shaking intent in portraying the country to be worthy and credible in shaping a new leadership discourse and direction and in replacing the old Western order.

It frames China as a “responsible, trusted and credible” global player that will provide more effective global leadership and support to the “victims” of the past and current unfair Western model and hegemony.

In the security architecture in the region, every Western move is cast as provocative and promoting biased anti China postures that will trigger polarisation and arms race.

Arms race in the region has in fact started long ago, caused by the actions of China in triggering the inevitable regional fear and the subsequent actions to preserve regional security and state survival.

Regional polarisation and arms race are not triggered by the actions of the US or the West, they are natural by-products of the coercive actions and intent portrayed by Beijing over the past two decades that have caused the natural wariness and responses by regional players.

Little is said on the actual triggers of these and the bellicose military postures of Beijing.

The West and the US have been conveniently used as an easy scapegoat and pretext in justifying Beijing’s behaviour and in chastising Western moves in the region.

China was given much hope and support by the West that it would eventually become more a model of democracy that will accept and even enhance the Western brokered rules-based order that governs international trade and law since the Second World War.

The hope was pretty much dashed years ago when it became clear that China is nowhere near this path, and further cemented by recent intent.

Beijing’s tacit support for Putin's invasion of Ukraine, its repudiation of the "one country, two systems" settlement in Hong Kong, its disregard for the principles of fair trade, its abuse of human rights, its refusal to cooperate over the origins of Covid, and its increasingly bellicose rhetoric and actions in the region and beyond, all have put an end any remaining hope that the West will be able to coax or incentivise Beijing to change its course.

Its approach to the West is confrontational, rather than cooperative, intending to provide a clear, more effective and credible alternative order to the world with Beijing at the centre of the entire spectrum of international trade, economy and security umbrella.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure finance programme made China the world’s largest bilateral creditor but has been hit by spiralling bad loans, with more than US$78billion-worth of borrowing turning sour over the past three years.

According to AidData at William and Mary University in the US, the total scale of BRI lending of the past decade is believed to be somewhere near $1trillion.

Beijing has extended an unprecedented volume of “rescue loans” to prevent sovereign defaults by big borrowers among about 150 countries that have signed up to the BRI.

Increasing numbers of BRI borrower countries are being pushed to the brink of insolvency and default by a global growth slowdown, rising interest rates and record high debt levels in the developing world.

The value of such sovereign bailouts amounted to $104bn between 2019 and the end of 2021, according to a study by researchers at AidData, the World Bank, Harvard Kennedy School and Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

If China plays by the rules and rises peacefully, the extent of the current security dilemma and dangerous conflict setting will not be seen.

India is an inevitable rising power too, but it did not act like China.

It also suffers from past humiliation, but it remains a responsible global power and did not escalate tensions or ignore the international law or to intimidate other countries with grey zone tactics and coercion.

Its peaceful rise has long been overshadowed by the focus on China. It also suffers from a security vulnerability setting with China and Pakistan, but remains responsible in respecting the norms.

Japan has made mistakes in the past, and is now being a responsible global player.

Although facing its most serious security threat since WWII with a triple front threat from Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow, Tokyo remains calm and collected and is taking the necessary security and deterrent efforts through regional alliance and cooperation and internal security enhancement, not with bellicosity like what Beijing did.

Beijing can hide behind its so-called peaceful history and friendship to the region dating back centuries, and to reaffirm its so-called Asian regional friendliness to give a good package and impression to regional players, but its future intent in the region should its interests in South China Sea and Taiwan are checkmated by the region or the West, is far from being assured in terms of peaceful restrain.

China should first walk the talk of being a responsible global player in respecting the rules based order and in restraining from coercive tools of policies and approaches.

Collins Chong Yew Keat is the Foreign Affairs and Security Strategist at

Universiti Malaya

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.