China’s Shared Community vs US Exceptionalism

By Imtiaz Gul
(Photo via video stream)

On February 20, the US vetoed the Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire in Gaza, with the UK abstaining. It was the third consecutive veto by the US since the hostilities erupted on October 7. Not surprising at all though, it marked another blow to the global rule of law and human rights regime the West at large has long championed. Only days earlier, on Feb 15 to be exact, an article in Foreign Affairs recalled how the US war on terror post 9/11 “normalized the idea that everything is permissible in the pursuit of ‘terrorists’. To prosecute its war in Gaza, Israel borrows ethos, strategy, and tactics from that framework, doing so with the support of the United States.” That support, worth $3.3 billion annually, and the additional billions since October 7 constitute complicity in the genocide of over 29,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

This exceptionalism in favor of an aggressor and occupier (Israel) not only contravenes the ideals set out in the UN-led world order post-1945 but also exposes the duplicity of geopolitics. It has seen the pumping of hundreds of billions of dollars into various wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine) in the name of countering terrorism and promoting democracy.

How does the February 13 bill that the US Senate passed – promising $95.3 billion in aid for Ukraine and Israel – qualify as a measure to support democracy and human rights? On the contrary, this ensures more conflict and greater human losses with the active support of the country that speaks the loudest on morality and human rights. All this happens in the name of “responsibility for shared security”, as late President Reagan once said when defending aid to Israel. Every US President, including the incumbent Joe Biden, has upheld this “pledge to protect Israel” at the cost of justice and humanitarianism in the world, defying the ideals behind the birth of the UN. Interestingly, a June 2023 US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report lists at least 71 instances wherein the US used or deployed military force in different parts of the world. It also includes instances of invasion of other countries (Afghanistan, Iraq) in the name of self-defense. The unconditional support to the brutal Israeli aggression against Palestinians, of course, is part of the “unilateral exceptionalism” that the US invokes when necessary.

Should the rest of the world look on as exceptionalism wreaks havoc across the globe, or perhaps embrace the concept of a “shared community of humankind” based on equality, inclusion, and collaboration as proposed by President Xi Jinping of China? In his address to the Central Conference on Foreign Affairs in Beijing (December 27-28), President Xi reviewed the global political environment and spelled out the challenges for Chinese foreign diplomacy. He called for an “equal and orderly multipolar world in which all countries, regardless of size, are treated as equals, hegemonism and power politics are rejected, and democracy is truly promoted in international relations.”

As the leader of an ascendant global economic power, which now also feels responsible for steering the world away from the consequences of Cold War geopolitics, the Chinese president proposes “building of a community with a shared future for mankind, i.e. a perusal of goals of common development, lasting peace and security.” Xi also recalled how his country had risen as a confident, self-reliant, open and inclusive major country with a global vision. The launch of, or agreements for, economic cooperation and financial assistance for infrastructure projects in dozens of Asian and African countries under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the establishment of the Beijing-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIDB), with about 110 countries, to address financial needs of deserving developing countries, are the pronounced examples of how China under Xi has reached out not only to its neighborhood but also the countries beyond for inclusive
economic collaboration and joint security architecture.

The Chinese leadership considers this as the foundation for a shared community based on win-win economic cooperation and trade connectivity, and not through coercion and selective dole-outs to preferred countries. This also stems from the belief that critical problems involving more than one country – big or small– need a holistic approach by big countries such as China and the US to push for peaceful coexistence, overall stability and balanced development. In his address to party officials and diplomats, Xi also spoke of how Beijing has been pursuing international cooperation for peace and economic development while safeguarding its own interests. “We have worked to both pursue development and safeguard security and effectively upheld China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests as well as taken an active part in global governance to show how to reform the international system and order.” It is the key to building a “community with a shared future for mankind.”

How do we solve the questions of what kind of world to build based on the understanding of the laws governing the development of mankind? This goal Xi has set for himself seems to be the core tenet of his thoughts. Theoretically, and going by what the founding fathers of the UN had agreed on, it is imperative to uphold fundamental principles, reject all acts of power politics, stop bullying and vigorously defend national interests. Given the fractures and turbulence in various parts of the world, is that possible? Now that those ideals are reeling under geopolitics, can the global community embrace Xi’s ideals for a peaceful and cooperative world rather than stoking fires of conflict out of sheer self or bloc interests?

This article first appeared in The Express Tribune. Click here to go to the original.

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