The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) and RSIS held a joint workshop on 18 September 2019 exploring China’s vision for a new regional and international order. In recent years, an increasingly wealthy and powerful China has sought to remould the world order in accordance with China’s state-championed values. With the existing global order in flux, it is critical for us to understand the central tenets of China’s world order, philosophical origins of China’s vision for the world, and potential for eventual realisation.
Bringing together scholars from Singapore, United States, and China, the workshop highlighted how China perceived the existing world order, the evolution of China’s major policy pronouncements for a new international system, and whether China’s plan for the world could result in concrete benefits for all the parties involved.
Participants engaged in thorough discussions regarding the classical Chinese concept of tianxia and contemporary Chinese schools of international relations theories. These theories dwell on concepts such as relational theory, moral realism, symbiotic theorisation, and the compatibilities between a Western-centric and a China-centric world system.
Traditional Chinese political thinking still has a strong influence on China’s vision for a new world order, in which peace, harmony, order, and balance are key components. Although China’s major policy pronouncements on creating a new world order are well-intentioned, rearranging the world system according to China’s vision would have a number of problems. The neo-Chinese world order system is not inherently equal but hierarchical, putting emphasis on a “common destiny” instead of national interest, and is morality-driven rather than rule-based. In general, participants agreed that despite China’s intentions in offering an alternative world order, existing challenges will render actualisation a prolonged and difficult process.