China’s win-win approach to diplomacy

"After all, we live on one planet."



Reexamining China’s approach to diplomacy, one could see that it has been successful compared to that of the US. This is now apparent because today the world is observing the potential conflict between the US and China, with each seeking to gain the support of other countries to its side.

It is important that we take a comparative analysis of the fundamental differences in the approaches of the two countries, particularly when China applied the win-win approach to gain wider leverage and recognition. Others reject it, contending that diplomacy alone will never work.

Conventional wisdom by most political analysts say China’s diplomatic thrust is residual to its economic success. They say diplomacy goes hand in hand with economic success. This view has become the template of most countries.

The same political observers would however not go beyond to say that underneath the economic and diplomatic success of the US, after it emerged victorious in the Second World War, was the pattern of forcible alliance to strengthen the containment policy against China. The US has to rely heavily on its seemingly invincible military might to ensure the success of giving lip service to its practice of sugar-coated diplomacy.

In contrast, today, students of international relations see US dealings with other countries as symptomatic of its increasing uneasiness that it is about to be economically and even militarily eclipsed by China.

Nonetheless, one must understand the US approach has long been defined by the US Secretary of State during the Cold War when he said, “the State Department exists to protect the interest of the US.” In another occasion, Secretary John Foster Dulles said, “the US has no permanent enemies, it has only permanent interest.”

Taking the two statements together means that through the years, we failed to peel off our concept of diplomacy to allow us to segregate the chaff from the grain. For that, we have failed to measure America’s friendship such that we have been living up to our role as protector of US interest in this country.

It was the US that put a price tag to diplomacy just to reach out as many allies to counterbalance Chinese and Russian influence. The exposition of our foreign policy through diplomacy has become costly because it focuses mainly in securing one’s interest. Instead of us broadening our relations with other countries, we focus on what they could exact and only then will they proceed to bargain away things of lesser value.

For instance, nobody understood why China relented to a 60-40 agreement with us when normally by the principle of sovereignty equality between two negotiating states would have prevented us from signing that. Even if the agreement was favorable to us, nobody dared examine what made it possible.

The US, in its diplomatic dealings, has always maintained the position of strength to supplement its economic, military, and political influence to intimidate other countries. But that is not diplomacy in its true sense because the parameter on what the parties should bargain does not exist. Countries on the defensive could only recall the orthodox concepts of state equality and sovereignty. Negotiation is at the outset doomed, or if it succeeds, it is one of a lopsided contract.

On other hand, China’ approach to diplomacy is to treat the negotiations with a frame of mind of seeking to achieve a win-win agreement. That means the agreement should not only be acceptable, but more importantly would also benefit the other party. It is the benefit than what it could bargain that clinches the contract. On that basis, parties explore wide range of possibility to make the negotiation a success.

The win-win approach of China is classic because it provides more areas to bargain and alternatives on what the other can offer. This is definitely not in accord to the philosophy of differentiating black from what is white that in the end to give way is to negatively treat the negotiations as a betrayal.

Such is wrong for somehow each has something to offer if one would have to go outside in the measurement of value and material benefits. It is similar to the concept of exchange in economics. One would realize that what he obtained is more than a win-win victory, but is only theoretically limited by the preconceived notion of equality. Without it, seldom could any negotiation start. The win-win formula is another variation of the concept of “soft power” enunciated by American professor David Nye, Jr. Professor Nye defines “soft power” as “when a country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries—admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness—want to follow it.”

The intimidating diplomacy of US President Trump is already seeing the aftermath of increased mistrust in the US leadership. In fact, the win-win formula now being pursued by China’s President Xi Jinping has reached is its highest form of diplomatic refinement of the original “soft power” conceived by Professor Nye. To him, the world revolves around politics, and there is more truism to his thesis.

It is different from the US position of strength in negotiating, having in mind the idea of subjugating the other to force it to cave in as though what they will sign is an unconditional surrender. The US failed to bring North Korea and Iran to the negotiating table because it wants to impose an all-win formula, forgetting that these states are not negotiating under the terms of unconditional surrender.

Philippine-China relations amplify clearly the win-win approach which the two countries have adopted. China’s ambassador Zhao Jianhua listed three important items he categorized as the pillars in Philippine Chinese relations. First, it strengthened to a high-level the exchanges that deepened strategic mutual trust. Second, it unleashed great potential for cooperation that is now reaping fruitful results. This has resulted in China becoming the country’s leading trading partner, reaching a total of $50 billion, and the added investment from China of $53.84 million or an increase of 67 percent. Third is the rapid increase in tourism coming from China. During the first three quarters in 2018, the Philippines has received more than 972,00 Chinese tourists achieving a 34.0 percent increased on a year-to-year basis.

On the whole, what we see is an expansion in our diplomatic thrust not essentially focused on trade, but more on primordial concern to eliminate the mistrust that continues to linger. Exploring what we could share would surely be reciprocated by China. It is one of coming to terms to what President Xi has eloquently proposed, which is to put up a new framework in international relations of building for mankind a “community of shared future.” After all, we live on one planet.

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Topics: Rod Kapunan , China , diplomacy , United State , Xi Jinping , Donald Trump , Philippine-China relations , Zhao Jianhua
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