China’s Bigger Role in Globalization


By staff reporter ZHANG HUI


I am a global citizen. I represent a world view,” Steve Howard, secretary general of the Australia-based Global Foundation, said in a speech delivered at the international think tank symposium on November 16, themed, “The 19th CPC National Congress: Implications for China and the World.” The Global Foundation, a non-profit organization, advocates “cooperative globalization” with projects involved in such aspects as achieving global food security, investing to address climate change, building Asia’s green infrastructure, and working with China as it goes global.


Steve Howard, secretary general of the Global Foundation, attends an international think tank symposium on November 16 in Beijing.


Howard said that Xi Jinping’s opening address at the 19th CPC National Congress resonated with his remarks, “This is an era that will see China move closer to the center of the world and make more contributions to humankind.” Howard thought the concept that his organization advocates aligns with China’s principles, thoughts, and strategies on globalization. On the sidelines of the symposium, Steve Howard gave an exclusive interview to China Today, sharing his views on China’s role in the world, the Belt and Road Initiative, and China-Australia relations.


China’s Role in Global Governance


Howard thought the report delivered by Xi Jinping at the 19th CPC National Congress was significant as it mapped out China’s development strategies in many fields over the next five years, which will definitely influence the world. “We’ve seen China emerge in the world with confidence and willingness to take more international responsibilities. I think this is the most important thing in world affairs. China wants to play an appropriate role, a core leadership in the world. There are challenges ahead. What the Global Foundation seeks to do is to work with China to make the core leadership work. It’s a new territory for both China and the world,” he told China Today.


Howard went on to say, “We’re going to find a common language, common interests, and common approaches, with which we can work together. That’s why we have the idea of cooperative globalization, as the slogan is understood and agreed by many parties in the world, including here in China. I think we need to encourage formal cooperative globalization as a way of navigating to the future, so China can play a rightful international role, and the world will welcome this as a true partnership.”


According to Howard, for nearly 20 years, the Global Foundation has worked to encourage China in its going global venture, involved in such fields as China’s leadership in coping with climate change, embracing economic globalization, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Howard also works as an international adviser to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). He believes that one of the most important things for his organization is serving as a formula for better global governance.


The AIIB was the first international multilateral financial institution whose formation was led by China. “China has done a wonderful job of giving the AIIB to the world. This is a very important model. I think we can learn lots of lessons, and China and the world can also gain a lot from the AIIB, applying them to other international initiatives. The AIIB has made a remarkable progress. That’s impressive considering the short time since its founding,” Howard told China Today.   


Initiative Promotes Inter-civilization Dialogue


Howard has been following the China-launched Belt and Road Initiative closely, and attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing last May.


“The Belt and Road Initiative is extremely significant. People see the Belt and Road in terms of connectivity and projects, which is true. That’s important. We can see roads, railways, and ports being built. But at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, President Xi also spoke about a high level of cooperation, what we call the software, the way to establish rules, standards, common behavior, and even governance. This is really important, but not many people focus on this aspect,” Howard stated.


On September 19, 2017, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi gives a speech at the Global Pact for the Environment Summit at the UN headquarters in New York.


He then went on to talk about the third level of cooperation, also the highest level in his view, concerning communication among civilizations. “I think we need to find a common language and a common destiny between great civilizations of the world.” From the three levels, Howard tried to interpret the policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bond that Xi Jinping emphasized for the Belt and Road Initiative.


He pointed out, “I think the challenge is not only just about the practical projects, but about how to make it work as a common concept where people can talk to each other about their beliefs, their values, and their opinions about how to establish a common path.”


“Overarching these practical elements of hardware and software, as impressive as they may have been, however, was the central and most profound element of President Xi’s speech at the forum. Painting a backdrop of 2,000 years of history, interweaving China with the rest of the world, he spoke about the interdependence of cultures, values, and civilizations, including religious traditions. He also declared this as an historic moment of transition, this precise moment when China officially announced that it would no longer just deal and trade with the world, as it has done for the past several hundred years. Rather, President Xi’s intent was for a global China, which will be fully integrated into the world.” Howard also accentuated the point in his speech at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation last May.


A Great Power, Still Rising


Howard believes that China’s domestic development has been remarkable over the past few decades. “It’s a miracle, an amazing achievement. China will take all its people out of poverty in the next five years. This is the first step. The second step in parallel, I think, a bit contradictory to development, is to make sure inequality doesn’t grow. This is key as it will help China avoid the middle-income trap,” he said.


He held that China is on its way to becoming a consumption-oriented economy. “It’s an enormous challenge, because it has never been done before at this scale. So there’s no model or precedent for how China will do this, but then there is no model for what China has done over the last five years, even the last 30 years. China is rewriting the rulebook about how to make the transformation. But I have confidence in the leadership of China and in China’s self-belief that the country can make the next step towards domestic development and therefore become even more important in the world,” Howard remarked.


Howard also showed his confidence regarding China-Australia relations. “The bilateral relationship is already incredibly strong. China is Australia’s most important export partner. We’re now increasing exports in traditional areas like iron for steel making, natural gas for industry, food, and a lot of raw materials. These are important exports that we’ll continue with. Meanwhile the service sector is becoming a new area of growth. For example, more and more Chinese students come to live and study in Australia every year and often stay with their families. This is a new dimension,” Howard told China Today.


The 2016 Census of Population and Housing released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the Australian population has surpassed 24 million. Chinese immigrants have been the fastest growing group over the past five years at a rate of 8.3 percent. There are around 1.2 million Australians of Chinese descent. Howard believes this will contribute to the huge potential between the two countries for people-to-people exchanges. 


The increasing number of exchanges in education and culture, apart from bringing about economic benefit, more importantly, will enhance peoples’ understanding of each other, in particular, those from the younger generation. Howard remarked that different cultural backgrounds constitute a big challenge for bilateral exchanges. “For those like me, who have traveled to China a lot, it’s easy to understand the differences, and understand the common paths. For those who might not have the chance to come to China so frequently, or for those who have not yet visited Australia, it takes time to understand these differences. So, the more we can have people travel for family reasons, for tourism, and for study, the stronger the relationship will become,” he said.