An ancient Chinese philosopher observed that, ‘all living things may grow side by side without harming one another, and different roads may run in parallel without interfering with one another. Only when all countries pursue the cause of common good, live in harmony and engage in cooperation for mutual benefit will there be sustained prosperity and guaranteed security.” President Xi said in his work report to the 20th National Congress. It is “in this spirit,” according to President Xi, that China has launched the Global Security Initiative (GSI).
On the heels of Global Development Initiative (GDI) launched in 2021, China launched the Global Security Initiative (GDI) in April 2022. This initiative was first announced by President Xi Jinping during his keynote speech at the BOAO Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022. Xi described the GDI as ‘an alternative model to achieve balanced, coordinated, and inclusive growth while achieving the UN’s 2030 sustainable development agenda. The GSI and GDI can thus be described as duo initiatives, signaling a concretization of existing ideas and practices under a new umbrella consisting of the twin concepts of GDI and GSI.
Chinese President Xi Jinping described the GDI as ‘an alternative model to achieve balanced, coordinated, and inclusive growth while achieving the UN’s 2030 sustainable development agenda.
The launch of the GSI symbolizes a progression in Beijing’s foreign policy taking China beyond economic statecraft. China’s economic diplomacy focusing on development cooperation, accessible finance and win-win cooperation have formed the mainstay of China’s pursuit to boost its influence, particularly in developing countries for a while now. However, Beijing’s foreign policy is now looking toward a different form of diplomatic effort carving a niche for itself in the global security arena and is emerging as a serious contender to the West-led Security structures. The difference between the Chinese and the Western approach to development, security and international engagement has led to increasingly hostile contestation from the West questioning the ability of China and its development and security models to guarantee future global development and peace.
The Global Security Initiative (GSI) remained a vague geo-strategic idea that presented an alternative to the existing geopolitical order without any concrete details and proposals since its launch. Dong Chunling, Assistant Research Fellow at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, described the GSI as ‘a Chinese solution to jointly address increasingly complex and serious common global challenges’.
China spoke of the GSI at various groups and platforms to provide genuine alternatives to US-led international institutions. President Xi championed the initiative through the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit in June 2022, at which he called upon participating countries to embrace a more equitable form of international order. Then again at the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, President Xi underlined the need to ‘expand security cooperation’ between all members and welcomed them ‘to get involved in implementing the Global Security Initiative’. In Africa, China has begun attaching the GSI to existing cooperation agreements, including the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035 and the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa. At the first-ever China-Horn of Africa Peace Conference in June, Xue Bing, the Chinese Special Envoy for Horn of Africa Affairs, suggested that China was ready to work with partners through ‘consultation and interaction over interference’ to solve conflict across the region. In the South Pacific, China has linked the initiative to the bilateral security agreement it signed with the Solomon Islands.
GSI would provide a framework of principles for global affairs and diplomacy that could make the world a safer place. The Chinese media described the GSI as “another global public good offered by China” that will contribute “Chinese solutions and wisdom for solving security challenges facing humanity.”
In the context of the GSI, Chinese leaders and diplomats speak of security issues in the broadest sense — not just defense but also food, climate, supply chains, the internet, trade and energy.
While unveiling the concept paper for GSI china stated that “Security is a right for all countries. It is not a prerogative of some, still less should it be decided by any individual country. The GSI intends to serve the interests of all and protect tranquility for all. Its advances need the unity and cooperation of the international community. In implementing the GSI, China advocates the following five principles”:
- First, mutual respect. The purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be observed.
- Second, openness and inclusion. The GSI targets no particular country, and excludes no particular party.
- Third, multilateralism. Bilateral and multilateral security cooperation should be pursued among countries around the world and international and regional organizations in line with the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits..
- Fourth, mutual benefit and win-win. The principle of indivisible security should be followed. One’s own security and the common security of all should be advanced side by side.
- Fifth, a holistic approach. Security governance needs to be advanced in a coordinated manner, and traditional and non-traditional security threats should be tackled in a holistic way. Equal emphasis should be placed on security and development, to eliminate the breeding ground for insecurity and seek fundamental and durable ways for achieving sustainable security.
The GSI and GDI are both broad concepts that will be detailed out through substantive policies and partnerships in the coming years. Just as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) when announced by President Xi in 2013, was a broad concept that gradually crystalized by the receptivity from other countries and has today evolved into a major connectivity project and President Xi’s flagship foreign policy initiative.
The detailed concept paper on GSI issued a few days back by China expounds the core ideas and principles of the GSI, identifies the priorities, platforms and mechanisms of cooperation for safeguarding world peace and defend global security. The concept paper lays out 20 priorities of cooperation and all highly action-oriented.
The GSI has captivated the world attention more as it is a clear indication that that now China feels confident enough in its position on the world stage to roll out its vision for the new world order and for maintaining peace and security.
The GSI represents a formalized approach to securitizing China’s international development objectives and as such will be an essential part of the BRI Initiative in which China has already invested billions not only to boost regional connectivity but has also invested in areas beyond its immediate neighbourhood like Europe, South America and Africa. An enlarged network of security partners will help China to protect its huge investments in BRI and the protection of Chinese nationals abroad.
The Chinese are increasingly concerned by the formation of new security structures particularly in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific by the US, UK and European Union (EU).
China perceives initiatives such as the trilateral technology sharing partnership between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS), and security initiatives such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), in which the US, Japan, India and Australia participate, as deliberate hostile provocations from the West and an attempt to encircle China and if not halt then at least retard its peaceful rise.
Some of the Western analysts have argued that China believes the GSI would help China to rehabilitate its image in the eyes of nations that have been critical of its policy on Ukraine, and counter the growing ‘China threat’ narrative that is being promoted by the West. Therefore China will pursue a policy that safeguards its own national interests and the GSI can help enhance its image of a superpower that respects the purposes and principles of the UN Char. Chinese also feel that whilst the West is preoccupied with geopolitical concerns in the Euro-Atlantic region and the Ukraine war, a window of opportunity has emerged to get traction for the GSI as an alternate to ensure the stability needed for economic recovery and development.
So far the reaction of the West to GSI is as was predicted that is critical and belletristic raising alarm about the real intentions of China however, Russia has already signaled its approval towards the GSI. The GSI is likely to be generally well received in Africa and Latin America. China has a number of existing security agreements with African nations. African nations are likely to view GSI as an opportunity for better influence in global economics and politics. Countries such as Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, and Nigeria have been receptive to China’s offers to boost security ties through military training, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism efforts. Latin American and Caribbean countries may take a little longer to coordinate their involvement with the GSI, but both Nicaragua and Uruguay have expressed early support for the initiative.
In the immediate neighborhood of China, the response of South and Southeast Asia would need to be watched carefully as both these sub-regions have gained tremendous importance in the growing competition and confrontation between China and the US. In South East Asian countries like the Philippines and Vietnam are aligned to the US and suspicious of China’s intentions in the Indian Ocean and Pacific region. They will therefore resist any further integration with China till the territorial disputes are amicably resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned parties. Continuing border disputes make India’s immediate participation difficult although New Delhi has hinted it was prepared to discuss possibilities.
For both China and the US, it is the other that is the cause of insecurity in the world. U.S. Secretary of State Blinken has called China “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order.” China, in turn, argues that it is the U.S. and its allies that are the “destabilizing” force. China is now squarely focused on using the GSI to give impetus to its narrative across the Asia-Pacific region and as far away as Africa and South America. The success of GSI will depend on its acceptability by China’s friends and partners, most of whom view it favourably and believe that GSI is the need of the hour be bring some stability to a world in a state of flux and conflict.
the Author is a retired diplomat with over 37 years of distinguished service in the Foreign Service of Pakistan. During her career, she held key positions, including Ambassador to China, the European Union, Ireland. She also served as Deputy Head of Mission to China and Denmark. With expertise in various areas, she held significant roles at the Foreign Office, including Additional Foreign Secretary for America’s and Director General Policy Planning.
In addition to her diplomatic career, she is actively engaged as Vice Chair of the Council on Global Policy and a member of the Board of Directors of First Women Bank. She serves as an advisor to the China Study Center at ISSI and Kestral International. Furthermore, she is a prolific writer, contributing regularly to esteemed magazines and newspapers. As an accomplished author, she has published several books, including “Magnificent Pakistan” and “Pakistan-China-All Weather Friendship.” Her dedication and expertise continue to impact the field of international relations. She tweets @AmbNaghmanaHash.