China’s New Foreign Relations for a Complex World

China International Studies | 作者: Yang Jiechi | 时间: 2014-03-11 | 责编: Li Xiaoyu
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by Yang Jiechi[1]


In 2013 profound and complicated changes continued to take place in the international situation, although, stable overall, there was also an accelerated restructuring of international relations. Adapting to the changing circumstances in the restructuring of international relations and for China’s own development, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China headed by General Secretary Comrade Xi Jinping sized up the situation and made pioneering efforts with a series of major diplomatic initiatives for proactively advancing China’s diplomatic theories and charted a new course in practice. As a result, the year ushered in a good beginning for China’s new diplomacy with overall work arrangements and new initiatives. It served to create favorable external conditions for all-round improvement of the work of the Party and the state.


I. Salient features of the international situation in 2013


The international situation in 2013 was essentially characterized as remaining stable overall, but with turbulence in some localities. Meanwhile, in the complicated transformation of international and regional relations there were some outstanding developments and changes. These will have a major impact on the trend of international developments in the next few years.


1. Major powers hastened to readjust their domestic and foreign policies.

Returned for a second term of office in the United States, the Obama Administration continued to streamline its global strategy by maintaining a general orientation of prioritizing its domestic policies while stabilizing relations with other countries. Meanwhile, Russia continued to reinforce its big-power strategy and cooperated more closely with other emerging powers. Europe as a whole entered a new phase of strategic adjustment as the European Union tried to counteract the impact of the debt crisis step by step and proceeded with its integration process. New emerging market countries and developing countries as a whole grew stronger. The cooperation mechanisms of the BRICS countries and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization developed vigorously and increased their weight in world affairs.


2. The world economy continued its slow recovery.

The world economy was still in a phase of in-depth readjustment with indications of recovery, although accompanied with problems such as a weak foundation, lack of a strong driving force, and a differential pace of recovery in different countries. Major developed economies showed a stronger recovery tendency, but their structural problems were far from being resolved. New emerging market economies grew at a reduced rate and encountered more external risks and challenges. All countries began to accelerate the transformation of their economic development modes and economic restructuring, and reinforced their efforts to develop new emerging sectors of strategic importance, such as big data, new energies, new manufacturing industries and bio-engineering, so as to spur stronger inherent drivers for growth.


3. The Asia-Pacific region played a more important geostrategic role in the world.

The Asia-Pacific region became the main engine for the growth of the world economy. The center of gravity in the international geopolitical balance of forces continued to shift toward this region. All major powers pooled more strategic input into the region. The security situation in the region as a whole was stable, but there were increased instabilities and uncertainties. Amid underlying changes in the regional structure of relations, the overall regional situation tended to be more stable and development was more balanced.


4. By and large, there was an easing of tensions in various hotspots.

The Syrian question entered a new phase for the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons and political dialogue. On the Iranian nuclear issue the parties concerned had more contact and dialogue and made a major breakthrough, but the road ahead is still rough. The Palestinian-Israeli face-to-face dialogue was officially resumed, and discussions took place more frequently. However, the security situation and the fight against terrorism remained critical in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Central African Republic and Somalia.


5. There were sharp disputes over international systems, rules and regulations.

Along with the transformation of international relations at an accelerating pace and increased global challenges, reform of the international system is an inevitable trend. The G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was focused on “stimulating economic growth”, played a key role in macro-economic policy coordination among the world’s major economies. The BRICS countries agreed on the need to establish contingency foreign exchange reserves and a development bank of their own. At the summit the emerging market economies and developing countries spoke with a stronger voice in global economic governance, and there was deeper international cooperation, as well as competition, in the new strategic frontiers of cyberspace, outer space and the polar regions.

Looking ahead to international developments in the next few years, one will continue to see the balance of international forces changing, transformation of international rules and regulations, and evolving reform of the international systems. In the meantime, China will maintain its momentum of rapid economic development and national rejuvenation. We must take a firm grip on the changing international circumstances, continue to reinforce and proactively implement our strategic planning, and create favorable conditions so as to obtain new accomplishments and break new ground in our diplomatic work.


The Party Central Committee headed by General Secretary Comrade Xi Jinping worked hard to blaze new trails in China’s diplomatic theories and practice and opened a new page in China’s foreign relations


Last year witnessed a new beginning in the diplomatic work of the Party Central Committee headed by General Secretary Comrade Xi Jinping. It was also a pivotal year in which we could see the overall blueprint for Chinese diplomacy in the next five to ten years. In view of the profound changes in the international situation and unprecedented changes in China’s relations with the rest of the world, the Party Central Committee led by Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary, while maintaining the consistency and stability of our foreign policy, carried forward our Party’s fine tradition of combining theory with practice. The Party leadership dared to explore new ground and blazed new trails by taking both domestic and foreign policies into account and integrating Chinese characteristics with needs of the times, thus obtaining initial results in diplomatic theory with pioneering efforts in practice, thus opening a new page in China’s foreign relations.


1. Setting a lofty goal of the Chinese Dream which will have a profound impact on the world and garnering international understanding of and support for China’s strategy for peace and development

General Secretary Xi Jinping set forth the lofty goal of the Chinese Dream, the great rejuvenation of our nation, greatly boosting the resolve and confidence of the 1.3 billion Chinese people to achieve that goal. It has become a powerful spiritual driving force in their joint efforts, pointing to the general orientation of Chinese diplomacy in a new historical stage.

During his official visits to foreign countries and in his talks with foreign guests in China, General Secretary Xi profoundly expounded the rich connotations and international significance of the Chinese Dream. He pointed out that in essence the Chinese Dream is a common dream of all nationalities and also the dream of everyone in China, that to realize this dream, China needs a peaceful and stable international and peripheral environment, and that China will realize its dream through persistent endeavors for peaceful development. The Chinese Dream is inseparably linked with the universal dream of all nations, and China will share more development opportunities with all countries in the world, and work together with the international community to realize the universal dream.

The Chinese Dream is an important concept that serves to enable the international community to better understand and acknowledge China’s strategy for peace and development, markedly increases China’s weight, moral influence and cultural attraction in the world, and forcefully frustrates the ill designs of certain people around the world to distort and vilify China’s rise. Leaders of many countries have pointed out that the Chinese Dream is identical with the aspirations of their own countries and peoples and that if the Chinese Dream becomes a reality, it will surely benefit both the Asia-Pacific region and the world as a whole.


2. Underlining our firm resolve to safeguard China’s state sovereignty, national security and development interests, and the need to maintain a peaceful and stable international environment

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that China will continue to unswervingly follow the path of peace and development, but will never abandon its legitimate interests and sacrifice its core national interests. He said that no country should expect us to barter away our core interests and swallow the bitter fruit of these interests being undermined.

The Party Central Committee headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping has a strong sense of mission with utter devotion to the people of China and historical responsibility for the future of the country. Under its leadership our government properly handled a series of critical issues pertaining to state sovereignty, national security and the country’s development interests in the past year, thereby firmly defending our core interests and the post-WWII international order while maintaining a peaceful and stable international and regional environment. An agreement on frontier defense cooperation was signed with India. We adhered to our position on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and worked hard for resumption of the Six-Party Talks so as to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula. We firmly protected China’s legitimate rights and interests and state sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and Huangyan Island, and we resolutely checked acts of encroachment upon our sovereign rights by the countries concerned. Adhering to the guiding principle of Huangyan Island “being under China’s sovereignty, shelving the dispute and jointly exploiting the resources” and promoting implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea; we made every effort to push for consultations step by step on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea and worked energetically to enhance maritime cooperation. All these efforts made good headway.


3. Initiating the idea of constructing a new type of China-US relations and intensifying efforts to push for establishing a cooperative, win-win relationship between major powers

Upon assuming office as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi met President Putin twice, first at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg during his first overseas visit to Russia and later at the informal APEC leaders’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia. The Sino-Russian partnership for all-round strategic coordination continued to proceed smoothly at high levels, and the two sides further enhanced their mutual political trust and pragmatic cooperation.

General Secretary Xi Jinping was invited to meet with U.S. President Obama at the Annenberg Estate, California, in June. The two Presidents reached a consensus on the need and importance of constructing a new-type a relationship between China and the United States as two major powers in the world and charted the future course for the development of bilateral relations. General Secretary Xi Jinping made a penetrating analysis of this new relationship, the essence of which is summarized as the three principles of “preventing conflict or confrontation, respecting each other, and carrying out win-win cooperation”. The two Presidents met again during the St Petersburg G20 Summit and reiterated their agreement on building a new type of major power relationship. The China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings and High-Level Consultation on Cultural and Humanity Exchanges held last year also produced important and positive results.

During his visit to Europe, Premier Li Keqiang highlighted the importance of enhancing China-German pragmatic cooperation. The two sides agreed on the orientation and priority areas for their bilateral cooperation in the coming years. Premier Li’s visit also expedited a breakthrough in free trade negotiations between China and Switzerland. Moreover, we successfully hosted visits to China by European leaders including French President Francois Hollande, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the EU Commission José Manuel Barroso. The 16th Round China-European Leaders’ Meeting held last year and the adoption of the China-EU Cooperation 2020 Strategic Plan also injected new vitality into relations between China and European countries.

We have continued to enhance unity and cooperation with the BRICS countries and worked hard to build consensus and seek common positions on a range of issues including the reform of international system and international and regional hotspot crises. Moreover, we have further consolidated and developed our friendly relations and cooperation with other major developing countries and regional powers, and made consistent efforts to build shared interests and mutual strategic reassurance with these countries.


4. Highlighting the strategic importance of better handling relations with neighboring countries in changed circumstances and building a solid foundation for our neighborhood strategy, so as to create favorable conditions for China’s development

Last year we successfully convened a forum on diplomatic work in handling relations with neighboring countries for the first time since the founding of New China. In his keynote speech General Secretary Xi Jinping first highlighted the utmost strategic importance of our relations with neighboring countries, dialectically analyzed the changing circumstances in China’s neighborhood and made a systematic analysis of the strategic goals, underlying guiding principles, and overall work arrangements of our neighborhood diplomacy in the new situation. He then put forward the principles of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness” with which we should do our best to maintain a peaceful and stable neighborhood environment, lay a deeper foundation for mutually beneficial relationships of shared interests, promote regional security cooperation, and consolidate and build up broad social and public support in neighboring countries for long-term development of relations between China and these countries.

In the past year we have worked hard for some key projects in priority areas in all strategic dimensions of our relations with peripheral countries and put forth many good ideas and proposals for undertaking colossal transnational projects, such as the Silk Road Economic Zone, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China-Pakistan Economic Zone and China-India-Bangladesh-Myanmar Economic Zone, so as to enhance our strategic cooperation with the countries concerned and ensure they gain more benefits from China’s development. All these strategic initiatives will serve to further enhance mutual strategic trust and at the same time create a more favorable peripheral environment for our own national development.


5. Taking a persistent and correct approach to rights and duties and strengthening friendly cooperation with developing countries

In view of the changed circumstances and new mandates for improving our relations with other developing countries and the countries in our neighborhood, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out with emphasis that in promoting bilateral relations with these countries we should take a correct approach to rights and duties. That is, politically, we should uphold justice and fairness and put morality first, and in economic exchanges, we must continue to adhere to the principles of mutual benefit and common development. He went on to say that we should give more consideration to the interests of neighboring countries and other developing countries that maintain long-term friendly relations with our country and which are confronted with the arduous task of their own development, and that in our cooperation with these countries we should give more and take less and give before we get, and never use their field as a drain to benefit ourselves at their expense.

Last year General Secretary Xi Jinping and other Party and state leaders visited many developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and expressed China’s readiness to support and help these countries in their efforts to explore the development paths that conform to their own national conditions and accelerate social and economic development. These fully demonstrated China’s goodwill toward these countries and its desire for unity and cooperation, and they served to promote mutual understanding and bilateral pragmatic cooperation, thus laying a more solid foundation for our relations of cooperation in depth with the developing world.


6. Strengthening top-level design, tactical planning at all levels and bottom-line thinking, and grasping every opportunity to do our diplomatic work well

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that in foreign policy and foreign affairs work we should take an all-dimensional perspective and act accordingly based on better top-level design, better tactical planning, and correct bottom-line thinking. He highlighted the following points: We should analyze and handle every case from a strategic and comprehensive perspective, bear the overall situation in mind, concentrate on matters of paramount importance, and improve strategic planning for our foreign affairs work based on top-level design; we should pay great attention to tactical planning, work method and work style, adapt to changing circumstances, create a favorable international environment for China’s development and truly put the strategic intention of the top leadership into effect; we should persist in correct bottom-line thinking without steering clear of contradictions and problems, properly handle differences and frictions arising in our relations with certain countries; and we should do our best to improve the relations while preparing for the worst, taking preventive measures and preparing for any contingency. When addressing the Forum on Diplomatic Work, General Secretary Xi Jinping again stressed that policy and tactics are the life and blood of the Party and also the life and blood of our diplomatic work and that we should do a better job in pursuit of our foreign policy and diplomatic conduct and make the maximum use of our diplomatic resources.

Our diplomatic work in 2013 fully displays the diplomatic wisdom of the Central Party leadership with Xi Jinping as General Secretary. Under the Central Party leadership we had a good beginning in overall planning of our diplomatic work and successfully carried out our foreign policy with concerted efforts across the nation to improve our relations with other major powers, countries in our neighborhood and other developing countries as well as various multilateral organizations.


7. Strengthening overall planning and coordination in handling foreign relations and foreign affairs work and coordinating all efforts all over the country

Keeping in mind both China’s domestic development and world affairs, General Secretary Xi Jinping attaches great importance to better overall planning and coordination in handling foreign relations and foreign affairs work. He has emphasized that it is imperative to take our domestic and foreign policies into account simultaneously and ensure better overall planning, unified leadership and close coordination, and that all foreign affairs authorities of the central government and local governments and all governmental and non-governmental organizations must have a deep sense of making concerted efforts to implement our foreign policy so as to bring the initiative and creativity of everyone into full play. At the same time we must make concerted efforts to protect our overriding national interests, thereby ensuring the success of our foreign affairs work in all areas including leadership work, policy planning, executive administration and response to contingencies.

In 2013, the Party Central Committee and the central government convened a number of important meetings on foreign affairs work, including the Forum on Diplomatic Work in Handling Relations with Neighboring Countries, and formulated a series of regulations on foreign affairs work, thereby streamlining relevant institutional mechanisms and strengthening and standardizing more effective administration in the implementation of foreign policy and foreign affairs work.


III. What we shall do in 2014


In 2014, profound and complex changes will continue to take place, structural transformation in the global economy will proceed in greater depth, and the international security situation will be more complex. Building on a good beginning and the layout of overall strategic planning in 2013, our diplomatic work will enter a new phase, proceeding in full swing and great depth. We will carry forward the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress on all fronts, intensively study, understand and implement the diplomatic theories of the Party leadership and make pioneering efforts and new achievements in our daily work, put into effect the guidelines and work programs adopted at the Forum on Diplomatic Work in Handling Relations with Neighboring Countries, and further strengthen top-level design, tactical planning and bottom-line thinking. We must give full play to summit diplomacy, better handle relations with major powers and peripheral countries, enhance cooperation with developing countries, and participate in global governance so that it will better serve the overall interests of our domestic reform, economic development and stability of the country. We must do a better job in overall planning and coordination in foreign affairs work, so as to lay a more solid foundation for our work in the next five to ten years and create favorable external conditions for the fulfillment of our goals by the centenary anniversaries of the our party’s birth and the founding of New China and for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.


Source: China International Studies January/February 2014 p5-17 

[1]Yang Jiechi is State Councilor of the People’s Republic of China. This is the keynote speech by State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the Annual Forum on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations in 2013 jointly sponsored by China Institute of International Studies and China Foundation of International Studies.