Objectives and Choices:60 Years of Chinese Diplomacy

—Interview with Zhang Baijia, an Expert on Chinese Diplomatic History and the Deputy Director of the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-12-29 14:54
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  No look at the history of the CPC over the past 90 years would be complete without a look back over the diplomatic history of the People’s Republic of China. How has China’s diplomacy evolved over the past 60-plus years? How have China’s diplomatic strategies served its national interests? How have China’s major foreign policies been shaped by the assessments, theories, and interest considerations of the Party leadership? China has witnessed over 60 years of independent and peaceful development. Over the past 30 years of reform and opening up, the country has gone from “inviting in” to a strategy of “going global” and participating in global governance. Under this backdrop, what new situations and new problems is China’s diplomacy facing today?  

 Premier Zhou Enlai welcoming US President Richard Nixon to China on February 21, 1972. / Photo by Xinhua

 Ma Ya: Diplomatic strategies are closely tied to national interests. For example, the national interests of the US include its national security, sustained economic growth, the dissemination of its so-called “universal values,” and the maintenance of a US-driven world order, around which its foreign policy revolves. So, in your opinion, what are China’s national interests?

 Zhang Baijia: China has undergone a series of revolutionary changes since being forcefully brought into the world system in the modern era. Each change of regime has resulted in changes to the country’s foreign policy. Even since 1949, China’s diplomatic strategy has undergone a series of dramatic changes. However, what we can see are the things that generations of Chinese people have fought for over the course of a century. It is these objectives that reflect China’s fundamental interests.

 So, what are these national objectives or historic missions defined by the Chinese people? Well, I think that there are four objectives: the first is modernization; the second is to restore China as a world power; the third is to realize complete national reunification; and the fourth is to implement social reforms. These four objectives have dictated where China’s fundamental national interests lie. They comprise the key elements which underpin China’s status as a nation state. The influence of these four goals permeates the decision-making activities of China’s leadership in regard to political, economic, diplomatic, military, social, and cultural issues. These objectives also serve as the primary impetus behind the development and evolution of China’s foreign relations.

 Ma Ya: People often divide China’s diplomatic history over the past 60-plus years into several different stages, which accord to different generations of Party leadership. As a researcher, how do you perceive the evolution of China’s foreign relations, and how do you divide it into different stages?

 Zhang Baijia: The famous Chinese diplomat Qiao Guanhua said that China’s diplomatic policy “changes once every decade.” That is to say, it was characterized by “leaning-to-one-side” in the 1950s, “opposing-hegemony-of-two-superpowers” in the 1960s, and the “one-line” policy in the 1970s. Admittedly, this is just a rough summary. In my opinion, another entry can be added to this list, that is, the “all-round” diplomacy that China adopted in the 1980s. But this is where the cycle of “changing every decade” stops, and from that point on, we have witnessed unprecedented stability and continuity.

 Ma Ya: Would it be correct to say that the historical relationship between the CPC and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the main reason that China adopted the “leaning-to-one-side” policy?

 Zhang Baijia: There were, of course, historical reasons, but I think that realistic factors were the main reason. The “leaning-to-one-side” policy was mainly based on the judgment made by the leadership of the CPC in regard to the international situation after the Second World War. Toward the end of WWII, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai initially predicted that continued cooperation between the US and the Soviet Union would be the main trend of post-war international development. Under such circumstances, the peaceful founding of a new China through cooperation between the CPC and the KMT might have been possible. For this reason, the leadership of the CPC advocated that China should maintain friendly ties with both the US and the Soviet Union. They envisioned that China would become “a bridge between the two,” mitigating their conflict in Asia, and thereby safeguarding world peace and cooperation. However, US-Soviet relations deteriorated soon after the end of the Second World War, and with the outbreak of civil war in China, the leaders of the CPC were forced to reassess the situation and select a new diplomatic strategy.

 Upon careful analysis, Mao Zedong introduced his theory of “two camps” and an “intermediate zone” in the second half of 1946. He believed that the post-war world would be divided into two camps: one a camp of peace and democracy, headed by the Soviet Union; and the other a reactionary camp, headed by US imperialism. Moreover, these two camps would be separated by a vast intermediate zone consisting of the colonial and semi-colonial countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Mao Zedong asserted that a war between the US and the Soviet Union would not occur, believing that the US intentionally exaggerated its conflict with the Soviet Union in an attempt to control and invade the intermediate zone countries, including China.

 This theory later became the guiding ideology for the diplomatic policy of the People’s Republic of China. At the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC Central Committee, which was held in 1949, Mao Zedong made a general assessment in which he believed that the anti-imperialist nature of the Chinese revolution combined with the growth of anti-imperialist forces headed by the Soviet Union determined that China could and should adopt a policy of systematically and completely destroying imperialist domination in China. On the other hand, he also asserted that the imperialists would be in no hurry to treat China as equals. This was an important reason why Mao Zedong adopted the “leaning-to-one-side” strategy.

 Ma Ya: On reading US diplomatic history, I learned that after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, based on his analysis of Sino-Soviet relations, predicted that China and the Soviet Union would eventually go their own separate ways, despite sharing a common ideology. The reasoning was that the US would only be able to make effective use of a Sino-Soviet conflict to contain the Soviet Union by abandoning Chiang Kai-shek and recognizing the CPC-led regime. The Truman Administration at one stage expressed that it would no longer intervene in any change in China’s political landscape. However, with the outbreak of the Korean War, the US became alert to the possibility that a military victory by North Korea, who was backed by the Soviet Union, might tilt the balance of power between the so-called “Free World” and the Communist World in Asia in the Soviet Union’s favor. They believed that the failure by the US to take military action would undoubtedly aid the further expansion of the Soviet Union. Based on this analysis, the US immediately adjusted its containment strategy by extending its goal of containing the Soviet Union to containing the whole of the Communist World, including China. This policy resulted in serious consequences for Sino-US relations—an acute standoff between the two nations that lasted for 22 years.

 Zhang Baijia: For a short period of time before and after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the US adopted a policy of “waiting for the dust to settle.” This meant that they intended to wait for the dust to settle so as to gain a clear picture of the situation before acting. However, with the outbreak of the Korean War, the US chose to suspend this policy and take immediate action. The result of this was China’s fixed and long-term adoption of the “leaning-to-one-side” policy. In fact, if the US Seventh Fleet had not entered the Taiwan Strait, and if China and the US had not engaged each other in Korea, China’s policy of “leaning-to-one-side” would not likely have lasted for such a long period of time. The consequences of US action were serious. It interrupted China’s unification process at a critical moment, depriving China of a favorable opportunity to liberate Taiwan. Moreover, the US army crossed the 38th Parallel on the Korean Peninsula and took the war to the China-North Korea border, forcing China into a military response. This resulted in a prolonged impasse in Sino-US relations. It also rendered China unable to make any breakthroughs in its relations with other Western countries. Thus, China’s foreign economic relations had been confined to a limited scope. We should note that this was primarily a result of the Cold War in general. Relatively speaking, China’s “leaning-to-one-side” policy can only be considered as a secondary factor.

 Ma Ya: As I gather, in the early days of the People’s Republic of China, there were several occasions when the tensions between China and the US could have actually been eased, but in the end these opportunities were missed due to the unexpected course of events.

 Zhang Baijia: It is true that US policy toward China did waver before the outbreak of the Korean War. But in reality, there was little chance that the US would have recognized the People’s Republic of China at that time. A fundamental reason for this is that the US could never have compromised with a newborn communist power in Asia whilst it was engaging in a policy of containment against communism in Europe. From China’s perspective, the very purpose of the revolution was to achieve complete national independence through the elimination of the imperialist influence in China. So, it would also have been equally impossible for China to seek a compromise with the US.

 After the ceasefire in Korea, the CPC leadership initially estimated that international tensions would gradually ease. On this basis, China carried out a series of major diplomatic activities. Zhou Enlai clearly made conciliatory gestures towards the US at the Geneva Conference of 1954 and the Bandung Conference of 1955. In August 1956, when Mao Zedong was reviewing a political report to the Eighth National Party Congress, he added an extra paragraph which read, “We are prepared to establish friendly relations with all countries of the world, including the United States, in the interests of peace and development. We believe that this day will eventually come.” Soon after the Sino-US ambassadorial talks began, the Chinese government announced that it would lift the ban on the entry of US journalists into China. During the ambassadorial talks, China also put forth a series of suggestions and proposals aimed at eliminating trade obstacles between the two countries, promoting links between people of both countries, and carrying out cultural exchanges. However, the efforts of the Chinese government were met with no response from the US government.

 Ma Ya: Was the attitude of the US mainly due to ideological differences?

 Zhang Baijia: So to speak. During the Cold War, the two major camps regarded each other as hostile international forces. That kind of hostility was different from the conflicts that we may see between countries today. In the Cold War environment, the US intended to take full control of Taiwan and create “two Chinas,” because in its opinion, Taiwan played a very important role in maintaining its line of defense in Southeast Asia. In terms of marine geology, the waters between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan are shallow sea waters, while the waters beyond Taiwan are deep sea waters. This means that Taiwan has great military value. Those who thought that the US called Taiwan an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” of the US were actually mistaken. What the Americans actually said was that Taiwan, in the hands of the People’s Republic of China, would be like an unsinkable aircraft carrier for the expansion of the Communist World towards Southeast Asia. In the eyes of the US, China and the Soviet Union were bound together, and would not split at any time soon. At the same time, it was also worried about the expansion of communism. So, this is the reason why the US refused to recognize the People’s Republic of China, even though China had made conciliatory gestures.

 The events in Poland and Hungary, as well as the Suez Crisis, all of which occurred in 1956, impelled the CPC to turn its attentions to the “international class struggle.” In 1957, faced with the unwillingness of the US to ease relations with China, Mao Zedong decided to abandon attempts to ease relations with the US. In place of conciliatory efforts, Mao Zedong said that China would “mainly wage a struggle against” major Western countries. With this, China’s foreign policy, which was steady and pragmatic up until this time, began to witness a surge in revolutionary enthusiasm.

 Ma Ya: So would it be correct to say that “leaning-to-one-side” was not only a result of the policy decisions made by China in light of the situation at that time, but also a result of the responses of foreign nations to the Chinese revolution?

 Zhang Baijia: Yes. It was the result of a certain kind of interaction. But I would like to add that as a major strategy with implications for the overall situation, there were complicated and profound historical reasons and practical reasons behind the introduction of the “leaning-to-one-side” policy. The question of what kind of foreign strategy would benefit the establishment and consolidation of the newborn power was a critical problem which emerged around the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In this respect, the leaders of the CPC drew historical lessons from two major setbacks suffered by China’s diplomacy in the early years of the Republic of China (ROC).

 After the Revolution of 1911, the Nanjing Provisional Government, led by Sun Yat-sen, established two foreign policy goals: the first was to secure recognition for the ROC among the world’s major countries; the second was to appeal for the gradual renunciation of the unequal treaties that foreign countries had imposed on China. However, both efforts ended in failure. On the day after the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty announced his abdication in February 1912, Sun Yat-sen resigned as President in favor of Yuan Shikai, who was supported by imperialist powers. Following this, China suffered even greater setbacks in its efforts to reclaim its national rights and have unequal treaties revoked, with the gravest diplomatic failure coming at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

 These failures had two consequences for China’s foreign relations: firstly, the Soviet Union, which was founded after the October Revolution, became increasingly influential on China; and secondly, calls for unequal treaties to be revoked gradually grew into a full-blown revolutionary movement against imperialism. It was not at all surprising that the Chinese revolutionaries found their hope in Russia. In 1919, when the helpless Chinese people were indignant over the national humiliation of the Paris Peace Conference, Soviet Russia, led by Lenin, indicated its willingness to renounce all unequal treaties signed by the Tsar’s government with China. Although these promises were never kept to, the sharp contrast between Russia and other foreign nations convinced the Chinese people that Soviet Russia was their friend in their struggle for national independence and liberation.

 There were two reasons that the “leaning-to-one-side” policy was adopted immediately after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. First, this policy demonstrated the strong resolution of the CPC to put an end to the country’s century-long humiliation in one fell swoop. The leadership of the CPC believed that in order to establish a new outlook for China’s foreign relations characterized by   independence and autonomy, New China would have to rapidly sever all ties with the humiliating diplomacy of the old China, dispel the imperialist influence from China, and remove the brand of the country’s former political status as a semi-colonial country. Therefore, we might say that the very nature of the Chinese revolution determined that a conflict between China and the major Western countries was unavoidable.

 Second, the CPC was confronted with several diplomatic problems that needed to be resolved urgently. These were securing the international community’s recognition of the newborn country, obtaining the foreign aid necessary for China’s economic recovery, and safeguarding China’s national security. However, it seemed highly unlikely that the US, as an obstinate supporter of the KMT, would change its attitude and recognize the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, China’s only option was to turn to the Soviet Union for assistance in the resolution of these three problems. Therefore, China’s best option, and the one most likely to succeed, was to prioritize relations with the Soviet Union and take the initiative to stand alongside it.

 However, it would be an over-simplification to view the policy of “leaning-to-one-side” as being merely leaning towards the Soviet Union. What Mao Zedong said was that New China would “lean towards socialism.” In his opinion, “leaning-to-one-side” was not merely a diplomatic policy, but a major principle and policy that would play a dominant role in all aspects. Above all, the policy of “leaning-to-one-side” served to point out the path that China would take under the leadership of the CPC.

 Ma Ya: What is your evaluation of this strategy?

 Zhang Baijia: Generally speaking, this strategy was successful. This is because China was able to achieve its major diplomatic goals under this strategy. The newly founded People’s Republic of China was not only able to quickly establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, but also succeeded in establishing diplomatic relations with more than 10 countries that had achieved national independence and capitalist countries. At the beginning of 1950, China signed the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union, thereby resolving the issue of national security and foreign economic aid. China achieved rapid success in its efforts to remove the special privileges of imperialist powers in China and eliminate their remnants. Following this, China was victorious in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea, and attended the Geneva Conference shortly afterwards, taking to the world stage as a major country. In the years that followed the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China made major progress in four aspects: accelerating the process of industrialization; establishing a new outlook for foreign relations and returning to the world stage; promoting national unity; and achieving social reforms.

 But of course, objectively speaking, the policy of “leaning-to-one-side” caused imbalances in China’s diplomatic strategy over the long term, making it difficult for China to communicate with all other countries. China’s foreign economic activities were primarily targeted towards the Soviet Union and countries in Eastern Europe. These countries, all planned economies, were the relatively less developed of the world’s developed countries. The influence exerted by such imbalances became increasingly prominent with the passage of time.

 Ma Ya: With the intensification of the conflict between China and the Soviet Union in the 1960s, the tone of China’s diplomacy shifted from “leaning-to-one-side” to “opposing-hegemony-of-two-superpowers.” Can this shift in policy also be regarded as a strategic choice made in accordance with changes in the situation?

 Zhang Baijia: Unlike the policy of “leaning-to-one-side,” the strategy of “opposing-hegemony-of-two-superpowers” was not a strategic choice made on the basis of a calm and clear assessment of the situation. Its emergence was the product of a continued deadlock in Sino-US relations coupled with the continuous deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations.

 Ma Ya: Why is that?

 Zhang Baijia: At that time, there was an obvious deviation in China’s judgment of the international situation, characterized by an overestimation of the possibilities of world revolution, US-Soviet cooperation, and the outbreak of a world war. In August 1966, the Eleventh Plenary Session of the Eighth CPC Central Committee stated that, “We are now living in a new era of world revolution,” and that the general trend of the world situation was the “total collapse of imperialism and the worldwide victory of socialism.” This judgment undermined the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which was the basis of China’s foreign policy, and also interfered with the international united front, which China’s leaders always attached significance to.

 During this period, China’s diplomatic strategy was inconsistent with its own basic needs. A vicious circle between external pressure on China and China’s reaction to that pressure formed, and China’s security situation deteriorated significantly. Nevertheless, the efforts of China’s leadership during this period to uphold the independence of China’s policy and safeguard the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity are worthy of praise. It was the courage that China had to simultaneously confront the US and the Soviet Union that enabled it to gradually emerge as a completely independent force on the world stage against the backdrop of the Cold War.

 Ma Ya: From a positive perspective, could we say that China’s international image and standing as an independent country not intimidated by force laid down foundations for the subsequent adjustments in China’s diplomatic strategy?

 Zhang Baijia: Exactly. The strategic adjustment in the early 1970s represented the first time that China had actively adjusted its diplomatic strategy, as opposed to being forced into doing so by the situation. The aim of this adjustment was to resolve the urgent problem of national security. Significant changes occurred to the trilateral relations between China, the US and the Soviet Union in the decade that passed after the late 1950s, with the Soviet Union replacing the US as the largest and most direct threat to China. The Sino-Soviet border conflict of 1969 impelled Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai to reconsider the issue of diplomatic strategy. As commissioned by the leadership, Ye Jianying, Chen Yi, Xu Xiangqian and Nie Rongzhen, four of the ten marshals of China, assessed the international situation and conducted a review of strategic issues. On this basis, they proposed to the CPC Central Committee that China should take advantage of the US-Soviet conflict to alleviate its own conflict with the US and open the door for Sino-US relations. They proposed that China, on the basis of common security interests, should unite with the US in a joint effort to resist Soviet hegemony.

 Ma Ya: The Americans believe that it was President Nixon who opened the door to China. But in reality, breaking the deadlock between China and the US was a choice made by both parties, and China was by no means passive in this process.

 Zhang Baijia: In 1973, Mao Zedong introduced the “one-line” strategy, which involved uniting with the US to counter the Soviet Union. The following year, Mao Zedong also set forth the “Three Worlds” theory, which was his last major strategy. This shift in policy exerted an extensive and far-reaching impact, allowing the scope of China’s diplomatic activities to extend across the entire world stage. It also had a profound impact on China’s domestic politics, being a precursor to a series of transformations in domestic policy that would follow. More importantly, the normalization of Sino-US relations signaled the beginning of China’s integration into the modern world system.

 Ma Ya: The general view is that the launch of China’s reform and opening up drive signaled the start of China’s integration into the world community. But according to your analysis, it was the efforts of Mao Zedong to normalize Sino-US relations that set in motion China’s integration into the modern world system.

 Zhang Baijia: I believe this to be the case. The reason for this is simple. Mao Zedong wanted to trade with Western countries since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. When China’s policy of transforming capitalist enterprises into joint state-private enterprises was implemented in the 1950s, the CPC leaders initially planned not to transform enterprises capable of carrying out foreign trade, especially long standing enterprises with a history of trading with Western countries. They intended to take advantage of these enterprises’ ties with foreign enterprises to continue trading with the latter. However, this plan ended in failure due to the blockade and embargo imposed on China by Western countries. On the other hand, the Soviet Union and East European countries were planned economies, and only traded with state-owned enterprises. This had a major bearing on the path that China opted to follow. After the Geneva Conference of 1954, Mao Zedong proposed a policy of learning from the US and sending students to Western countries to learn their advanced technologies. But this was made impossible at that time due to opposition from the US. Although the policies of some Western countries eventually became more flexible, China was unable to seize these opportunities due to political reasons domestically, even though those opportunities would have been slim at best.

 Objectively speaking, the adjustment of China’s diplomatic strategy in the 1970s put the conditions in place for the subsequent institution of opening up policy. Without such a turning point, it is difficult to imagine how China, at the end of the “Cultural Revolution,” would have been able to achieve the rapid and smooth implementation of its reform and opening up policy, and how it would have been able to achieve more active and extensive participation in international affairs. Moreover, if Mao Zedong had not broken the deadlock in Sino-US relations, it would not have been easy for China to carry out its reform and opening up policy.

 After taking charge of diplomatic work in 1978, Deng Xiaoping continued to carry out Mao Zedong’s “one-line” strategy. He did this by making two policy decisions: signing the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between China and Japan, and establishing diplomatic relations between China and the US. Both efforts were aimed at not only safeguarding national security, but also creating a favorable external environment for the subsequent implementation of China’s reform and opening up policy.

 After the establishment of Sino-US relations in 1979, the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, terminating governmental relations between the United States and the governing authorities on Taiwan. China began to consider abandoning the “one-line” strategy in the 1980s. In August 1982, during a meeting with the then Secretary-General of the UN Javier Perez de Cuellar, Deng Xiaoping emphasized that the major elements of China’s foreign policy were to oppose hegemony, safeguard world peace, and strengthen cooperation with other Third World countries. From then on, China began to pursue a policy of balanced foreign relations, gradually improving its relations with the Soviet Union.

 Ma Ya: Did China abandon the “one-line” strategy and begin to adopt “all-round” diplomacy when Deng Xiaoping was in office?

 Zhang Baijia: Although the abandonment of the “one-line” strategy marked the launch of “all-round” diplomacy, this was nevertheless a gradual process. In the mid-1980s, based on the realization that a world war could be averted, Deng Xiaoping asserted that the themes of the contemporary world were “peace and development.” This judgment laid down strong foundations for the institution of reform and opening up policy and the establishment of all-round foreign relations. As early as the Bandung Conference of 1955, Zhou Enlai summarized New China’s foreign policy as an “independent foreign policy of peace.” China has repeatedly reiterated and fulfilled its commitment to this policy since the implementation of the reform and opening up drive.

 Despite a series of major events that took place from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, including China’s domestic political disturbances, the imposing of “sanctions” on China by the US and other Western countries, dramatic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the Gulf War, China maintained unprecedented stability and continuity of its foreign policy, witnessing no major fluctuations.

 In the summer of 1991, the Party leadership, with Jiang Zemin at the core, reassessed the major changes that took place in the international situation. It asserted that the bipolar system had come to an end and the world was moving towards multi-polarization. The leadership also believed that peace and development were still the two major global themes and China would be able to secure a favorable and peaceful international environment and neighboring environment for a considerable period of time. This viewpoint put China’s diplomacy on a more pragmatic footing.

 In the period from 1992 to the turn of the century, China continued to develop a foreign policy tailored to its reform and opening up policy. This policy went on to produce abundant results. During this period, both international and domestic factors exerted a major influence on the development of China’s diplomacy. The two major international factors were the changes to the international political situation after the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of economic globalization; the two major domestic factors were the establishment of the socialist market economy and the return of Hong Kong and Macao to Chinese sovereignty. Meanwhile, significant changes also occurred to the relationship between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, with personnel exchanges becoming frequent and economic ties becoming increasingly close. By the turn of the century, China had succeeded in establishing a framework for all-round and multi-tiered foreign relations. Under this framework, China not only gave consideration to its relations with large countries and developed countries, but also to its relations with neighboring countries and developing countries; it not only placed an emphasis on the development of bilateral relations, but also attached significance to multilateral diplomatic activities.

 The progress that China made towards attaining its four historic goals in this period was totally unprecedented: China’s modernization began to take off; the country basically attained a level of political, military, and economic strength worthy of a major country; major progress was achieved in the cause of national reunification; and Chinese society underwent unprecedented changes.

 Ma Ya: After over 60 years of independent and peaceful development, China has become a major country with global influence. In addition to the strategy of “inviting in,” which has been adopted since the beginning of the reform and opening up drive over 30 years ago, China is now beginning to “go global.” By pursuing peaceful development and mutual benefit, it will not only create wealth, but also share its success with the rest of the world. At this time, what new situations and new problems is China’s diplomacy facing?

 Zhang Baijia: I think there are three aspects that deserve our close attention:

 First, though there have been no fundamental changes to the international landscape since the end of the Cold War, namely the coexistence of one superpower and several major powers, the uncertainty of global development has nevertheless increased. Since the late 1980s, the primary trigger of changes in the international situation has not been war, but major non-war events, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the global financial crisis of 2008. The impact of these events, which were largely unpredicted, has been difficult to assess within the short term. Furthermore, we are unable to rule out the occurrence of similar events in the future.

 Second, the international situation is no longer an “external environment” for China. The Party and the central government must factor China into their judgments of the international situation. For the rest of the world, China’s rise is an undisputable fact, and China’s every move has become the focus of global attention. China has become one of the most important factors in the development of the world situation today.

 Third, China’s reform and opening up drive has entered its critical phase at a time when the international situation is still undergoing change. The intertwining of internal and external changes has put China in a sensitive position, and the country is likely to find itself in a security bottleneck for some time to come. On one hand, the progression of reforms is likely to be accompanied by a number of unprecedented problems which will put China under greater internal pressure to hold the balance between reform, development, and stability. On the other hand, due to the growth in China’s overall national strength, foreign countries have begun to reassess their positions on China, and this will inevitably put the country under greater external pressure. Therefore, China will be confronted with greater complexity when dealing with strategic and diplomatic issues.

 Faced with these new situations, we should pay special attention to the following three points when considering China’s major strategies and development objectives in the current stage:

 First, China must continue to adhere to the major strategy of reform and opening up. Regardless of how the international situation changes, China’s most important objectives in the first half of this century will be found domestically. During his speech to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Hu Jintao set forth the following goals: First, to build a moderately prosperous society of a higher level to the benefit of over one billion people by the centennial of the founding of the CPC and, second, to make China a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious modern socialist country by the centennial of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. China’s strategy and diplomacy must revolve around attaining these two major goals. The reform and opening up drive of today’s China is somewhat different from that of the last century, with reforms mainly being targeted at the resolution of new problems brought about by the development of the market economy. The institution of reform has become more difficult, especially under conditions that are already highly open. Therefore, We must ensure that the implementation of reform and opening up policy and any adjustment to China’s strategy and diplomacy as the times require are done in accordance with the four objectives. On this basis, we need to identify points of focus and place an emphasis on maintaining an overall balance.

 Second, China has a “dual identity,” being both a major country and a developing country at the same time. China may be the world’s second largest economy in terms of overall output, but it is still a developing country in terms of GDP per capita. Owing to this dual identity, China will inevitably have to assume greater international obligations, although it should nevertheless act in accordance with its own capacity. On the other hand, China must stress the requirements of its own development, which need to be recognized by other countries. Therefore, there may be a protracted period of “grinding-in” before China and foreign countries become accustomed to one another.

 Third, China must be rational in the establishment of external goals. China’s economic system still requires significant improvement; the living standards of the people need to be significantly increased; national reunification is yet to be achieved; and China’s soft power in politics and culture must be further developed. Therefore, China needs to follow the path of peaceful development, with the goal being national development and prosperity, the well-being of the people, and world peace and harmony.   


(Originally appeared in Red Flag Manuscript, No.14, 2011)

The interviewer is Ma Ya, Executive Editor of Phoenix Weekly.

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