New Era for China and the World: Xi Jinping and World 3.0

By Zhao Kejin

What is the new era?

The Communist Party of China rolled out the “Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” at its 19th National Congress. Meanwhile, China is getting closer to the center of the world stage and making a greater contribution on international issues in the new era, which sets the tone for China’s domestic and foreign policies in the coming period and sets the basic direction for China to handle its relations with  the world. At the same time, the world has also entered a new era, World 3.0, after passing through World 1.0 and World 2.0 that saw the rise of Western since the advent of modern times.

World 1.0 was an era of colonialism dominated by European powers such as Britain; characterized by colonial expansion and aggressive wars. International relations followed the law of the jungle and the winner took the crown. However, this era came to a gradual end as we entered the 20th century.

World 2.0 was an era of competitive hegemony dominated by the competition between two superpowers – the Soviet Union and the United States. The basic rule of this era was “Zero Sum Game”. The core of both Cosmopolitan Family proposed by the Soviet Union and Free World proposed by the United States was Winner-Take-All.

In the 21st century, especially after the global financial crisis in 2008, it became increasingly difficult to adapt to the turbulent changes in the world today through an era of hegemony dominated by the United States. From 2008 to the present, it has become clear that no single country can dominate the world alone. There are a large number of problems facing the world that are difficult for all parties to answer and solve.

At this time, the Chinese leaders have put forward some new proposals and initiatives. Especially at the 19th National Congress of CPC, the Chinese leader advocated that the world enter a new era of win-win cooperation. This era invites new rules of mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win cooperation. Therefore in the future, this era will not be dominated by any one country, indicating that the world is at the threshold of World 3.0.

The coming era is an epoch with a common future shared by all, centered on the win-win cooperation advocated by China. Therefore, the response of the United States, the most powerful country, to China’s initiative for this new era is the key to a new trend in Sino-U.S. Relations today and the most important aspect of President Trump’s visit to China.

During President Trump’s visit to China, Trump’s response to a series of new initiatives and China’s proposals put forward by President Xi Jinping and documented in the report of the 19th National Congress of the CPC will directly determine the future direction of Sino-U.S. Relations.

How to view today’s Sino-U.S. Relations?

China and the United States are the two largest economies in today’s world. Mr. Deng Xiaoping once proposed that China should open its door to the outside world and commit to the idea that a cat which catches mice is a good cat. Today there are two large economies in the world with a GDP between $ 10 and 20 trillion. Defining sustainable rules and regulations for development and enhancing China’s right to speak are the core issues for the future of China and of the world. Therefore, the core issue for Sino-U.S. Relations is how to establish the rules of the game between the two latgest economies.

However, each of the two  has its own characteristics.

Taking culture as an example, China and the United States manifest inherent differences. The United States advocates individualism and independence while China upholds patriotism and collectivrness. However, the difference need not result in a clash of civilizations. On the contrary, it could create more colorful cultural exchanges.

Politically, China upholds “people’s democracy” while the United States resolutely pursues “freedom and democracy”, each with different political characteristics.

Both countries have their own strengths in governance and it is hard for one system to replace the other.

Economically, China prioritizes public interest and has a strong idealistic sentiment while the United States prioritizes individual interests from a distinctly realistic standpoint.

How to realize common development of these two large economies in the context of the distinct differences in culture, politics and economy is an important issue that needs to be addressed in today’s Sino-U.S. Relations, as well as a test of the wisdom of the leaders and peoples of the two countries.

What will be the new direction of Sino-U.S. Relations in the new era?

My analysis suggests that future Sino-U.S. Relations will develop toward a “Sino-U.S. Complex” . Today, there are obvious differences and frictions between China and the United States on many issues concerning trade and security that are worrisome to all stakeholders. However, these frictions are minor issues. Whether Sino-U.S. Relations can achieve common and peaceful development is a big issue, because it determines how today’s world will evolve.

Therefore, in facing our current problems, our focus in developing Sino-U.S. Relations must be on major issues rather than trifles. We should grasp hold of the common interests of both countries and shoulder our responsibility as a world power. With stable Sino-U.S. Relations as a base, we can aim to develop the relationship while engaged in our mission to assume the responsibilities of a committed country.

The reason that Sino-U.S. Relations are so a complex in this new era is mainly due to the notably increase in common interests between China and the United States. However, as this process evolves, frictions and strains between China and the United States are also growing. Therefore, defending the common interests and managing the various disagreements has become the key to handling Sino-U.S. Relations.

How do we safeguard the common interests and manage various disagreements?

My suggestions on this issue are as follows.

First, China and the United States should respect each other. There are significant differences between the two countries, but they are contrasting rather than opposed, just like individual men and women with significant differences who are not necessarily in opposition. The United States has problems with China, but the leaders must seek out the common interests of both countries. So China should firmly support whoever is elected president of the United States, and the United States must also firmly support the CPC as the legal ruling party in China. The most important aspect of this is to support the Central Party Committee of the CPC with Xi Jinping at the core. As long as this can be realized, the overall situation of Sino-U.S. Relations will remain relatively stable.

Second, we should have a mutually friendly relationship. There should be long-term friendship and social exchanges at an individual level. There are obvious cultural differences and disagreements in Sino-US Relations, which can only be solved through long-term exchanges and friendship. Only through hard work can we achieve the vision that the young generation of China can appreciate the United States and the young generation of America can appreciate China. Only through mutual appreciation and respect, can Sino-US Relations develop.

Third, we should build a stable framework for the new relationship between the major powers. The report of the 19th National Congress of CPC pointed out the direction of development, and it is necessary to focus on a framework for Sino-US Relations based on long-term stability and balanced development. China and the United States have established four mechanisms – diplomatic and security dialogue, comprehensive economic dialogue, social and human dialogue, and law enforcement and cyber dialogue. Giving full play to the four mechanisms can help us to have thorough and sincere exchanges and communications on the disagreements and frictions we face. We can also negotiate direct bargains and transfer or transform stress-points into a diplomatic communication mechanism between the two countries.

Fourth, we should establish a stable mechanism to manage the challenges posed by third parties. Nowadays in terms of the four pillars of Sino-U.S. Relations, only the solution to the bilateral relations has been settled. There is no framework for resolving problems caused by the third parties, for example, the ever-shifting Korean Peninsula issue and issues in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region. Only by establishing a stable mechanism of managing the challenges posed by third parties, can we prevent the Sino-U.S. Relations from being taken hostage by a third country, which could have a devastating impact.

Fifth, we must adapt to the new developments and changes in Sino-U.S. Relations. As China gradually approaches the center of the world stage, security takes on a higher profile and the deep structure of Sino-U.S. Relations is stabilized. However, continuous friction in economy and trade has impaired the stabilizing effect of these factors. Instead, they have become a source of uncertainty. We must come up with solutions that can be accepted by both sides to solve new problems that arise, especially in economy and trade.


Zhao Kejin, professor of the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China Matters