On 21 April 2022, President Xi Jinping delivered a virtual keynote speech titled “Rising to Challenges and Building a Bright Future Through Cooperation” at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022 held in Boao, Hainan Province. This was Xi Jinping’s sixth speech at the forum over the years. In his speech, he proposed a Global Security Initiative (GSI) which stressed commitment to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and rejected a Cold War mentality, group politics and bloc confrontation.[i]The concept is yet another addition to Xi Jinping’s thoughts/Xiplomacy.[ii]
The speech entailed six points; sustainable security, upholding sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs, as well as a respect for the policy choices of every nation based on its unique socio-political system. The most prominent concept of his speech was “indivisible security”. After Xi Jinping delivered the speech, other Chinese leaders and officials along with the media made various attempts to explain the initiative. The paper attempts to critically analyse the GSI and its implications.
Global Security Initiative
After the speech, the tenets of the Global Security Initiative (GSI) were explained by Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. He detailed the initiative in an editorial published in People’s Daily and introduced the major propositions and policy objectives proposed by China to fully implement the Initiative. These are firmly upholding the authority and status of the United Nations and jointly practicing “true multilateralism”; staying committed to the general direction of promoting peace talks and jointly working for political solutions to hotspot issues; coordinating efforts to address security threats in both traditional and non-traditional areas and working together to improve the global security governance system, taking into account both development and security, and jointly promoting strong recovery of the world economy. The initiative also seeks to strive toward building a new regional security framework and jointly safeguarding peace and stability in Asia. Wang Yi alluded that China is ready to join hands with all peace-loving and development-oriented countries and people to implement GSI.[iii]
In addition, on 6 May 2022, while speaking at an online dialogue of global think tanks of 20 countries sponsored by the China Public Diplomacy Association and Renmin University of China, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng elaborated on the concept.[iv] He highlighted the fact that the GSI aims to put the Chinese understanding of international developments in congruence with the United Nations (UN) Charter: This major Initiative carries forward the spirit of the UN Charter, offers a fundamental solution to eliminating the “peace deficit and contributes to Chinese perspectives to meeting international security challenges.”[v]
According to CGTN[vi], the GSI has added an Asian perspective to addressing the challenges of the times. Xi Jinping has stressed safeguarding peace in Asia, advancing Asian cooperation and promoting Asian unity. To substantiate the initiative, Xinhua published a list of Xi Jinping’s initiatives undertaken toward security architecture.[vii]An editorial in People’s Daily elucidated that the GSI is yet another global good offered by China like the Belt and Road Initiate (BRI) and Global Development Initiative (GDI). It represents the “practice of the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind in the security field, and contributes to China’s solutions to problems haunting global security governance.”[viii]
The most striking feature of Xi’s speech was the articulation of principle of “indivisible security” with Chinese characteristics. The principle of indivisible security was used for the first time in the Helsinki Act (1975). It also appeared in the 1990 Charter for a New Europe and in the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security-all treaties signed by the West and Russia. Since then, it has been included in several international documents. Broadly, the concept means that the security of any state is inseparable from others in its region. The security of each state in the region is inextricably linked to the security of every other state.[ix] Notably, China has used the concept of indivisible security for the first time outside the preview of China-Russia relations.[x]
The timing of the concept is crucial. The proposal is an attempt to refurnish Xi Jinping’s image ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party wherein he will be re-elected for the third term. Although, it is being projected as “a proposal full of hope”, the fact remains that Xi Jinping is facing troubles at home and abroad.[xi] The proposal attempts to portray a peaceful image of Xi Jinping. Amidst the ongoing US-China tension through the Initiative, China has criticised the US by pointing out the rejection of a “cold-war mentality”. It calls on major countries to set an example for others by following the international rules rather than being “exceptions” and the US should learn a lesson from the Russia-Ukraine crisis as it assumes the main responsibility for the security of Europe. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a reference point for the GSI. Le Yucheng had reiterated that some analysts misinterpret the China-Russia joint statement as a “friendship that has no limit” and therefore, they believe that China is responsible for the conflict. He used the opportunity to explain that China is not responsible for the on-going Russia-Ukraine conflict.[xii]
A few countries like Pakistan have already welcomed the initiative. Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs appreciated the GSI and reiterated that it has derived its core from the principles of the UN.[xiii]
Xi Jinping, in his speech and subsequent explanations, has illustrated that China is trying to push for an alternative international order led by China. In 2017, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” has been already incorporated into the Chinese Constitution and the GSI is an addition. China has used the opportunity to critique the existing international order and put forward its own. Overall, the concept is yet to mature and the modalities of the initiative need to be more explicit.
* Dr. Teshu Singh, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
[i] Huaxia, Full Text: Chinese President Xi Jinping's keynote speech at the opening ceremony of BFA annual conference 2022, 21 April 2021, Xinhua, https://english.news.cn/20220421/f5f48ba605ed427dab911188af175ebf/c.html , accessed on 29 April 2022
[ii] Huaxia, Xiplomacy: Xi offers China's proposal to tackle global security challenges, 24 May 2022, Xinhua, https://english.news.cn/20220524/a47b6f4eb0244779b568596d0882bf8b/c.html, accessed on 25 May 2022
[iii] China to work with international community for implementation of Global Security Initiative: FM, 26 April 2022, People’s Daily, http://en.people.cn/n3/2022/0426/c90000-10089348.html, accessed on 29 April 2022
[iv] Acting on the Global Security Initiative to Safeguard World Peace and Tranquility, 6 May 2022, MFA News, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjbxw/202205/t20220506_10682621.html, accessed on 7 May 2022
[vi] China stresses Asia’s role in promoting global peace, growth and cooperation, 21 April 2022, CGTN, https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-04-21/Xi-Jinping-Boao-2022-When-Asia-fares-well-the-whole-world-benefits--19pin75Hwnm/index.html, accessed on 6 May 2022
[vii] Huaxia, Xiplomacy: Xi offers China's proposal to tackle global security challenges, 24 May 2022, Xinhua, https://english.news.cn/20220524/a47b6f4eb0244779b568596d0882bf8b/c.html, accessed on 25 May 2022
[viii] He Yin, China contributes solutions to security challenges facing mankind at 2022 BFA annual conference, People's Daily, http://en.people.cn/n3/2022/0425/c90000-10088740.html, accessed on 9 May 2022
[ix] What is ‘indivisible security’? The principle at the heart of Russia’s ire against NATO,Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/84a43896-2dfd-4be4-8d2a-c68a5a68547a
[x] Kevin Yao and Yew Lun Tian, China's Xi proposes ‘global security initiative’, without giving details, Reuters, 21 April 2022https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-xi-says-unilateral-sanctions-will-not-work-2022-04-21/, accessed on 10 May 2022
[xi] Katsuji Nakazawa, Analysis: Xi floats ‘global security initiative’ with eye on Pacific, Nikkei Asia, 28 April 2022, https://asia.nikkei.com/Editor-s-Picks/China-up-close/Analysis-Xi-floats-global-security-initiative-with-eye-on-Pacific, accessed on 31 May 2022
[xii] Acting on the Global Security Initiative to Safeguard World Peace and Tranquility, 6 May 2022, MFA News, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjbxw/202205/t20220506_10682621.html, accessed on 7 May 2022
[xiii] Huaxia, Pakistan welcomes China-proposed Global Security Initiative, 5 May 2022, Xinhua, https://english.news.cn/20220529/1e45b185419a42b986ebd7ae7901b91c/c.html, accessed on 7 May 2022