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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/13/19

All under Heaven, China's challenge to the Westphalian system

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Plunging into the deepest roots of Chinese culture, Tingyang shows the idea that there's nothing beyond Tianxia is, in fact, a metaphysical principle, because Tian (heaven) exists globally. So, Tianxia (all under Heaven), as Confucius said, must be the same, in order to be in accordance with heaven.

Thus the Tianxia system is inclusive and not exclusive; it suppresses the idea of enemy and foreigner; no country or culture would be designated as an enemy, and be non-incorporable to the system.

Tingyang's sharpest deconstruction of the Western system is when he shows how the theory of progress, as we know it, clings to the narrative logic of Christianity; then "that becomes a modern superstition. The me'lange is neither scientific or theological it's an ideological superstition."

From the point of view of Chinese intellectual and cultural traditions, Tingyang shows that since Christianity won over pagan Greek civilization, the West has been driven by a logic of combat. The world appears as a bellicose entity, with groups or tribes opposing one another. The (Western) "mission of conquering the world destroyed the a priori integrity of the concept of 'world'. The world lost its sacred character to become a battlefield devoted to the universal accomplishment of Christianity. The word became an object."

So we came to a point where a hegemonic system of knowledge, via its mode of diffusion and monopoly of the rules of language, propagates a "monotheist narrative on everything, societies, history, life, values."

This system "interrupted knowledge and the historical thread of other cultures." It dissolved other spiritual worlds into debris without meaning, so they would lose their integrity and sacredness. It debased "the historicity of all other histories in the name of faith in progressivism (a secular version of monotheism)." And it divided the world into center and periphery; an "evolved" world which has a history contraposed to a stagnated world deprived of history.

This hardly differs from other major strands of criticism of Western colonialism to be found all across the Global South.

Yin and yang

Tingyang finally reverts to a Lao Tzu formula. "According to the Way of Heaven, excess is diminished and insufficiencies compensated." And that ties in with Yin and Yang, as referred to in the Book of Mutations of Zhou; "Yin and Yang is a functional metaphor of equilibrium, meaning that the vitality of every existence resides in dynamic equilibrium."

What irks the Sinophobes is that Tianxia, as explained by Tingyang and adopted by the current Beijing leadership, striving towards a real "dynamic equilibrium" in international relations, poses a serious challenge to American leadership in both hard power and soft power.

It's under this framework that Foreign Minister Wang Yi's crucial, wide-ranging commentary on Xi Jinping's diplomatic strategy must be interpreted. Wang stressed how Xi "has made innovations on and transcended the traditional Western theories of international relations for the past 300 years."

The Chinese challenge is unprecedented and no wonder Washington, in tandem with other Western elites, is stunned. In the end, it's a matter of positioning Tianxia as a superior promoter of "dynamic equilibrium" in international relations in comparison with the Westphalian system.

As a result, immense political and cultural repercussions may be lost in translation, and China needs some serious soft power to get its point across.

    Yet instead of producing reductionist diatribes, this process should galvanize a serious global debate in the years to come.

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    Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
     

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