Webinar on “‘Community of Shared Destiny for Mankind’: Remaking the World in China’s Image”

In this hybrid seminar, Dr David Arase looked into the origins and purposes of President Xi Jinping’s signature initiative to build a ‘Community of Shared Destiny’.


Tuesday, 13 September 2022 – This hybrid seminar reviewed the origins, purposes, and determinants for the future prospects of President Xi Jinping’s signature initiative to build a “Community of Shared Destiny for Mankind” as part of President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” on the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The speaker, Dr David Arase, is Resident Professor of International Politics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Hopkins-Nanjing Center located in China. He is also currently a non-resident Visiting Senior Fellow with the Regional Strategic and Political Studies Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and a Visiting Scholar at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan.

Speaker Dr David Arase with moderator Ms Hoang Thi Ha. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

According to Dr Arase, the “Community of Shared Destiny for Mankind” (henceforth, CSD) is essentially a discursive tool to engineer a new mode of global governance, albeit in a slow and gradual manner. Its ideological underpinnings are embedded in Xi Jinping’s Thought, a blend of Marxism-Leninism, nationalism and Confucianism, that positions China as a dominant global power and projects China’s influence and leadership in the global governance system. Countries subscribing to the CSD may find themselves having to align with certain frameworks and principles of international relations which will predominantly be shaped by Beijing. For example, countries within the CSD will be expected to support China in global forums and on contentious issues surrounding its strategic competition with the US and the West more generally.

Given the proximity between China and Southeast Asia, Beijing sees the region as a prime target to be part of its CSD. Key initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and to a lesser extent, development programmes under the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have been the vehicles for Beijing to advance ideas of a CSD in the region. According to Dr Arase, while the BRI has certainly advanced trade, connectivity and investment with Southeast Asia, it has also deepened economic dependence on China and established patron-client relations between Beijing and regional countries.

On the principles underpinning the CSD, Dr Arase highlighted China’s use of seemingly non-controversial and appealing ideals such as common security and development for all. The CSD also stands in contrast with the Western liberal international order, which has at times sidelined authoritarian regimes and countries deemed to have committed gross violations of human rights. Beijing hopes for the CSD to have non-restrictive membership criteria that include countries that have historically been excluded in the liberal order. While this inclusivity might provide a veneer of egalitarianism, Dr Arase highlighted that other principles of the liberal international order, which countries globally by and large respect and adhere to, may not be held in the same regard by Beijing under the CSD. Such principles include respect for sovereignty, freedom of the seas and the right to self-determination. Issues such as the South China Sea territorial dispute, tensions surrounding Taiwan, and the India-China border disputes are some cases in point.

On top of initiatives such as the BRI, Beijing has also launched the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI) in order to bolster the broader economic and security infrastructure that would underpin the CSD. Additionally, Beijing has also exercised discourse power, including through media engagements and social media messaging, to promote narratives that support the formation of the CSD. Some of these narratives aim to mobilise anti-Western sentiment in the hope that support will instead be channelled to China.

Southeast Asia is perceived by Beijing to be an important region to integrate into its CSD. While countries in the region may benefit from stronger economic ties with China, there will likely be no compromise on issues such as the South China Sea. As the geopolitical rivalry between the US and China heats up, Beijing will spare no effort at trying to ensure that Southeast Asia is as closely aligned with China as possible.

During the Q&A session, Dr Arase answered questions on whether the CSD can co-exist with the current liberal rules-based international order, how China’s domestic economic situation might affect its foreign policy agenda and what his recommendations are for Southeast Asian countries dealing with overtures to endorse and join China’s CSD. A total of 80 in-person and online participants attended the hybrid seminar.

(Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)