Zhihang Du | August 16, 2017
The Start of Our Journey
Almost one month later, I still remember some episodes of the inspirited discussions which we had in Beijing. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the U.S. Embassy, from the seminars to our group discussions, our topics included the North Korea issue, the Belt and Road Initiative, the South China Sea dispute, China-U.S. cooperation, and China’s rising role in the world arena. Among these disputed issues, China’s side is always in a defensive position either in the meetings with the officials or in our group discussions but our counterpart—the U.S. side is offensive and even sometimes aggressive. This defensive and a little passive way of thinking and doing also reflects on China’s attitude towards international affairs, such as the South China Sea arbitration and several lost WTO cases against China. But it has to be changed. The rising global responsibility of China must be accompanied with China’s active participation in the world and the young generation’s effort is a sine qua non element of it.
A better understanding and enforcement of international rule are prerequisite for China to have sufficient participation in globalization. China was forced to join in globalization at the very beginning of the twentieth century. And up to now, China is still trying to adapt to an existing world order and bears the burden of following rules it did not help create. However, the rule rooted in China is the rule of the jungle, implying that national power is decisive, which is somehow different from the rule of international law. So, we have to defend ourselves when others are accusing us of not following the rules set by them. And no one has the capability to convict the rule-makers when they break the rules. Today, in a globalized world, no one can shift the world order by his or her own willingness, so developing countries shall respect and recognize the rules set by the developed countries according to the analogy of natural selection of Darwin's theory: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, but the one most responsive to change.”
In our discussion of the “review” from the Chinese part in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the argument of using English in the meeting which was proposed by an American counterpart is a hint showing that China is gradually following the international usages. Maybe politicians will be sensitive to every word in diplomacy. Professor Wilder’s understanding is an over-interpretation of this argument. The use of English does not imply any potential motivation of shifting world power; instead this is an acceptance of the offer from the U.S. side.
Another reason for the defensive position of China in the world is the lack of confidence deep in the peoples' hearts. Concerning the relative offensive position of the United States and the accusation and skepticism towards China and Chinese foreign policy, Professor Wilder concluded it as “American arrogance” which reminds me of “Chinese arrogance.” China used to be very arrogant before it opened its doors to globalization. In the most prosperous period of the Qing dynasty, the emperor considered China as a “天朝上国” (the Celestial Empire or the Middle Kingdom), and all the modern technology brought by the foreign missionaries was only “雕虫小技” (insignificant skills or petty tricks). The irony is that we lost our “arrogance” for 5,000 years in just 100 years as well as our proud ancient heritage. When young people are longing for the fancy Western lifestyle, they do not truly understand our socialism with Chinese characteristics. One hundred years of poverty and weakness forms a strong contrast with the pace of development in China now. A huge contradiction also lies between the satisfaction of material wealth and spiritual emptiness in people’s lives. People seem easily lost in the fallacy of the time, not even to mention their own claims.
Our generation needs to have their sense of purpose in the tide of the time. The torch has already passed to us who have the power and freedom to change the status quo. Some of us go to the most remote areas in the countryside to devote ourselves to achieve educational equality; some of us study and work abroad and play a role of bridge in connecting China with the world. However, in the time of confusion and conflicts, sometimes it is very difficult to find the sense of purpose if one just listens to others without his or her own critical thinking. I think one of most important things I have learned in this program, especially the conversations with the American students, is to form your own ideas on the basis of other’s opinions and never try to convince.
This year-long program has ended, but our conversations will never end. “Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.” Thanks to this inspiring and eye-opening program, I have had a chance to share my ideas in this big topic as China-U.S. cooperation in facing the global challenges instead of the forms of our talks were more like a debate or rebuttal. Our generation are global citizens who have the global responsibility to make a better world. As a student from the law school, I usually tend to be a pragmatic lawyer, since being a lawyer is the best option within my expectation after graduation. Now I still want to be a lawyer, but an idealistic lawyer who can devote herself in both her career and public service. Sometimes we need to be practical and evaluate everything according to cost-benefit analysis and utilitarianism; however, sometimes looking upon the sky and thinking of humans' common destiny are also significant. Pragmatically speaking, there is still a long way to go for China and the United States to deal with the trust deficit and establish cooperation. And this is where our journey starts.
Yuwen Long is a junior at Shandong University in China with double majors in law and English.
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