Progressing Steadily in an Uncertain World—China’s Diplomacy in 2012

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-05-28 18:20
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The world continued to witness profound and complex changes in the year 2012, painting the portrait of an international situation in which stability was intertwined with volatility, a world economy in which economic growth was accompanied by recession, and a global community in which cooperation took place amidst friction. While peace and development remain the predominant themes of our times, there are nevertheless several trends of global significance that will have a profound bearing on the international situation in the second decade of the 21st century. The following trends require our close attention.

Chinese President Hu Jintao attends a meeting of BRICS leaders in Los Cabos, Mexico, on June 18, 2012. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Lan Hongguang

1. The impacts of the international financial crisis and sovereign debt crisis on the global economy, world politics, and international relations are continuing to emerge. Although there have been some signs of recovery in the European sovereign debt crisis, there remains no solution in sight for the deep-rooted problems that the crisis has exposed. Under the influence of the European sovereign debt crisis, developed countries have struggled to mount a recovery, the growth of emerging economies has slowed, and global economic growth has become increasingly difficult to sustain. Estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put global economic growth for 2012 at 3.3%, lower than the 3.9% that was recorded in 2011. This indicates that the world economy has entered another difficult period following the outbreak of the international financial crisis. Under the combined effect of the international financial crisis and European sovereign debt crisis, many countries have increasingly shifted their attention towards domestic affairs. Serious political polarization has emerged, public dissatisfaction has intensified, and changes of government have been seen in a number of countries. With some countries increasingly treating economic and trade issues as political issues, there has been a notable increase in various forms of protectionism, and international trade friction has become much more prominent. At the same time, the reform of the international economic and financial system and global governance has slowed down.

2. The major world powers are continuing to make adjustments to their domestic and foreign strategies. Turning their attentions towards future development, the world’s major countries have scrambled to adjust their domestic and foreign strategies in a bid to seize the initiative in a new round of global competition for overall national strength that will play out on a higher level. The US has implemented a strategy of “re-industrialization,” the core of which is the development of high-end manufacturing, while at the same time promoting adjustments to its global strategy with “rebalancing” as its keynote. Russia has set the goal of becoming the fifth largest economy in the world by the year 2020, and has actively promoted the development of the “Eurasian Union.” In response to the European sovereign debt crisis, EU member states have gradually reached a consensus on pressing ahead with European integration, actively made plans for a “new industrial revolution,” and formulated strategies for long-term development. Strategic competition between the major countries has intensified as each seeks to gain the edge in future development and take the front seat in international relations.

3. Turmoil in West Asia and North Africa is continuing to intensify. Since breaking out two years ago, the turmoil in West Asia and North Africa is now looking likely to become an increasingly protracted, complex, and international problem as the political landscape in the region enters a critical period of accelerated change. With complex ethnic and religious conflicts in the region, there has been ongoing disagreement between countries inside and outside the region over whether the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be adhered to or not. Hotspot issues such as the Syria issue, Iran nuclear issue, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have become increasingly intense and increasingly interrelated. Despite facing numerous difficulties, the countries and peoples of West Asia and North Africa have continued their arduous search for a developmental path that conforms to their national conditions.

4. The Asia-Pacific region is assuming an increasingly important global role. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 57% of world GDP, while emerging economies in the region are responsible for over 60% of world economic growth. As the most vibrant region in the world at present and the most promising for economic growth, Asia-Pacific is occupying an increasingly strong strategic position in the global landscape. Most major powers view the region as the key to gaining the upper hand in future international cooperation and competition, and have scrambled to increase their focus and input in the region, which is adding new complexity to the regional situation and relations. Despite the heating up of disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests between some countries, the region has maintained overall stability, with countries opting to resolve disputes through consultation and dialogue.


In the year 2012, steady efforts were made to achieve new progress in China’s diplomatic work. We overcame numerous difficulties, firmly seized development opportunities, and worked to defuse risks and meet challenges in order to actively serve China’s overall reform, development, and stability and resolutely safeguard our country’s sovereignty, national security, and development interests. In doing so, we succeeded in creating an essentially stable and sound external environment to underpin China’s reform, opening up, and modernization.

1. Chinese leaders engaged in major diplomatic activities which have led to fruitful achievements. President Hu Jintao and other national leaders attended a number of important diplomatic events including the BRICS Summit, engaged in bilateral visits with countries in various regions, and attended multilateral events held in China, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and the China-ASEAN Expo. These efforts have further improved China’s relations with the countries involved, guided regional and international cooperation, promoted economic and social development domestically as well as foreign exchanges and cooperation at the local level, and expanded China’s international influence.

2. We resolutely safeguarded China’s sovereignty, national security, and development interests. In response to Japan’s illegal “purchase” of the Diaoyu Islands, we took a series of powerful and effective measures to mount a head-on struggle against Japan. By doing so, we have resolutely safeguarded China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, fully demonstrated the firm determination and strong will of the Chinese government and people to safeguard national sovereignty, and allowed the international community to become more aware of the truth surrounding the Diaoyu Islands issue and to show greater understanding and support for China’s position. Mounting an appropriate response to the Huangyan Island incident, we not only acted resolutely to safeguard China’s sovereignty and maritime rights, but also promoted dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues with ASEAN countries in an effort to maintain regional stability. In addition, we took firm steps to curb the disruptive activities of separatist forces for “Taiwan Independence,” “Tibet Independence” and “Independence of Eastern Turkistan,” and foiled the attempts of various hostile foreign forces to disrupt and infiltrate China.

3. We promoted the establishment of a framework for stable, balanced, and mutually beneficial relations between major countries. With President Hu Jintao and other state and Party leaders meeting with President Obama on numerous occasions, and Vice President Xi Jinping conducting a successful visit to the US, the leaders of both countries reached an important consensus on further promoting the China-U.S. cooperative partnership and engaging in joint efforts to develop a new model for relations between major countries. China and Russia took their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership a step further, with the leaders of the two countries defining the principles, orientation, and key areas of cooperation for the development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in the future. This has taken relations between the two countries into an all new phase of development. The 14th and 15th China-EU summits and the first China-Central and Eastern Europe Leaders Meeting were successfully held, promoting the further development of China’s comprehensive strategic partnership with Europe.

4. Major efforts were devoted to consolidating friendly relations with neighboring countries. New progress was promoted in all aspects of our cooperation with neighboring countries. We maintained frequent high-level exchanges with neighboring countries, and upgraded our relations with Thailand, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan to strategic partnerships. China became the largest export market and largest trading partner of the majority of its neighboring countries, such as the Republic of Korea (ROK), India, Mongolia, and Malaysia, in a sign that the interests China shares with its neighbors have become increasingly fused. In an active effort to guide the development of regional cooperation, China proposed the Phnom Penh Development Initiative with regard to East Asian cooperation, and facilitated the adoption of the Phnom Penh Development Declaration at the East Asia Summit. In addition, we announced our intention to attend negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and launched China-Japan-ROK free trade talks. All of these efforts have helped to inject new vitality into regional cooperation. We worked actively to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, enhanced law enforcement and security cooperation on the Mekong River, and promoted the issuance of an SCO declaration on building a “harmonious region,” thereby expanding China’s influence in regional security affairs.

5. We further strengthened our ties and cooperation with other developing countries. We successfully held the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC, and adopted new measures to strengthen China-Africa cooperation, thereby taking friendship between China and Africa a step further. We proposed the founding of the China-Latin America Cooperation Forum, launched a regular foreign ministers’ dialogue mechanism between China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Troika, and set up the China-Latin America Cooperation Fund, with a view to further deepening China-Latin America cooperation. With the successful convening of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, we achieved a smooth transition in our relations with West Asian and North African countries that are undergoing transformations, with pragmatic cooperation being strengthened between China and those nations. In addition, we also made active efforts to deepen and consolidate our cooperation with BRICS countries, with a view to improving our ties with other emerging countries.

6. China played a constructive role in international and regional affairs. On the Syria issue, we supported the mediation efforts made by Kofi Annan, the UN/LAS Joint Special Envoy for Syria, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN/LAS Joint Special Representative for Syria. To facilitate a political solution to the Syria issue, we put forward a Six-Point Proposal and a Four-Point Plan, which were well received by the regional and international community. With regard to the Iran nuclear issue, we proposed the Three-Step Roadmap and Dual Track Strategy for negotiations, which played an important role in bringing Iran and the six relevant countries back to the negotiating table. We also made active efforts to promote reconciliation between South and North Sudan, playing a unique role in the eventual agreement that was reached between the two sides. Meanwhile, we engaged constructively in climate change talks, took an active part in multilateral cooperation and the formulation of rules with regard to non-proliferation, food security, and cybercrime, and promoted new advances towards global sustainable development. In addition, we actively engaged in public diplomacy, and enhanced our efforts to publicize our policies and guide public opinion both at home and abroad with regard to major international issues and hotspot issues. These efforts have led to notable results.


The year 2013 represents the first year in our efforts to implement the guiding principles of the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In keeping with the guiding principles of the congress, we will hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, promote equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutually beneficial cooperation, and make overall plans for our diplomatic work at the present and in the period ahead. Striking a balance between the continuation and development of our diplomatic policies, and between maintaining stability in our foreign relations and continuing to make new advances, we will strive to open up new horizons for our diplomatic work in the future.

We need to give full play to the leading role of summit diplomacy, and ensure the success of major diplomatic events attended by Chinese leaders. We will resolutely safeguard our sovereignty, national security, and development interests. We will take steps to further deepen our mutual trust and cooperation with major countries, and seek appropriate resolutions to conflicts and friction, with a view to establishing a new model for relations between major countries that is characterized by long-term stability and sound development. Adhering to a policy of promoting friendship and partnership with our neighbors, we will consolidate friendly ties with neighboring countries, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, and work to make China’s development more beneficial to its neighbors. We will also further consolidate and develop our traditional friendly relations with other developing countries, and work to take our collaboration with other developing countries to a new level. We will play a more active part in international affairs, and strive to make the international order and system more just and equitable. In addition, we will take solid steps to promote public diplomacy as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, with a view to increasing China’s influence and voice in the international community.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.1, 2013)

Author: Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China

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