Pursuing Innovation in China’s Diplomatic Theory and Practice to Achieve New Progress in Diplomatic Initiatives

By: Yang JiechiFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal July-September 2016|Vol.8,No.3,Issue No.28 | Updated: 2016-Sep-1 14:34
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The year 2015 was an extraordinary year for both China and the rest of the world. On the basis of its accurate appraisal of the changing international landscape as well as the underlying trends of China’s development, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping, pursued further innovation in China’s diplomatic theory and practice, comprehensively balanced domestic considerations with international ones, and presided over important breakthroughs in Chinese diplomacy, securing important diplomatic outcomes that have taken the country’s diplomatic initiatives into new territory.


In the year 2015, the world continued to undergo major, complicated and profound changes: the restructuring of the international system and order gained momentum; political and economic ties between countries became closer; the intertwining of geopolitical and security challenges grew in complexity; and the trend towards world reform gained strength. As a result, the global landscape demonstrated the following new features: 

First, while the recovery of the world economy remained slow and painstaking, there was a notable increase in the pace of reform and adjustment. 

The world economy on the whole continued the post-crisis trend of low economic growth. Developed countries saw lackluster economic recovery, while emerging economies witnessed increased downward pressure on growth. The divergence of monetary policy in Western countries added risks to the financial markets of emerging economies. A new technological and industrial revolution continued to advance, strategic economic competition among major countries intensified, and the economic impact of geopolitical risks grew. With their feet in the present but eyes on the future, all countries stepped up their economic restructuring in a bid to gain new growth impetus. By deepening reform across the board and promoting the transformation of its growth model, China managed to sustain a medium-high rate of economic growth, continuing to make major contribution to world economic growth.

Second, reform of the international system entered a crucial stage and the international order moved in a more just and equitable direction. 

The year 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the world’s victory in the war against fascism and the founding of the United Nations. The tenets and principles of the UN Charter were further acknowledged and promoted. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was issued, and the Post-2020 Climate Change Regime was established. Emerging economies began to exert greater influence in global governance; the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was founded; preparations for the BRICS New Development Bank proceeded smoothly; and the Renminbi was included in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket. At the same time, China engaged in vigorous efforts to strengthen South-South Cooperation and promote North-South Dialogue, with a view to pushing forward the reform and improvement of the international governance system.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a leaders’ meeting on the Iranian nuclear issue under a sexpartite framework on April 1, 2016.


Third, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region remained stable on the whole, with most countries in the region sharing a common desire for peace, development, and mutual benefit.

Maintaining its strong development momentum, the Asia-Pacific region continued to be the world’s most vibrant and promising area. Regional economic cooperation and integration gained pace, but there was still no solution in sight for complex regional hotspot issues, with disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests remaining a long-term issue. China called on all Asia-Pacific countries to engage each other in development and cooperation and pursue long-term peace and stability, and urged all parties involved to address issues appropriately through negotiations, thus playing a more prominent role in safeguarding peace and stability and promoting the common development of the region. Mutually beneficial cooperation and the convergence of interests between China and its neighbors continued to deepen, helping to further consolidate China’s friendly relations with neighboring countries.

Fourth, the international situation remained intricate and complex, with factors contributing to turbulence growing in number. 

Turmoil in the Middle East continued, and the threat of terrorism spread. An agreement was reached on the Iranian nuclear issue, although its implementation may not be plain sailing. Geopolitical and security issues such as the Ukraine problem evolved in more complex ways. Traditional and non-traditional security threats became interwoven. The big countries devoted more attention and resources to international security issues, while cooperation went hand-in-hand with competition. China made active efforts to safeguard international security, combat all forms of terrorism, strengthen international cooperation on nonproliferation, and promote the building of a peaceful, secure, open, and cooperative international cyberspace.

Against the abovementioned backdrop, China’s relationship with the rest of the world continued to undergo profound changes, with domestic and international situations becoming more closely integrated. At present China remains in the midst of an important period of strategic opportunity in which much can be accomplished. The country is coordinating initiatives in all respects in accordance with the five-pronged overall plan as well as the Four Comprehensives for development. The prospects for realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation are bright, and the country’s international status and influence have reached new heights. The international community is confident in China’s prospects for development, and is increasingly willing to cooperate with China and draw on its strengths. However, we need to be aware that as a major developing socialist country, China still faces many external risks and challenges which it must address in an appropriate and effective way. 

Facing a complex international situation, the CPC Central Committee headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping consistently highlighted strategic and overall considerations, formulated overall plans, and directly oversaw diplomatic work, launching a series of major diplomatic initiatives and promoting proposals and measures which have opened up new horizons for China’s diplomacy. 

In a bid to actively participate in and guide major global issues, China successfully held events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Chinese people’s victory in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the world’s victory against fascism; and attended major multilateral events including the summits marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the G20 Leaders Summit, the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, the Paris Climate Conference, and the East Asian leaders’ meetings on cooperation. Through our participation in these events, we expounded China’s principles and put forward its proposals, making a significant contribution to promoting global peace, development, and international governance.

China carried out a major effort to advance the Belt and Road Initiative. With a commitment to the principles of mutual consultation, joint development, and shared benefits, China promoted the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative with development strategies of the countries concerned, deepened concrete cooperation with these countries in many fields, pushed for greater connectivity, and secured more important progress, which served to inject new energy and vitality into the economic development not only of this region but also of the world as a whole.

China worked to strengthen its relations with major countries, neighboring countries, and developing countries. In an effort to promote the steady progress of relations with major countries, China deepened the new type of major-country relations with the US; maintained a high-level strategic collaborative partnership with Russia; and enhanced its relations with the EU in an all-around way. With a commitment to developing friendship with neighboring countries, China implemented the principles of “affinity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness” in order to build up common interests. We in China also took appropriate steps regarding the South China Sea and other sensitive issues, resolutely safeguarding our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. With a view to strengthening and developing relations with developing countries, China proposed 10 major cooperation projects at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit, and established the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum, thereby taking cooperation between China and developing countries into a new phase.

Attaching great importance to regional and international hotspot issues, such as the Iranian nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and the Afghanistan issue, China played a constructive role in promoting political solutions to related issues. At the same time, we continued to support and raise our level of participation in UN peacekeeping operations, making a major contribution to the preservation of world peace and security.

These diplomatic initiatives and measures have made vigorous contribution to the development of China’s diplomacy. They have comprehensively elevated our friendly cooperation with related regions and countries; effectively safeguarded China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests; and further consolidated and enhanced China’s advantageous position in the international strategic landscape.  


The major achievements of China’s diplomatic initiatives in 2015 constituted an important embodiment of enhanced innovation in China’s diplomatic theory and practice under a new situation. Since the convening of the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC in 2012, while preserving the consistency and continuity of China’s diplomatic policy and principles, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as General Secretary has promoted innovation in the theory and practice of China’s distinctive major-country diplomacy by integrating tradition with innovation and persistence with development. Introducing a series of major new ideas, concepts, and measures, it has formulated an action plan for the nation’s diplomatic initiatives in a new period, which has given China’s diplomacy new features, a new style, and a new demeanor. The great significance and far-reaching influence of Xi’s important thinking on diplomatic initiatives and international strategy can be summarized in the following key points.

Introducing the notion of the Chinese Dream and endowing it with profound global meaning

During major diplomatic activities, Xi Jinping has spoken in great depth about the Chinese Dream and its implications for the world. He has stated that the Chinese Dream is one of peace, happiness, and contribution to the world. Sharing close links with the dreams of other peoples around the world, the Chinese Dream will not only bring benefit to the Chinese people, but will also benefit the people of the entire world. Xi’s profound exposition of the Chinese Dream has conveyed the Chinese people’s desire for peace and development and showed the world the opportunities that China’s development offers, thereby enhancing international understanding and recognition of China and boosting China’s international appeal and influence. 

Enriching China’s strategy of peaceful development

Xi Jinping has made a series of important policy propositions regarding peaceful development under new conditions. During a number of foreign visits, he has stressed that China’s commitment to the path of peaceful development is a strategic choice that China has made in view of contemporary trends and China’s fundamental interests, representing a combination of China’s confidence in its theories and its practical self-awareness. However, Xi has also stated that commitment to the path of peaceful development in absolutely no way means that China will give up its legitimate rights and interests, or sacrifice its core national interests. China will follow the path of peaceful development, and so should other countries. Xi’s statements have not only enriched the connotations of China’s peaceful development and deepened our understanding of the laws governing peaceful development, but have also demonstrated China’s resolve in following this path. They have come as a powerful blow to attempts by certain hostile international forces to distort and smear China’s peaceful development.

Promoting the establishment of a new model of international relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation

In 2013, during a state visit to Russia conducted not long after the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, Xi Jinping called on all countries to introduce a new model of international relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation, stating that people of all countries should work together to safeguard world peace and promote common development. In 2014, at the diplomatic work conference of the CPC Central Committee, Xi stressed that in establishing a new model of international relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation, mutual benefit would have to be manifested in all aspects of international cooperation, including politics, economy, security, and culture. In 2015, while attending summit meetings marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, Xi further expounded the idea of establishing a new model of international relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation. This concept represents a continuation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and a major innovation and development in China’s view of the international order which has provided a new vision for international relations. In particular, the CPC Central Committee has applied this concept to guide the development of relations with major countries. In 2013, President Xi met with US President Obama at the Annenberg Estate in California. During the meeting, Xi proposed a new model of major-country relations between China and the US characterized by non-conflict and non-confrontation, mutual respect, and mutually beneficial cooperation. This call has pointed China-US relations in the right direction, helping to guide relations between the two countries onto a path of healthy and steady development.

Calling for the building of a community of shared future for mankind

In 2015, President Xi delivered an important speech at the General Debate of the 70th UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York. He stressed the need to establish partnerships in which countries treat each other as equals, engage in mutual consultation, and show mutual understanding; to develop a security architecture that features fairness, justice, joint contribution, and shared benefits; to seek open, innovative, and inclusive development that benefits all; to boost inter-cultural exchanges that promote harmony, inclusiveness, and respect for differences; and to cultivate ecosystems in which mother nature and green development come first, thus outlining an overall plan and approach for building a community of shared future. Rooted in China’s profound culture, and conforming not only to the common aspirations of people around the world but also to the trend of human progress, Xi’s remarks constitute a banner under which China will seek to guide the development of international relations. 

Upholding the correct outlook on justice and gain

Xi Jinping introduced the correct outlook on justice and gain during his first visit to Africa in 2013, laying emphasis on strengthening unity and cooperation with developing countries. Since then, he has elaborated on this outlook on a number of occasions. Xi has stressed the need to uphold the correct outlook on justice and gain in international relations. Politically, we should uphold justice, fairness, and equality; economically, we should pursue mutual and common development. We need to maintain a balance between upholding justice and seeking interests, and emphasize faith, friendship, justice, and moral principles. With regard to foreign aid, we need to truly uphold justice and seek common interests. Guided by this outlook on justice and gain, we have worked constantly to deepen political trust and practical cooperation with other developing countries, ensuring that China’s diplomacy assumes the international moral high ground. These efforts have done a great deal to improve China’s international image and soft power.

Advocating common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security for Asia

When President Xi spoke at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia hosted by China in 2014, he advocated the concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security for Asia, and called for efforts to create a path for Asian security characterized by joint development and shared benefits. Receiving positive responses from the participants, the key points of Xi’s call were written into the Shanghai Declaration issued at the conference. China’s approach to Asian security has become an integral part of the country’s overall approach to security. It has not only guided China in its efforts to safeguard its national security and strengthen security cooperation with other countries, but has also provided new thinking on security and stability for Asia and even for the international community as a whole. This is a major contribution that China has made to both regional and global security.

Calling for equitable, open, all-round, and innovation-driven development

In 2015, President Xi delivered an important speech at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in which he called on all countries to follow a path of equitable, open, all-round, and innovation-driven development, and introduced a four-point policy proposal that consisted of strengthening the capacity of all countries for development, improving the international environment for development, optimizing development partnerships, and strengthening coordination mechanisms for development. His statements at the UN represented a vivid embodiment of the principles of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, which were introduced at the Fifth Plenary Session of the Eighteenth CPC Central Committee, in international affairs. They reflected China’s current approach to international development, and served to enhance China’s influence in the field of international development.

As an integral part of the concepts and principles of national governance introduced by the CPC Central Committee and General Secretary Xi, and an important component of the theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the profound innovations in China’s diplomatic theory and practice made by the CPC Central Committee demonstrate broad vision, far-reaching strategic thinking, and a profound sense of historical responsibility. These innovations will surely lead our distinctive major-country diplomacy towards continued success.



The year 2016 represents the first year in our decisive, final push to build a prosperous society in all respects, and also the opening year of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). Against the backdrop of arduous domestic tasks in reform and development, as well as profound and complex changes in the international situation, our diplomatic initiatives will need to accomplish an even more glorious mission. From January 19-23 this year, President Xi paid state visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, and visited the headquarters of the League of Arab States. Kicking off Chinese diplomacy in the inaugural year of the 13th Five-Year Plan, these visits were a complete success. In steadily advancing our diplomatic initiatives in an all-round way, we need to keep pace with times, make active plans, integrate political activities more closely with economic ones, and be more innovative, so as to cultivate a favorable international environment for the implementation of the 13th Five-Year Plan and provide a guarantee for the building of a prosperous society in all respects.

We will promote deeper reform in global governance. 

The G20 has become a major platform for the reform of global economic governance, and this means that the eyes of the world will be on the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to steer the global economic agenda, to strive for an innovation-driven, dynamic, coordinated, and inclusive world economy, to advance the reform and improvement of global governance, and to offer China’s solutions and strength in a bid to stimulate world economic growth and promote the reform of global economic governance.

We will properly balance the layout of our diplomacy. 

China will continue to develop a framework for healthy and steady major-country relations, seeking new progress in relations with other major countries. We will deepen our friendly ties with neighboring countries so as to jointly preserve regional stability and promote common development. We will uphold the correct outlook on justice and gain and bolster the foundations of our relations with other developing countries. And we will continue to participate in efforts to address international and regional hotspot issues such as the Iranian nuclear issue and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, as well as global challenges such as climate change, thereby exerting China’s role as a responsible major country.

We will actively carry out economic diplomacy.

Giving higher priority to serving the needs of development in our diplomatic initiatives, and in close coordination with the 13th Five-Year Plan, we will carry out the Belt and Road Initiative, strengthen international cooperation in the fields of production capacity and equipment manufacturing, speed up the implementation of a free trade area strategy, and take effective measures to prevent and respond to related risks, so as to better serve the comprehensive continuation of domestic reforms and the advancement of a new round of high-quality opening up.

We will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and our security interests.

We will continue to implement an integral approach to national security in order to preserve and promote lasting national order and stability. We will continue to resolutely combat acts of interference in China’s internal affairs in a bid to safeguard national sovereignty and dignity. We will resolutely protect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, whilst at the same time remaining committed to handling disputes through dialogue and negotiations. Opposing terrorism in all its forms, we will actively engage in international anti-terrorist cooperation in an effort to seek solutions to both the symptoms and root causes of terrorism.

We will effectively safeguard China’s overseas interests.

In view of the expansion of China’s overseas interests and the complex international security situation, we will ensure that we uphold the principle of carrying out diplomatic initiatives for the people. With a strong sense of responsibility towards the people and a strong sense of duty to the state and the nation, we will make major efforts to improve mechanisms and build capacity for safeguarding China’s overseas interests. Through an effective combination of political, economic, diplomatic, and legal approaches, we will provide stronger overseas security assurances, enhance our risk assessment and early warning capacity, and raise our ability to carry out emergency rescue operations in an all-out effort to ensure the safety of overseas Chinese citizens and organizations. 

We will effectively carry out international publicity and public diplomacy. 

We will continue to introduce the connotations and global significance of the Chinese Dream to the international community through various means, and explain China’s major principles and experiences in national governance, such as the five-pronged overall plan for developing Chinese socialism, the Four Comprehensives, and the 13th Five-Year Plan, so as to demonstrate our confidence in the path, theories, and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and in Chinese culture. We will make greater efforts to publicize China’s policies and principles, such as remaining committed to the path of peaceful development, promoting the establishment of a new type of international relations, and building a community of shared future, with a view to enhancing China’s weight in international discourse and its moral appeal. 

Yang Jiechi is State Councilor and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.3, 2016)