China has launched several major initiatives that influence global governance and related levels of human, environmental and economic sustainability. The first of these, formalized since 2007 and increasingly embedded in PRC’s Five Year Plans, hopes to guide China towards a sustainable Eco-Civilization (shengtaiwenming) that will bring human developmental and environmental needs into harmony. The second is the Belt and Road Initiative, which has expanded beyond its Silk Road origins to include much of Eurasia and parts of the Middle East, Africa, the Indo-Pacific and even the Arctic region. It is now appropriate to speak of the Belt and Road Initiatives rather than a single framework for development. The third is PRC’s move towards engagement in multilateral governance, whether by cooperation with existing organisations or creating new fora for managing change. However, it remains to be seen if proactive Chinese policies will be able to ‘green’ the numerous BRI corridors, let alone sustain comprehensive domestic reform and enhance international security. A ‘governance deficit’ could undermine the transformations that China hopes to achieve via these interlinked initiatives, thereby increasing global turbulence. This cooperation remains at the level of ‘asymmetric co-governance’, driven by Chinese interests rather than a truly balanced process of empowerment, but may evolve into a more inclusive form of multilateralism. Whether these trends can be positively negotiated with major protagonists, including the US, EU, India, and Russia, will determine governance trends for the 21st century.
|New Horizons in East Asian Politics