【High-level Interview】Kerry Brown: The Changing World and China’s Increasingly Important Position In It

We all live in China’s world, these days, just as China lives in a world where it shares space, ideas, and other issues with many others.

Editor’s Note: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It amazes people that China, which could barely feed its people 70 years ago, has turned into one that is building a well-off society in an all-round way.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, China Focus is set to launch a series of in-depth interviews with renowned academics, diplomats and high-level officials from abroad, sharing their views on China’s development and how the relationship between China and the world has been changing over the past 70 years, as well as the vision for future.

In a wide-ranging interview, China Focus speaks with Kerry Brown, professor at King’s College London and director of the LAU China Institute, to share his views on how China-UK relationship is changing over the past decades, how the world benefits from China’s rapid development and what China’s role is in global governance.

China Focus: How would you describe the current relationship between China & UK in three words?

Kerry Brown: Intensifying, diversifying, deepening.

China Focus: How has China’s role in international institutions such as the UN or WTO changed over the last 70 years? Do you think if China can play a greater role in these organizations in the future?

Kerry Brown: China has moved since 1949 from a position of marginality to one where it is central to both the UN, as a member of the P5 security council, but also the WTO, which it has been a key member of since 2001. In 1949, the newly founded People’s Republic of China barely had a voice. In 2019, it is hard to ignore it. It has journeyed from the edges of global issues, to the center. For a country that comprises a fifth of humanity, and which is emerging as the world’s largest economy in the next decade, it is hard to see this trend reversing.

China Focus: What does President Xi Jinping’s concept of building “community with a shared future for mankind” mean to you? How is China actively enacting this thought to contribute to global governance?

Kerry Brown: The idea of a shared vision for humanity expresses commonality underlying all the various issues difference that exists in the world now. China has expressed its own vision of what it wants from the world, and from its relations with the world. It also makes clear that the Chinese vision is one that the rest of the world is part of, and can make China part of. There is space, and has to be space, for everyone.

China Focus: Over the past 70 years, as China’s economy has grown, it has begun to take on more international responsibilities. How do you view the change in the relationship between China and the world?

Kerry Brown: Since 1978 in particular, and the reforms which were implemented from that time, China’s link with the world around it has diversified, intensified, and deepened. The two are inextricably linked now, in ways which were unimaginable even a few decades ago. It is no longer a case of China and the world, but China with the world, and the world with China. We all live in China’s world, these days, just as China lives in a world where it shares space, ideas, and other issues with many others.

China Focus: What do you think is the biggest problem currently facing the international community? How is China helping combat this problem?

Kerry Brown: The divisions that have grown from fear and populism is the short-term problem, setting societies against each other and divided within themselves. The longer-term problem is the catastrophe facing our natural environment. It is here that China is, and increasingly will be, having leadership – as a technology creator, policymaker and collaborator in global measures to fight against climate change.

China Focus: What has China contributed to the world economy in “real-terms”? How will its role in the world economy change over the next twenty years?

Kerry Brown: China has created a middle class which is going to be key in terms of consumption, economic growth and wealth creation for the coming decades. It has created hundreds of millions of different individuals with the desire and need to be fully active as international and national global economic agents. This is going to be the key development in the coming decades – the rise, and the impact economically within and outside China, of its middle class.

China Focus: Is there anything you would like to say to China and Chinese people as the 70th birthday of PRC is approaching?

Kerry Brown: To remember the enormous impact and status that China is starting to have, and how it needs to act as an exemplar of Chinese values, and the ways in which those values can be transferred and shared by those outside of China. China is now able to act as a model of a new way of behaving – and it has a global audience watching what it does to see what a world where China has an increasingly important place looks like and how it differs from the old world it is replacing.

 

Editors: Cai Hairuo, Jamie Leigh Wright