(Essential questions) Blockbuster丨Interview with Zheng Yongnian: Who is the disruptor of the international order?

  China News Service, Beijing, July 22. Title: Interview with Zheng Yongnian: Who is the disruptor of the international order?

  China News Agency reporter Pang Wuji

Professor Zheng Yongnian.

Photo courtesy of me

  On the centennial of the founding of the Communist Party of China, China’s goal of "building a moderately prosperous society in all respects" was announced as scheduled.

At this time, China's total economy has passed the one-hundred-billion-yuan mark, and its share of the global economy has risen to more than 17%.

China, which has been on the periphery of the international order for most of the past two hundred years, is approaching the center of the world stage step by step.

  From being forcibly incorporated into the international order by the West in the late Qing Dynasty, and now becoming an important factor in the international power structure, China's role in the world has undergone a tremendous change.

This change has aroused many suspicions.

US Secretary of State Blinken has repeatedly accused China of disrupting the international order.

The US State Department also recently stated in a statement that Brinken and European leaders discussed transatlantic cooperation, "response to China's economic coercive behavior" and "attempts to disrupt the rules-based international order."

Data map: container terminal.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Sudan

  Will China's rise have a fundamental impact on the current international order?

Who is the disruptor of the international order?

Zheng Yongnian, dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Global and Contemporary China at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), said in an exclusive interview with China News Service that China is the “biggest supporter” of the international order established after World War II. What we do the most is to “connect”, to stay in this system in a proper manner, and not to “start a new stove” like the former Soviet Union, let alone be a saboteur or a revolutionist.

  "According to Western logic, as China becomes stronger, it will certainly form its own camp, but on the contrary, China does not engage in gang formation, and China does not have a'campaign'." Zheng Yongnian said.

The summary of the interview record is as follows:

China is not a rule-breaker

Reporter from China News Service: In recent years, Western public opinion has continuously accused China of being a disruptor of the international order. Do you think this is the case?

Zheng Yongnian: The

so-called international order mainly refers to the international rules established after World War II.

So who is disrupting these orders?

It's the United States.

The United States withdrew from a series of United Nations organizations and international institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the "Paris Agreement", and UNESCO during the period of former President Trump.

In addition, the United States has always refused to join the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

  China has always protected these rules. Of course, it is not a disruptor or revolutionary of international rules, and it is even cautious about reforms.

At best, China has been on track, and it has not "started anew" like the former Soviet Union.

According to Western logic, China will certainly form its own camp when it becomes stronger.

The United States has been emphasizing over the years that it is necessary to form a "world team" against the "Chinese team."

But China has no camp, no "team".

China just stays in this system in a proper manner and does not engage in cliques.

  But some Westerners impose their own logic on China.

For example, some people accused the "Belt and Road" initiative or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for breaking the rules.

But (say) the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which fully accepts the most advanced rules in the world, mainly provides financing support for infrastructure projects in the Asian region.

This is something that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have not done.

Therefore, the birth of the AIIB did not grab the "rice bowl" of others, but a supplement to international rules.

  China is not a revolutionist of the international order, but a reformer and a complementer.

Data map: The staff is using the "gantry crane" to hoist the container with the unified logo of "China-Europe Express" onto the train.

Photo by Wu Zhengqi

China News Agency reporter: What is the starting point for China to supplement and reform international rules?

Zheng Yongnian:

China sees the problem.

The early practices of colonialism and imperialism in Western countries supported domestic development by establishing colonies in Latin America and Africa and plundering resources.

Now, China's investment and construction assistance in Africa and Asia has been slandered by the West as plundering resources, and has even been labeled as "neocolonialism" and "debt imperialism."

But this is the West’s own experience, not a Chinese perspective.

China has been helping countries in Africa and Asia to build infrastructure such as railways, highways, hospitals, gymnasiums, and schools.

Why did China do this?

Because these infrastructure constructions are a necessary condition for the economic development of any country, China itself has also come through this way.

China News Agency reporter: In the future, is it possible for China to make greater contributions to international rules?

Zheng Yongnian:

China's rules are not to set their own rules behind closed doors, not to impose their own rules on other countries like the United States, but to learn from Western rules before forming their own rules.

China is now the second largest economy in the world, and China has also learned many good Western rules during its development.

  In the next step, if China is to become truly strong, it must continue to digest and absorb the best rules in the world, and at the same time, in light of its own situation, improve, strengthen, and supplement the existing international rules.

In the next step, China's true contribution to the world may come from the contribution of standards and rules.

Of course, in this process, China needs to take into account the interests of other countries.

For many developing countries such as Africa and Latin America, China's rules and programs actually provide a non-Western, not anti-Western option.

Professor Zheng Yongnian.

Photo courtesy of me

Globalization returned more than 40 years ago?

China News Agency reporter: You mentioned that the world after the epidemic has entered an era of "limited globalization".

What is the difference between this change and the previous "super globalization"?

Zheng Yongnian:

Since the 1980s, the world has experienced a wave of "super globalization".

The author of this concept is Danny Rodrik, professor of economics at Harvard University.

In this wave of "super globalization", Western countries, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, have promoted privatization and financial liberalization led by neoliberal economics, and production factors such as capital, technology, and talents can be compared worldwide. Flow freely.

  As capital flows from Western developed countries to developing countries, Western countries have also transferred industries with low technology content and low added value to developing countries.

This has brought about the reconfiguration of the industrial chain and supply chain on a global scale.

  The global flow of production factors has created a huge amount of wealth. Both developing countries represented by China and developed Western countries are the beneficiaries of this wave of globalization.

But many negative effects have also surfaced.

The biggest problem is that with the development of super globalization to this day, almost no sovereign country still has complete economic sovereignty.

We must know that although we are in an era of globalization, the national unit is still a sovereign state, and a sovereign state cannot lose all its economic sovereignty.

  Take the United Kingdom as an example. The United Kingdom promoted Thatcher neoliberalism and obtained a City of London, but gave up the entire manufacturing industry. Brexit is actually related to this.

  Look at the United States. Although the United States claims to have the most advanced medical system, according to U.S. statistics, more than 80% of U.S. medical supplies are supplied by China, and more than 90% of antibiotic production is basically dependent on China. This became a problem after the outbreak. An acute safety issue.

Another consequence of the loss of economic sovereignty is that since the 1980s, the proportion of the middle class in the United States has fallen from about 70% in the past to about 50%.

  China is not all beneficiaries.

On the one hand, China has been able to introduce many advanced Western technologies and become a major technology application country. On the other hand, it lacks original technology and R&D motivation.

Affected by neoliberalism, many people assume that the world market will always exist and "buy what is lacking in the world market."

Nowadays, under the suppression and blockade by the United States, companies such as Huawei are facing difficulties.

  From a long-term historical perspective, it is normal that the world market does not exist. Existence is just a kind of "luck."

Therefore, now that the world has entered an era of limited globalization, it may return to characteristics similar to the period from 1945 to the 1980s.

At this stage of globalization, capital and technology will still flow, but will be restricted, the degree of trade will be reduced, and the economic sovereignty of various countries will be strengthened.

Data map: In the production workshop, workers are working on the production line.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Ma Mingyan

China News Agency reporter: Globalization will really go back more than 40 years ago?

Zheng Yongnian:

Similar to the period from 1945 to the 1980s, but there are differences.

At that time, the industrial chain and supply chain of each country was relatively complete.

The so-called made in the United States, made in Japan, and made in Germany basically produce whole products, but after the 1980s, many products have been difficult to tell exactly which country they are manufactured in.

What people call "Made in China" is mostly assembled in China. Parts and components may come from Japan, Asia or even Western countries. Various parts and raw materials come to China for final assembly and re-export.

  For example, the United States basically transfers the manufacturing of products with relatively low added value and relatively low technological content to other countries, including chip manufacturing.

Now people say that the United States controls the chip, but in fact it only controls the chip design. The chip manufacturing link in the United States has flowed to countries or regions such as China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.

  Can countries now produce whole products?

After experiencing the previous wave of super globalization, it is now very difficult.

It is impossible for the United States to move all the production chains back to China, and it is impossible for countries such as Japan and Germany. Therefore, it is difficult to completely change the interdependence between the economies and production of various countries.

Simply put, it is now difficult to imagine a completely decoupled world economy.

Economic logic defeats political logic

China News Agency reporter: How will this limited globalization affect the global supply chain and industrial chain structure?

Zheng Yongnian:

From a historical perspective, economic logic will eventually defeat political logic, so the shape of the industrial chain will not be completely changed.

After going through globalization and opening up, no matter how difficult a country encounters, it is impossible to return to a self-sufficient economy.

In this epidemic, the industrial chains in Europe and North America have been significantly affected, but the industrial chains and productivity in Asia have not been reduced, but have been strengthened.

  The formation of the industrial chain has its economic principles, roughly in line with Adam Smith's comparative advantage.

Once the comparative advantage is lost and the industrial chain is transferred away, it is difficult to move back; and once the industrial chain is formed, it is not so easy to force adjustments artificially.

For example, in the United States, it is difficult for the White House to force Wall Street to listen to it completely.

The White House may have an impact on the industrial chain in the name of so-called national security, but it is also difficult to change the overall pattern.

  In the past, the three major global supply chains were centered on Europe, the United States, and East Asia, especially China.

This pattern will not undergo major changes, and the three supply chains in the future will not be completely self-sufficient.

Regardless of their comparative advantages or the division of labor, they still have their own characteristics. For example, originality and design will remain in the United States. However, in the manufacturing process, the United States is unlikely to use the manufacturing capabilities of Germany and Japan. Move to your own country.

  Of course, competition is inevitable. Whether it is the United States, Germany or China, they all want to go upstream in the industrial chain, and the competition will become increasingly fierce.

Where are the opportunities in China?

China News Agency reporter: Will the global supply chain restructuring be "de-Chinese"?

In your opinion, where are the opportunities for China in the future?

Zheng Yongnian: The

so-called "de-sinicization" is too extreme.

Globalization is the logic of capital, and capital is open, which means to go where it can make money.

Therefore, the globalization of Western capital into China will not be interrupted, and China will not be completely decoupled from the United States and China from other Western countries.

  China is the country with the most complete industrial chain in the world, with various industrial sectors.

At the same time, China is the largest single market in the world. It currently has 400 million middle class. In the future, according to official plans, this number will double, and there is huge consumption potential.

In many areas, what Chinese people eat and what they don’t can determine the prices of many products in the world market.

Therefore, we must be confident that China can retain Western capital and technology.

In 2020, China is the world's largest foreign capital inflow country.

  Technically, it is inevitable for China to block the West, especially the United States.

However, since the reform and opening up, China has accumulated more than 40 years of experience in the technical field.

It can be seen from the "History of Science and Technology in China" written by Dr. Joseph Needham that China's science and technology in the past was also very brilliant.

(Last century) After the 1980s, China was a big country of applied technology. Now it has to gradually turn to a big country of original technology, and there is still a lot of room for development.

  On the other hand, it is easy to be overlooked.

At present, China's domestic market is basically fragmented, and the rules have not yet been fully unified.

For example, the rules of the Pearl River Delta are different from those of the Yangtze River Delta, and the Yangtze River Delta is different from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Even the internal rules of the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta are not unified, and trade and investment rules are very different.

Therefore, we should use the opportunity of internal circulation to unify domestic rules.

This kind of labor productivity released through uniform rules is difficult to measure.

Professor Zheng Yongnian.

Photo courtesy of me

The future world is deeply diversified

China News Agency reporter: Under limited globalization, what kind of changes will the world pattern take place in the future?

Will the role of the so-called "central state" change?

Zheng Yongnian: The

previous world structure was called "one superpower, multiple powers", "one superpower" refers to the United States, and "multipower" refers to economies such as China, Russia, the European Union, and Japan.

But now the world has changed a lot, and multi-polarization is not enough to describe this change. The future world will be deeply diversified.

To put it simply, the United States is still a powerful country, but it is not strong in all areas, some areas are declining, and some areas are still leading the world.

The same goes for China, Russia, and Japan. Countries are diverse and intertwined in the fields of politics, economy, culture, and society.

  Now discussing the so-called "Thucydides trap", one country replacing another country, is either one or the other, it is a wrong view.

So people should get out of this Cold War mentality and look at the world from a truly diverse point of view.

  From the perspective of economic center of gravity, since modern times, the world economic centers have been in Europe and North America respectively.

Since the 21st century, with the rise of Asian countries such as China and India, and the existence of traditional powers such as Japan, the world economic center has shifted to Asia.

In the next 20-30 years or even longer, this situation will not change.

China News Agency reporter: What role will China play?

Zheng Yongnian:

Since Qin Shihuang unified China, China can be said to have been a source of stability for the Asian order.

Objectively speaking, China has long been a stabilizer for the Asian economy.

In the 1997 Asian financial crisis, China played a huge role in stabilizing the economy.

Since the 2008 global financial crisis and the new crown epidemic since last year, China has played the role of stabilizer every time.

In the future, as China's domestic market continues to expand and climbs to the upper part of the technology chain, China will also play a leading role.

Stability and leadership, this will be China's main contribution to the world economy.


  Zheng Yongnian is currently the President's Chair Professor of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), Acting Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dean of the Global and Contemporary China Institute for Advanced Study.

He was a professor and research director of the Institute of Chinese Policy, University of Nottingham, UK, and a professor and director of the Institute of East Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.

He successively served as a research fellow at the American Social Science Research Council-MacArthur Foundation (1995-1997) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2003-2005).

  Professor Zheng Yongnian is mainly engaged in the research of international relations, foreign policy, Sino-US relations, China's internal transformation and its external relations.

In recent years, dozens of monographs have been published, including 9 in English.

Published dozens of academic papers in international academic journals.