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Institutionalizing a community of shared future for mankind

REN XIAO and JIN TIANDONG | 2021-11-26 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

A three-dimensional flowerbed showcasing a community of shared future for mankind Photo:CFP

A community of shared future for mankind is not only a metaphysical “community of values,” but also a “community of practice,” which has both the possibility of institutionalization and the foundation of organization.
Prerequisites for survival & development
The “community” in the traditional sense is the basic structure and organizational form of human life. In early societies, the level of productivity was low, and human beings had to obtain material benefits and security through solidarity and cooperation. Aristotle said, “He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.”  This shows that people can mingle together and also need to be in a group. Furthermore, individual freedom is inevitably subject to structural forces in exchange for material security and safety.
This consensus of interests and cultural identity based on languages, habits, and religions have become the soft constraints of the community on the individual. Of course, different communities will have different cultural identities in view of their geographical environment and behavioral habits. As the spiritual sustenance and principles of value of a community, cultural identity not only carries the function of identifying collective identity and facilitating emotional solidarity, but also tends to be transformed into institutional elements to provide the community with necessary reference with regard to expected interests, interactive norms, identity access, and punishment mechanisms, so that the community can be in a relatively orderly and symbiotic development state with direction and stability. 
Therefore, different cultural traditions will brand the community on specific institutional settings. In addition, the community has rigid constraints such as rules and force. The normative treaties and punishment mechanisms of the community, together with soft constraints, have become the organizational principles and institutional elements necessary for human agglomeration.
After the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, with the increasing frequency of human cross-regional interaction, and their global spillover, regional communities have become a new normal. Later, the gradually refined international division of labor further strengthened the interdependence among countries and provided a material basis for building a community of shared future for mankind.
However, this deepening of human connections takes the international system and international norms since the establishment of the Westphalia System as the “primary system,” which reflects more of the choices and preferences of Western values, and is no longer suitable for the current demands of non-Western countries to participate in the building of the international system. When the legitimacy of the existing system and the driving force of the new system are insufficient, all kinds of thorny problems caused by in-depth human interactions will remain unsolved, and the contradictions between governance subjects may also intensify. The phenomenon of “failure” and “lagging behind” in the current international order is the call for the institutionalization of a community of shared future for mankind. As a means to address problems, global governance is a significant matter related to the common development and progress of mankind. We must have the conceptual consensus of taking “human” as both the subject and object of governance and the political community of the state as the governance instrument. To implement this concept, we need to make due adjustments to the original system and rules on the basis of respecting the international power structure, which are suitable for the new symbiotic norm. Therefore, the institutionalization of a community of shared future for mankind is a  prerequisite for the construction of a good symbiotic organizational form for human survival and sustainable development.
It should be pointed out that institutions can also influence and shape behavioral culture. As the community moves towards institutionalization, it will also be affected by the system and gradually change its behavioral habits. Specifically, the institutionalization of a community of shared future for mankind needs to focus on the legislation and the innovation of jurisprudence, shaping the behavioral conventions through guiding actors’ concepts and values.
From the perspective of the development and evolution of the community, the habit of interaction between people has risen to a symbiotic organizational form, or a community, which transforms ideas into legal systems through political arrangements, which in turn solidifies political arrangements and distribution of interests, providing necessary energy for the stable survival and development of the community. Since institutional rules are the legal form of interest distribution, it is very important to discuss the public and individual natures of interests for the development of the institutionalization of a community. A regulation that reflects more of the public interests of the rule makers or focuses more on individual interests will influence the legitimacy and justification of the community.
From the current system operation of the international community, the change of the international power structure has not brought about the adjustment to the matching international system. The legitimacy of some international laws and international systems is constantly challenged by the changes of the rules and the external environment, which is the root cause of the “failure” of the system.  
Global solutions
Strictly speaking, the community of shared future for mankind is a political vision and idea. Its proposal has the significance of legal philosophy. To a certain extent, it can directly point to the problem of insufficient legitimacy in international law and the international system from the conceptual dimension, and provide new solutions. 
For example, in the legislation of international law, the concept of a community of shared future for mankind aims to take the “mankind” as a whole to participate in legislation, and states only functionally promote the enforcement and implementation of the law. 
The international legislation carrying and reflecting the common interests of all mankind will become the superordinate law. Through the mandatory characteristics of the superordinate law, it provides new behavioral norms for the interaction between countries until it becomes a cultural convention.
Many researchers follow the traditional idealistic understanding of the community, and regard a community of shared future for mankind as a kind of value expectation. This makes sense. Moreover, a community of shared future for mankind can indeed be positioned as a world value that combines Chinese and Western ideas and is based on the common interests of all mankind. Therefore, it emphasizes that peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom are the common values of all mankind. However, it should be noted that any community is not pure, but mixed. Even if the “community of interests” can be understood from the material ontology, its actors will produce different cultures and value orientations that are in harmony with each other in their internal interactions, so as to move towards the “community of cultures” and “community of values.”
At present, the international community urgently needs values conforming to the current reality of symbiosis and interactions. It should be a new cosmopolitanism that inherits the essence of the old cosmopolitanism of the East and the West and combines reality. This new cosmopolitanism is “of no exception” (all-including) rather than partial, inclusive rather than exclusive, relational rather than atomic, cultural rather than by force, and voluntary rather than compulsory.
As China’s global proposition, the value connotation of the community of shared future for mankind is tailored to deal with the current governance challenges of the international community. However, the value will not directly affect the entities; it needs a transmission mechanism such as behaviors and laws to take effect. Therefore, it is necessary to institutionalize it to resonate with the international community. In this way, the world concept of the community of shared future for mankind can immerse itself in the international community, the interactive practices of actors, and the internal society of actors. Its connotation will also be gradually popularized and internationalized, so as to provide a strong driving force for the construction of a community of shared future for mankind.
Ren Xiao is a professor from the Institute of International Studies; Jin Tiandong is from the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University.
Edited by ZHAO YUAN