What Kind of World Should Be Built?
What kind of a China does the world need, and what kind of a world does China need? These questions are closely linked. At its highest levels, China’s grand strategy is its overall, long-term design for the world. If China is to guide and lead the world, it needs to have a plan and a design for it.
The conclusion of the Cold War was a fantastic opportunity to create a better world order, but instead the United States embarked down the path of unilateralism and hegemony. Joseph Nye, [an] American political scientist and Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government professor, has argued that the principle of a world power is that it cannot just seek its own interests; it needs to seek methods that benefit its own interests as well as the interests of others. The ideal world power should have a wide view of its national interests. The ideal world power looks at the international system in a broader context, and rather than only serving its national interests, also serves other national interests. In this, China is more suited to lead the world and rebuild the world order than America.
French politician Georges Clemençeau said, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” Charles de Gaulle said, “Politics is too important to be left to the politicians.” A Chinese expert said, “The world is too important to be left to America. China needs to ‘design the world.’ China must lead the world toward a better future.” As a designer, China needs to produce a better blueprint for the world than America’s. As a world leader, China needs to produce a better policy agenda than America’s. China has said it wants to build a harmonious world, and this is what China’s design for the world offers.
The Secret to a Slow Rise: Hiding Power and Biding Time
One of the skills demonstrated in America’s rise is a special American ability to bide its time. Even with the capacity to lead the world, America does not rush to take the lead. [The period from] 1913–1945 was a turning point in world history, and in the history of America’s global role. Europe, once the center of international relations whose influence swayed even America, lost its global hegemony after World War I. All signs after 1917 pointed to the rise of America as the world’s new leader, and even when it didn’t use its full military strength (during the 1920s), it provided economic and cultural resources that defined and maintained the world order. The period in the 1930s when the United States shirked its power as leader at every level, withdrew from the international order, and retreated into nationalism and unilateralism was truly an exception, but even then, in the words of Joseph Nye, it was obvious that the United States was “doomed to leadership.”
On the eve of victory in World War II, [U.S. President Franklin] Roosevelt and his colleagues expected the United States to rise from the war and enter the world as the most powerful nation. And unlike after the First World War, they were determined to lead the world after this war. This time, they would create a world order that promoted American interests, and they would use it not only to increase American wealth and power, but also to spread American values to every corner of the world.