China’s Visions of a new global order

China’s Visions: Introduction

Many Chinese optimistically think that the 21st century is their Century. By the year 2010 China had the fastest computer and students with the best grades in the world, and also successes in the space race. Those among others are the concrete results of a great reform started with Deng Xiaoping in 1978, shifting focus away from Maoist ideology to market economic development.

There are two main views of China’s future. From the one hand the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 are signs that China will lead in Culture, Economy and Technology as the world’s next liberal democratic country. On the other a view of China as a power authoritarian state, as a result of incidents like the imprisonment of Chapter 08’s co author Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo who along with others criticized the power of the party state’s rule and the need of China for democratic political reforms.

The two main groups: officials and dissidents are involved in a fight for power and influence with a new group called citizen intellectuals. This new group is an outcome of Deng’s reforms and composed of people that are bloggers, novelists, filmmakers, scholars and artists. The appearance of these free voices is a very important progress for the country. Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president and old time dissident, suggests that citizen intellectuals could play a value added role in a society, mainly by engaging in small-scale works to build a parallel society that exists side-by-side with the party state’s official culture, economy and society and in the long run official structures will be replaced by these bottom-up ones.

During the last decade new opportunities opened up for being political and more space was given to intellectuals within China. These citizen intellectuals are trying to influence China’s path, some in an old fashion way influencing directly China’s new leaders, and others by shaping public opinion. Also many use the indigenous ideas of Chinese civilization as a reaction to liberal arguments that China should open to global civilization’s universal values of democracy, constitutionalism, free markets and the rule of law. This debate it’s not always open/free and some arrests happed as well as web sides harassed. Also many ideas are not liberal showing dreams of China’s civil society.

During the 20th century Chinese people were looking for new and fresh ideas outside of their country. China was very fragile after suffering intrusions from the West and Japan, while the Qing dynasty was slowly dying. In 1911 the imperial rule was over after China’s republican revolution, but still intellectuals and people looked abroad for new ideas.  During the 1915 to 1922 “New Culture Movement” introduced the notions of “Science” and “Democracy” imported from the West to heal the problems of China. During two great movements, the first, from 1958 to 1961 called the “Great Leap Forward” and the other, from 1966 to 1976 called the “Cultural Revolution”, China tried to present itself to the world as an innovative model of the future – but the disastrous results of these movements emphasized its failure to symbolize that. With Deng’s reform, the West – and especially the Western dream of consumer prosperity – became China’s model for the future.

One of the main aspects of looking the future of China concerning the debate between intellectuals regarding centralized state planning or decentralized. China’s planning methodology is better described as a top – down notion of development that relies on the centralized planning of the command economy, which also regulates social and cultural life.  China’s first Five Year Plan began in 1953, and the current 12th (2011-2015) was approved in 2011. Even though all official plans initiate markets to China, they utilize centralized concepts of modernization, progress and development. To introduce China’s 12th FYP to a general audience, top economist Hu Angang outlined his methodology and goals: “Comprehensively known China, deeply analyze China, meticulously plan China, scientifically develop China”.

Political transformation: three main scenarios

 1. Convergence through Multipolarity and Multiple Civilizations

China’s goal according to former president Hu Jintao is to “build a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity”. Here China is not a threat; world harmony is the corner stone of Beijing’s peaceful development strategy that promotes win-win opportunities for everyone in the world. Harmonious world employs main stream diplomacy to protect China’s national sovereignty by working within the UN system. Xi Jinping’s statement in Mexico fits in this view of foreign affairs: China is a responsible power not in the positive sense of seeking to lead the world but in the negative sense of not trying to disorder the world.

Hu Jintao’s Harmonious World

Beijing’s current foreign policy started in September 2005 when Chinese president Hu Jintao delivered a major speech to a global audience in the UN, where he introduced “Harmonious World” and explained his goal to build one with long lasting peace and common prosperity.

A harmonious world will be build through mutual dialogues, exchanges and cooperation and lead to a more democratic, just and tolerant world. We have to remember that 2005 was the year US and UK were involved in Iraq war and implementing this strategy of harmonious world was enough to draw a clear distinction between a bellicose USA and a peace – loving China. However harmonious value faces some problems in the country. The domestic equivalent of harmonious world is harmonious society that appears in a number of policies since 2004 to address negative effects (i.e. polarized income between urban and rural) from Chinese impressive economic growth.

2. Combining Western and Chinese Values for a new world civilization

Many in China believe that PRC is not in a socialization process in which China gradually becomes westernized. The influence goes both directions- or should go both directions. While Beijing learns international norms, China’s soft power will also influence the world. This combination of Chinese and Western values appears in Beijing’s popular press and official foreign policy statements. In 2010 Chinese foreign minister declared to his Southeast neighbors: China is a big country and other countries are just small countries, and that’s a fact.

3. Divergence: From Westernization to Easternization

In this scenario China rise to global power and China’s ideas are better than the Western ones, a uniquely superior system of economics, politics and society, one that is presented as the complete opposite of capitalist democracy. The international system of equal nation-states will be replaced with China’s hierarchical Sinocentric tributary system. In this order China will rule according to a harmonized idea but if people or countries don’t fit in they will be “harmonized” and “pacified”.

The Official Dream / Scenario: Eleventh and Twelfth Five Year Plans

China’s FYPs show a clear trend that is a shift from the official centralized planning methodology to the decentralized one which is the dream of many citizen intellectuals. The 11th FYP for example was a sign of change where, the government even changed the wording, using the word guideline instead of plan, while the 12th FYP continues this change by having more aspirational goals. Its aim is to create a more sustainable, balanced and innovative development that is people-centered. In the 21st century China is facing the social and environmental costs of three decades of rapid economic growth: a polarization of income, and an environmental crisis. The main goal of 11th FYP was to build a harmonious social society by shifting priority from rapid GDP growth to sustainable and inclusive growth and from an export – oriented economy fueled by foreign investments to one in which China’s domestic market is the major engine deriving growth. Actually it failed: the 11th FYP’s target was 7,5% annual growth, but China’s GDP grew at an average of 11%; the gap between poor and rich increased even more and domestic consumption fell and a massive stimulus loan package was also given to State Owned Enterprises, strengthening the state sector even more. The 12th FYP aims to successfully move from an economy based on export-oriented labor intensive light industry to one based on capital-intensive high-tech industry. By 2020 the PRC plans to become a moderately well-off society that has the social and political stability of a harmonious socialist society.

                                                                          Main Chinese Dreams

  1. Official Dreams. Former president Hu Jintao dreamt of social harmony in a harmonious world of cooperating civilizations that are equal, while new president Xi Jinping’s dreams of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as a strong and prosper­ous party-state that has global influence. The known economist Justin Yifu Lin hopes that China will complete its transition to a market economy, with the end goal being Great Harmony—not liberal democracy, while the key government economist Hu Angang dreams of China “leaping forward” to over­take the United States by 2020 in a “great reversal” of power in which American hegemony is replaced by a World of Great Harmony controlled by the Global South.
  2. Dissident Liu Xiaobo dreams of a liberal democratic China where people have political and economic rights, the artist-activist Ai Weiwei dreams of an accountable government, while the former Chongqing leader Bo Xilai wanted to apply his model of state capitalism and red culture to China as a whole.
  3. Political scientist Pan Wei dreams of a World of Great Harmony where the indigenous Chinese ideals of people-centered pol­itics, public/private economy, and the organic village society are taken seriously in a struggle against the “Western” universals of democracy and human rights, whereas political-economist Cui Zhiyuan’s Chongqing model dreams of prosper­ity and social justice in a new style of socialism for the 21st century.
  4. Philosopher Zhao Tingyang thinks that China needs to utilize its own cul­tural resources to build the Under-Heaven system of unified global government, which will guarantee peace and harmony for the whole world, while Senior Colonel Liu Mingfu also thinks that economic reform has gone too far to and China’s power must be rebalance from civil to military to become the world’s number one power.




  1. Callahan, William A., China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future
  2. Hu Angang, China in 2020: A New Kind of Superpower
  3. Lin, Justin Yifu. Demystifying the Chinese Economy