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The Evolving International Pattern and China's Diplomacy

CIIS Time: Aug 22, 2011 Writer: Yang Jiechi Editor: 姜志达


Yang Jiechi

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China


The global financial crisis has led to the profound evolution of the international pattern. The momentum toward a multi-polar world and economic globalization is strong and the trend toward greater balance of global powers and a more reasonable international order is deepening. The world is entering a period of deep reflection, with many new thoughts in the making. However, the North will remain stronger than the South for a long time to come, and the road toward a multi-polar world will be long and tortuous. The dynamic diplomacy in the 11th Five-Year Plan period has moved China to a prominent place on the world stage. The 12th Five-Year Guideline period coincides with the post-crisis era of the world economy, during which China will face both historic opportunities and severe challenges, but the former will outweigh the latter. Therefore, serving national development will remain the priority task of Chinas diplomacy. And, China will work to create positive external conditions for the long-term, steady and fast economic and social development at home, and make new progress and breakthroughs in the new era.


I. The Evolving International Pattern during the Post-crisis Era


Since the fall of the Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the world has been gripped by the financial crisis for over two years now, but its impacts are still lingering. It is not only an economic and financial crisis, but also a crisis of systems, institutions and ideas, which is exerting complex and far-reaching impacts on the international political, economic and security patterns as well as in the ideological and cultural realms.

First, the international political pattern is becoming more balanced. As a result of the crisis, the power gap between the developed and developing countries has further narrowed, and international power configuration is moving toward relative balance in favor of the multi-polarity. The Western powers, confronted with the growing challenges and problems, have seen their soft and hard powers decrease in relative terms. Meanwhile, emerging economies are rising one after another, and showing strong momentum of growth as a group. Developing countries are gaining equal status in the G20 and other global economic governance mechanisms, with significantly increased representation and voice. At the same time, major developing countries have enhanced cooperation among themselves, and the BRICs, the BASIC and other cooperation mechanisms have moved into a new stage of development. The BRIC countries, in particular, have shown great promise. Their combined GDP makes up nearly one sixth of the worlds total, and they are expected to enjoy faster growth than the developed countries in the medium and long term. The above-mentioned mechanisms carry not only considerable economic weight, but also increasing political influence. They are all important for the developing countries to defend their rights of development and of participation in international rule-making.

Second, the international economic pattern is moving from the Western monopoly to more involvement of the developing countries. The international financial crisis has acutely exposed the deficiencies of the international economic system, and reform has unfolded around three priorities: First, the G20 has become the premier forum for international economic governance and is moving ahead in institution-building. Second, quota shift vis-à-vis the SDRs to the emerging economies and developing countries in the IMF has made positive progress. Third, the World Bank voting power reform has taken a substantive step forward. The G20 summit mechanism was born amidst the global financial crisis, whose role and influence have drawn close attention from all parties concerned. The fifth G20 summit in Seoul produced four major outcomes: First, the summit adopted the Seoul Declaration, in which the G20 leaders made the solemn commitment to strengthen the role of G20 and work together to promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the world economy, thus reinforcing the global confidence in the economic recovery. Second, they made the commitment to further deepen the reform of international financial institutions, and implement the transfer of over 6% of the IMF SDRs quotas to the emerging markets, developing and underrepresented countries as soon as possible. Third, the summit adopted the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth and the Multi-Year Action Plan on Development. The decision to make development a long-term item on the G20 summit agenda has heightened the global awareness of the importance of the said issue, and created enabling conditions for narrowing the North-South gap and addressing the root causes of global economic imbalance. Fourth, building on the outcomes of previous summits, the Seoul summit called for enhanced international financial supervision and regulation and opposition to trade protectionism, and agreed on a set of new measures and steps for bringing about long-term, sound and steady growth of the world economy.

In sum, the G20 is evolving from a crisis management mechanism to the one focusing on long-term economic governance. China will continue to support its institution-building and development, and, at the same time, work with other parties in a spirit of equality, inclusiveness, solidarity and coordination for sustained and sound development of the G20 mechanism.

Third, the international security pattern now features more diverse interests and complex structures. A world war has become less likely and a peaceful environment is expected to continue. This is the general trend of the international security situation throughout the post-Cold War era. However, it does not mean that the world is a tranquil place. On the contrary, a major change in the international security situation is that the threats have become more complex and, diverse and destabilizing factors and uncertainties are on the rise. The financial crisis has highlighted the importance of maintaining national economic and financial security. Economic issues have greater political implications while political issues have greater economic implications. Non-traditional security issues such as economic, food, energy and resources security and terrorism have become intertwined with traditional security issues such as regional hotspots, local conflicts as well as territorial disputes, which have made security threats more diverse and complex. Countries have come to realize that their interests are interlinked in the era of globalization, and they will rise or fall together. No country can resolve all issues on its own, and they must work in unity. Meanwhile, various countries have stepped up national defense and military build-up. Recently, various major countries have formulated new national security strategies to bolster their defense and military capabilities, and have a stronger say in shaping international security relations. The post-Cold War international security order has thus entered a new period of active development.

Fourth, competition over soft power is getting fiercer and people-to-people and cultural exchanges have become more robust. The deficiencies of the capitalist development model in the US and Europe, which was revealed during the international financial crisis, have prompted deep rethinking on capitalism. In the meantime, the development models and approaches of China and other emerging economies, whose overall performance in managing the financial crisis, is better than that of the Western countries, and have thus attracted wide attention. It is worth mentioning that after China successfully hosted the Olympic Games and the World Expo and managed the financial crisis, its development path has received attention and acclaim from more and more countries. Generally speaking, the world has entered a period of deep reflection and active debate. Personnel exchanges among countries have grown and cooperation in culture, tourism, education and youth affairs has further expanded in size and substance. The increasingly dynamic people-to-people and cultural exchanges around the world have played a unique and important role in promoting dialogues and exchanges among civilizations. In sum, adjustment to the international configuration is deepening in the post-crisis era. The momentum toward a multi-polar world and globalization is growing, and there is a fair chance of positive progress toward greater balance in international power, more democracy in international relations and a more equitable international order. Yet, developing countries still face multiple difficulties and challenges, and have a long way to go before they can achieve real development. The power structure, which has hitherto tipped to the North, will persist for a long period to come, and the road toward a multi-polar world will remain long and tortuous.


II. Diplomacy in the 11th Five-Year Plan Period and Chinas Overall Planning for the 12th Five-Year Guideline Period


China is about to wrap up the 11th Five-Year Plan. The past five years have been crucial to its journey of peaceful development. It has been a period during which China has risen to challenges, broken new grounds and made great achievements on the diplomatic front. Under the correct leadership of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, China has successfully hosted joyous events, managed thorny issues and accomplished major achievements, taking its diplomacy to a new level.

China successfully hosted the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai World Expo, and it effectively managed the international financial crisis, and constructively participated in the international efforts to address climate change. These five major endeavors moved China faster to a prominent position on the world stage. Over the five years, China gave full play to the guiding role of summit diplomacy, effectively safeguarded its national interests, and demonstrated Chinas image as a big, responsible country. China conducted active, all-dimensional diplomacy, steadily promoted dialogue and cooperation with major countries, its neighbors and other developing countries and played an important and constructive role on major international and regional issues. China actively participated in and steered the reform of the international system and increased Chinas voice and representation in the international system. China pursued vigorous economic diplomacy to serve its domestic efforts to maintain stability, promote development and transform the economic development model. China vigorously pursued public diplomacy and cultural and people-to-people diplomacy, which have enhanced its international understanding and friendship towards China and gained more public understanding and support for its diplomatic efforts. China made great efforts to advance security diplomacy, properly handled major emergencies and sensitive issues, firmly upheld its sovereign security and protected its overseas personnel and assets. What is noteworthy is that the past five years also saw new and significant achievements in building diplomatic theories with Chinese characteristics. During these five years, China gained a deeper understanding of the laws that govern the evolution of the international situation and the interactions between domestic and foreign policy, and developed a clear view of the relationship between diplomacy and development. China enriched and further improved its all-dimensional diplomatic posture, taken overall coordination as the fundamental approach of diplomacy in the new era and enhanced its ability and level of conducting diplomacy in a scientific way.

At the recently concluded 5th plenum of the 17th Party Central Committee, the Proposal for Formulating the 12th Five-Year Guideline for Chinas Economic and Social Development was adopted. The proposal set out the guiding principles, basic requirements, development goals and major tasks and measures for Chinas economic and social development in the coming five years. With both a domestic focus and international vision, the 12th Five-Year Guideline will take into full account the external environment and conditions facing Chinas economic and social development and set higher standards for its diplomatic work. It was pointed out at the plenum that China is still in an important period of strategic opportunities that present the country with a large scope for development. This major conclusion is of strategic significance, which concerns the cause of the Party and the nation, defines the strategic position of China in todays world, and sets the direction for Chinas future development.

During the 12th Five-Year Guideline period, China will face both valuable historic opportunities and numerous difficulties and challenges, predictable and unpredictable. However, opportunities will outweigh the challenges. The biggest opportunity will come from Chinas own major development and progress. The continuous economic growth will boost Chinas overall national strength and international standing. With the deepening of multi-polarity and globalization and the shift in the international balance of power in favor of world peace and development, China will continue to enjoy a generally peaceful and stable external environment. Further reform of the international economic system and changes in the global economic development pattern will enhance Chinas say and influence in the world, and present the country with new, major opportunities for leapfrog development. In terms of challenges, the underlying impact of the financial crisis will continue to surface, traditional and non-traditional security threats will continue to be intertwined, hotspot issues still crop up from time to time, and major powers will engage in more intense strategic competition During the post-crisis era. As domestic issues have increasingly international ramifications and international issues increasingly affect its domestic development, Chinas diplomacy will face a more complicated situation.

To implement the 12th Five-Year Guideline and make good use of the current period of important strategic opportunities, the most important thing on the diplomatic front is to be more farsighted, proactive and effective in its work and develop a greater ability to seize opportunities, defuse challenges and manage complex situations. China needs to conduct diplomacy in an all-dimensional manner, deepen relations with major countries, its neighbors and other developing countries, better uphold the sovereignty, security and development interests and maintain the generally favorable external environment. Diplomacy is to serve national development interests. China will bear in mind both the domestic and international situations, focus on the key and difficult issues in Chinas economic and social development, and work to create good external conditions for the accelerated transformation of its economic development pattern and long-term, steady and fast economic and social development at home. In this way, China will make new diplomatic accomplishments in the new era, whose priority tasks include the following six aspects:

First, it is to serve national development interests. China will strive to foster and maintain a more favorable international environment to meet the need for scientific development and for accelerating the transformation of economic development pattern. And, it will vigorously carry out economic diplomacy, oppose protectionism and intensify efforts to support the “go global” and “bring in” business strategies so as to make concrete contribution to the effort of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

Second, it is to develop relations with major countries. China will advance its relations with major countries in a balanced manner, step up high-level engagements, enhance political mutual trust, deepen economic cooperation and trade, expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and intensify cooperation in international and regional affairs. And, China will work to maintain overall stability, relative balance and win-win cooperation in its relations with major countries.

Third, it is to promote cooperation and mutual trust with neighboring countries. China will continue to unswervingly follow the policy of good-neighborliness and the principle of fostering amity and partnership with neighboring countries. And, it will increase dialogue and exchanges with them, strengthen its bond of common interests, consolidate public support for friendly relations and work with them to create a regional environment of peace, stability, equality, mutual trust and win-win cooperation.

Fourth, it is to enhance solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries. China will uphold the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in its relations with them, deepen traditional friendship and consolidate the fundamental role of developing countries in its overall diplomatic picture. And, it will promote practical cooperation among the emerging economies.

Fifth, it is to push forward reform of the international system. China will continue to take an active part in and steer cooperation at the G20 summit, and advance reform of the international economic system. And, it will continue to play a positive and constructive role in meeting the climate challenge.

Sixth, it is to work for theoretical and institutional innovation. China will follow the guidance of the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and continuously enhance innovation in diplomatic theories with Chinese characteristics and institution-building, so as to strengthen its capability to “conduct diplomacy in a scientific manner”.


III. Some Suggestions for the Study of International Issues


First, it is to combine more closely the study of the international situation with diplomatic practice. Attention should be given to the study of major, strategic and trend-setting issues in the international situation. It is also important to enhance the study of major and thorny issues in the diplomatic work and propose timely and workable recommendations and general approaches.

Second, it is to further enrich and develop diplomatic theories with Chinese characteristics. China has successfully hosted the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai World Expo, actively managed the international financial crisis, and accomplished a host of major, important and difficult tasks. All this speaks volumes for the advantage of its development path and the institutional advantage that allow China to mobilize resources to accomplish big undertakings. It has also enriched its diplomatic practice with Chinese characteristics. It is important to review the past experience in a systemic and earnest manner, elevate Chinas diplomatic practices and innovations of recent years to the level of theories, and further enrich and develop the diplomatic theories with Chinese characteristics.

Third, it is to give full play to the special role of experts and scholars in conducting active public diplomacy. Chinas every move and action is now in the international spotlight, and people in China are also paying increasing attention to diplomatic work. For that matter, the experts and scholars should continue to play an active role, vigorously carry out international exchanges and tell a livelier “China story” so that the world can have a true and full picture of China.

China is about to enter the first year of the 12th Five-Year Guideline period, which is a crucial period for China to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, deepen reform and opening-up and accelerate the transformation of the economic development pattern. It is also a period of great significance in Chinas peaceful development, a period of building on past experiences and making new achievements. Those who work at the diplomatic front have the heavy responsibility and proud mission of preserving and making good use of this important period of strategic opportunities and creating a favorable external environment for building a moderately prosperous society at home. Following the spirit of the 5th plenum of the 17th CPC Central Committee and under the correct leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, China will better coordinate domestic and international situations, rely on, serve and promote domestic development, and break new grounds in its diplomatic endeavor. 


(Source:Evolution of the International Pattern in Post-crisis Era and the Environment forChinas Peaceful Development,Current Affairs Press, Aug. 2011)