China’s Global Security Initiative and the dichotomy

Context: Recently China introduced the Global Security Initiative (GSI) Concept Paper. The GSI is as a China-led framework that seeks to restore stability and security, particularly in Asia. The paper has outlined five major pillars to effectively implement the GSI, i.e., mutual respect; openness and inclusion; multilateralism; mutual benefit, and a holistic approach.

GSI is tailored more to be an empty narrative to compete with United States leadership and dominant U.S.-led concepts. As the war in Ukraine intensified and diverging perceptions among developing countries vis-à-vis the West and the unfolding war, China is seeking to leverage these fault lines by promoting its vision as a capable alternative leader.

Understanding the concept paper and dichotomy

  • The GSI’s first principle centres on the need for countries to adhere to the United Nations Charter and international law based on mutual trust and cooperation.

However China has consistently demonstrated the exact opposite in terms of its relations with its neighbours. Along its southwestern border, China continues to ensure that its relations with India are provocative by constantly undermining India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. 

China is also increasing its assertive manoeuvres in the South China Sea by greatly militarising the disputed maritime territory at the expense of the sovereignty and the sovereign rights of its Southeast Asian neighbours. 

Further, in its complete rejection of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), China continues to assertively intrude and block the access of its neighbours within their respective Exclusive Economic Zones.

  • The second principle of the GSI lies in its openness to spearhead inclusive international engagements

However China at the same time continues to engage in exclusionary policies in the East and South China Seas. This an outright rejection of freedom of navigation enshrined in international law and also a display of narrowly defined interests to consolidate its sphere of influence in the region.

  • The third principle focuses on bilateral and multilateral security cooperation and consultations to address issues of concern with the parties involved.

However analysing the Chinese understanding of consultation can be seen through the prism of asymmetric power relations such as constraining members of the ASEAN from pursuing collective actions against Beijing’s assertion. 

Moreover, China continues to delay the establishment of a crucial Code of Conduct for the South China Sea as it continues to bolster its military power projection in the disputed territory and indulge in various grey zone strategies.

  • The fourth principle highlights the GSI’s prioritisation of positive-sum cooperation, where parties involved can equally benefit

However if we look at China’s Belt and Road which seems to address the significant infrastructure deficit in the developing world, but the initiatives disregard for international macroeconomic stability by funding unsustainable projects for countries with low or non-existing credit ratings that creates more debt burdens for these countries. 

Further China has also shown disregard for its neighbour’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, as China has insisted on receiving a larger share in its bid for a joint exploration of resources with Manila in Philippine waters

  • The fifth and the last principle that GSI advocates a holistic approach towards traditional and non-traditional security threats, with an equal emphasis on eliminating any “breeding ground for insecurity”.

Rather than being holistic, China’s engagements with the powers indicate a more narrowly defined goal for its power interests. 

China also continues to be a catalyst for insecurity in the non-traditional security realm, starting from its alleged lack of accountability regarding the COVID-19 pandemic to arming terror groups, such as in Myanmar.
Therefore it can be concluded that China’s GSI is far from being a sustainable, equitable, and transparent solution to the growing insecurity that the world is facing, given an objective understanding of its track record in fulfilling its own principle requirements. Rather, the GSI indicates Beijing’s attempt to counter U.S. leadership through narratives, regardless of whether it can effectively operationalise such initiatives on the ground.

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