By Global Times (14 April 2019) – The 140th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly was held in Doha, Qatar, last week to address issues of global concern. What are the challenges the world is facing? How is China relevant to the IPU? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen talked to Martin Chungong (Chungong), secretary general of the IPU, about these issues during the assembly.
GT: What do you think are the biggest challenges the world is facing?
Chungong: The greatest challenge is the threat to multilateralism. People are challenging the value of multilateralism as a means of resolving global issues. This is worrying. It has been recognized that multilateralism is the way of resolving global issues and this is even more true today in view of the complicated nature of the issues the global community has to tackle. Those issues go across national boundaries. Isolationist and unilateral policies do not work. For instance, climate change knows no borders. I would not conceive a situation where you could handle climate change single-handedly.
Another threat is the spread of terrorism and violent extremism, which is a threat to international peace and security. Terrorism used to be localized in certain parts of the world. People said, “Go to the Middle East that’s where terrorism is.” No country in the world is immune to terrorism today. Look at what happened in Christchurch a couple of weeks ago. Who would have thought it would happen there?
Then we have the issue of the emergence of populism that breeds hatred, anti-migration policies and xenophobia for electoral gain.
Many countries are using such populism to gain votes to the detriment of basic human rights.
GT: Do you think the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative helps tackle these challenges?
Chungong: I think so. Once we have understood the solutions like multilateralism and integration of economies and states, the BRI is something that can help. To me, it is a big contribution to forging a global hand in support of integration and solution to problems of global importance.
I do understand that it includes development of infrastructure across continents, providing access to facilities and commodities, and easy transport of goods and services across national borders.
I do know that Chinese authorities lay a lot of emphasis on shared prosperity and I know that the Chinese people would be very interested in sharing their experience in terms of development and GDP growth with other nations. Each country would then adopt policies that accommodate their realities and needs.
China is not imposing anything on anyone though. It is up to each country to decide whether or not to cooperate. There is no way you can force somebody to accept your own worldview of things. There should be something in there for you to accept to be part of it.
Of course, we have to be realistic that this world is very competitive economically and politically and not everyone is expected to share the views or approach used by Chinese authorities. It is normal as there should be some differences there.
But if I understand the situation very well, there is no imposition of the Chinese model on anyone.
GT: What do you think of the mechanism of China’s National People’s Congress, which is equivalent to Western parliaments?
Chungong: A parliament is an institution that has law-making power in a country. It has the power to oversee the government and undertakes budgeting functions. These are the core functions of any parliament. The National People’s Congress of China has these powers and can act on behalf of all the Chinese people.
There is some form of parliamentary system of government in China. This is something for the Chinese people to decide for themselves. What is important is for the institution of parliament to lay these roles or perform those functions of law-making, oversight and budgetary allocation in an effective manner.
There are some core values that parliament should embody. Parliament has to be representative, has to be transparent in the way it functions and has to be accountable, accessible and effective. These can serve as guidelines for improving the performance of parliaments.
GT: You are the first non-European and first African to be elected IPU secretary general. Do you think the world now is still characterized by the “West” and “East”?
Chungong: I don’t think the world today is bipolar, but multipolar. A vast variety of issues that the global community has to address is no longer one ideology against another. It is a variety of issues and challenges facing all mankind that need to be addressed in a unified manner. The world is multipolar in terms of the interest and we would like to see a unified, differentiated approach to address this multipolar configuration.