The Newsletter 74 Summer 2016

One Belt, One Road: China's reconstruction for global communication and international discourse power

Xiang De Bao

During his visit to ASEAN countries in 2013, Secretary Xi Jinping presented a plan for the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt (hereafter, One Belt) and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (hereafter, One Road). One Belt, One Road is a major policy in China’s domestic and foreign economic strategy, with which the country actively responds to changes in the global state of affairs. More importantly, it is a move in China’s pursuit of international communication and international discourse power, a far-reaching strategic vision aiming to fully realize the Chinese dream.

The rise of China in the 21st century has had an enormous effect on global politics and the global economic structure. The more that China’s hard power increased, such as its economy and military, the more the country sought ways in which to increase its international communications, discourse, and other types of soft power. According to American scholar Joseph Nye, soft power refers mainly to a nation’s ability to attract others with its culture and political values, to define international norms, and to set the agenda in world politics.

The traditional international communication order has been monopolized by the great powers of the West, and Western discourses have been playing the leading role in the world. Western countries have exercised this power by excluding developing countries, using their powerful communication systems and advantage of discourse, while developing countries have lost their discourse power in international affairs and international relations, and have been put in a passive position, bullied and exploited. That is why, from the Chinese perspective, reconstruction of the global order with an emphasis on China’s international discourse power is such an important and urgent task.

In recent years, China has attracted much attention around the world by actively setting the global agenda – from the Harmonious World to China’s Road, China Model, Chinese Worldview, Chinese Dream, and the One Belt, One Road initiative. It has ushered in a new way of interpreting the world through the Chinese framework, increased China’s discourse power on the world stage, and filled the world stage with Chinese content. Therefore, One Belt, One Road is an important tactic of the Chinese government to reconstruct the international communication order, to exercise China’s discourse power, and to develop the nation’s soft power in the age of globalization.

The One Belt, One Road strategy can be summarized as one core idea (peace, cooperation, development, and mutual benefit), five foci for cooperation (policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds), and three communities (a community of shared interests, a community of common destiny, and a community of responsibility). The ‘community of common destiny’ is the new discourse system proposed by the Chinese government; the voice of China transmitted to the world by China itself. Since 2013, Xi Jinping has used the concept of ‘community of common destiny’ at different venues on over 60 occasions.

Concepts of a community of common destiny between nations, regional community of common destiny, and community of common destiny for mankind reflect China’s hope to achieve peace and development and create a worldview that transcends boundaries of nation-states and ideologies. They express China’s idea of a win-win cooperation with other countries. By converging individual interests and forming a community of common destiny for all of mankind, economic globalization has given the world’s population of 7 billion an opportunity to develop all together. The discourse system of a community of common destiny has incorporated China’s cultural environment and is a major force pushing forward China’s international discourse system.

Currently, One Belt, One Road is receiving the support of 64 countries and its discourse system is gaining international influence, and thus, the world has started accepting a Chinese discourse. As One Belt, One Road is being carried out, the international communication system led by China and China’s discourse in it are gradually gaining more currency. Through One Belt, One Road, the country is exercising its international communication and international discourse power, and the success of that strategy can bring the effect of realizing the Chinese dream.