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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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From Asia Times

Beijing is tweaking the rules of the Western order to reflect its revitalized geopolitical and economic power, but some Americans see this as a threat to their way of life

Chinese guardian lion in Beijing
Chinese guardian lion in Beijing
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org))
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Embedded in the now dominant US narrative of "Chinese aggression," Sinophobes claim that China is not only a threat to the American way of life, but also an existential threat to the American republic.

It's worth noting, of course, that the American way of life has long ceased to be a model to be emulated all across the Global South and that the US walks and talks increasingly like an oligarchy.

Underneath it all is a huge divide, in outlook and cultural beliefs, between the two great powers, as some leaders and writers have attempted to explain.

President Xi Jinping's speech last week does make it clear that Beijing is engaged in tweaking the rules of the current Westphalian system to truly reflect its reconquered geopolitical and economic power.

Yet it's hardly a matter of "overthrowing" the system established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. As much as trade blocks are ruling the new geoeconomic game, nation-states are bound to remain the backbone of the international system.

One of Beijing's key foreign policies is no interference in other nations' internal affairs. In parallel, the historical record since the end of WWII shows that the US has never refrained from interfering in other nations' internal affairs.

What Beijing is really aiming at is what Professor Xiang Lanxin, director of the Center of One Belt and One Road Studies at the China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, referred to at a crucial intervention during the June 2016 Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore.

Lanxin defined the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as being an avenue to a "post-Westphalian world," in a sense of a true 21st century geoeconomic integration of Eurasia acted out by Asian nations. That's the key reason why Washington, which set the current international rules in 1945, fears BRI and now demonizes it 24/7.

Understanding Tianxia

The notion that imperial China, over the centuries, obtained a Mandate of Heaven over Tianxia, or "All under Heaven," and that Tianxia is a "dictatorial system" is absolute nonsense. Once again that reflects the profound ignorance by professional Sinophobes about the deepest strands of classical Chinese culture.

They could do worse than learn about Tianxia from someone like Zhao Tingyang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and author of an essential book first published by China CITIC Press in 2016, then translated into French last year under the title Tianxia: Tous sous un meme ciel.

Tingyang teaches us that the Tianxia system of the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC) is essentially a theory -- a concept born in Ancient China but not specific to China that goes way beyond the country to tackle universal problems in a "process of dynamic formation that refers to globalization."

This introduces us to a fascinating conceptual bridge linking ancient China to 21st-century globalization, arguing that political concepts defined by nation-states, imperialisms and rivalries for hegemony are losing meaning when faced with globalization. The future is symbolized by the new power of all-inclusive global networks which is at the center of the BRI concept.

Tingyang shows that the Tianxia concept refers to a world system where the true political subject is the world. Under the Western imperialist vision, the world was always an object of conquest, domination and exploitation, and never a political subject per se.

So we need a higher and more comprehensive unifying vision than that of the nation-state under a Lao Tzu framework: "To see the world from the point of view of the world."

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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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