Advancing China’s Major-Country Diplomacy in a Changing World

By: Wang YiFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal April-June 2017|Vol.9,No.2,Issue No.31 | Updated: 2017-Jul-17 10:34
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Faced with a world that is both complex and changeable, the CPC Central Committee, with Xi Jinping at the core, upholds the principle of mutually beneficial cooperation; encourages the trend towards opening up and reform; leads China by safeguarding a favorable external environment for development in a world in disarray; and strives to enhance China’s standing, influence, and institutional rights in a changing international system. Thus the CPC Central Committee writes a new, august chapter in China’s major-country diplomacy.

1. Goading change in global governance

Along with changes in the global balance of power and increasing global challenges, there has been a general trend towards strengthening global governance and reforming the global governance system. The Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee dedicated two group study sessions to the topic of global governance over a one-year period, making top-level design and action plans to deepen China’s involvement in global governance. With a focus on issues such as adapting to and leading economic globalization and reinvigorating the global economy, China actively expounds its own ideas. It has proposed a China solution, taken its own actions, and has notably increased its voice in institutions of global governance and its influence in formulating international rules. In hosting the successful Hangzhou G20 Summit, President Xi Jinping urged all in attendance to adopt innovation and structural reform as the cornerstone of a new pattern for world development, and to give prominence to the issue of development in coordinating global macro policies. This enhanced the international influence of China’s new development philosophy, and expanded the global significance of China’s reform and opening up, paving the way forward for the world economy and global governance. At the APEC Summit in Lima, President Xi spoke out against the trend towards deglobalization, emphasizing the need to oppose protectionism in all its forms, to develop an open economy, and to ensure that economic globalization is more inclusive and is of universal benefit. In this light, he called on all to turn their consensus into action and to establish the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as soon as practicable. This will play an important role in reassuring the people, boosting their confidence, and coalescing global consensus.

President Xi Jinping meets with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, December 2, 2016. Kissinger came to China to attend a conference on China-US relations. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER MA ZHANCHENG

2. Consolidating friendly relations with neighboring countries

Neighboring countries are foundational to China’s peaceful development, and are also testing grounds for China’s idea of major-country diplomacy. China goes a step further in ensuring the stability of its neighboring environment. During Philippine President Duterte’s visit to China, President Xi gave him a warm welcome, and both sides reached an important consensus on improving and developing China-Philippines relations, so that efforts to resolve the South China Sea issue via dialogue and consultation were put back on track. President Xi visited Cambodia, sending a clear message to the world that China strongly supported its old friend, and exerting a positive and extensive influence that went beyond the China-Cambodian bilateral relationship. During President Xi’s visit to Bangladesh, China became Bangladesh’s first strategic partner. Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Laos, consolidating mutual strategic trust and deepening the traditional friendship between the two countries. China-Myanmar relations transitioned quickly and smoothly despite drastic changes in Myanmar’s political landscape. With the successive removal of obstacles, China’s major cooperation projects in Sri Lanka got back on track. President Xi attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, taking the SCO to a new phase in its development. Premier Li and ASEAN leaders attended the Commemorative Summit Marking the 25th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, writing a new chapter in China-ASEAN relations. In the south, China officially launched the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation mechanism and in the north resumed China-Japan-ROK cooperation, forging new drivers for regional cooperation in East Asia. With a firm commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, China proposed to both denuclearize the Peninsula and replace the armistice agreement with a peace treaty, insisted on resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations, and opposed the US, under the pretext of the nuclear issue, deploying the THAAD anti-missile system in the Peninsula. 

3. Mapping out major-country relations

During the Hangzhou G20 Summit, President Xi and President Obama talked at length beside the West Lake, following their Annenberg Estate Meeting, Night Talks at Yingtai, and Autumn Talks at the White House. Their meeting served to garner trust and dispel doubts, demonstrating that common interests between China and the US far outweigh their differences, and that their synergy and cooperation far outweigh their competition and friction. Shortly after the result of the US presidential election emerged, President Xi and the newly elected US President Donald Trump spoke by phone, signaling the smooth transition and development of China-US relations. Of course, new complexities and uncertainties will arise in China-US relations in the future. Only by respecting and taking into account each other’s core interests and major concerns will it be possible for the two countries to carry out mutually beneficial long-term and stable cooperation; this is the right direction for the China-US relationship. Chinese and Russian heads of state met five times within one year. They issued a joint statement on strengthening global stability. The China-Russia relations witnessed close coordination on major international and regional issues, stable progress in collaborating on major projects pertaining to energy and aeronautics, and orderly progress in developing links between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). This has taken the China-Russia comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership to a higher level. President Xi paid two visits to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and Premier Li attended the China-CEE Summit in Riga, orchestrating harmonious relations between China and CEE. China successfully hosted the 18th China-EU Summit, and made new progress in mechanisms for exchange and cooperation with France and Germany in many areas. Theresa May, Britain’s new Prime Minister, expressed her continued commitment to UK-China relations’ “golden era.” During the BRICS Summit in Goa, President Xi gave a thorough summary of the various achievements of and experiences from cooperation between BRICS over the past decade, thus boosting confidence in, advocating the bright prospects of, and providing strong impetus for cooperation between BRICS.

4. Further developing international partnerships

With a focus on its partnerships with developing countries, China builds international partnerships that have different characteristics and emphases and that are mutually complementary, initiating a global network of partnerships that strengthens with each passing day. When President Xi first visited the Middle East, he took China’s relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran to new heights, and markedly enhanced the level of China-Arab cooperation. When China held the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-Up Actions of the Johannesburg Summit as part of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), it fully committed to the “10 key China-Africa cooperation plans” that President Xi put forward, thus bringing the amicable cooperation between China and Africa to a higher level. On President Xi’s third visit to Latin America, he upgraded China-Ecuador and China-Chile relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and also took the China-Peru comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level, thus creating broader prospects for China-Latin America relations. The need to expand and deepen China-Latin America cooperation is agreed upon by all sectors of Latin American society, unaffected by factional disputes and regime change in these countries.

5. Opening up new horizons for the Belt and Road Initiative

In his speech at the parliament of Uzbekistan, President Xi stated that China would like to join hands with Belt and Road countries in building a green, healthy, intelligent, and peaceful Silk Road. These four points specify the major orientation for developing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and has been well-received by the international community. At present, over 100 countries and international organizations have expressed their support for and willingness to participate in the BRI; of these, China has signed cooperation agreements with 40. When the Outline of the Plan for the Development of the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor was formally signed, it marked a breakthrough in the development of multilateral economic corridors for the BRI. Along these routes, China has stepped up its connectivity and industrial capacity cooperation with other countries. Construction has begun on the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, and will soon begin on the China-Laos and China-Thailand railways. A Chinese company won the bid for Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu deep water port and industrial zone project. Gwadar port formally came into operation. Work fully resumed on the Colombo Port City project. Greece chose a Chinese company to be the majority shareholder of its Piraeus Port Authority. A commercial contract was signed for the Hungary-Serbia railway. The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, which was built using Chinese equipment and standards, officially began service. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was opened for business. The initial projects funded by the Silk Road Fund were launched, and China-Gulf Cooperation Council and China-Israel free trade talks continued.

6. Safeguarding sovereignty and security

China took a firm stance against the so-called South China Sea Arbitration, a political provocation dressed as a legal issue from the previous Philippine government. By doing so, we have firmly safeguarded China’s sovereignty, rights, interests, and international image, as well as regional peace and stability. President Xi and other senior leaders of the Chinese government, clarified China’s firm stance in this regard in various bilateral and multilateral settings, and China’s justified stance gained the understanding and support of nearly 120 countries and more than 240 political parties from other countries. China exposed the illegal acts of the temporary arbitral tribunal which overstepped, extended, and even abused its power, dealing a powerful blow to the political plot to suppress and smear China. Upholding the regional rules formulated by China and ASEAN, we urged all countries involved to agree that disputes should be resolved through dialogue and consultation by those countries directly concerned. Unequivocally upholding the one-China principle, we opposed attempts to create “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan,” as well as external intervention in the affairs of Hong Kong and Macao. We also carried out diplomatic initiatives related to Tibet and Xinjiang, and persuaded the Norwegian government to make clear statements on issues regarding China’s core interests and major concerns, thereby safeguarding our national sovereignty, security, and interests.  

Wang Yi is Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.1, 2017)