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Peaceful Development and the Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation

CIIS Time: Mar 11, 2014 Writer: Wang Yi Editor: Li Xiaoyu


by Wang Yi[1]


Shortly after the successful convening of the 18th National Party Congress, newly elected General Secretary Xi Jinping put forth the important concept of the “Chinese Dream.” Since then, Xi has made various observations on China’s path of peaceful development, including remarks that were issued at the collective learning sessions of the Politburo of the Communist Party. These remarks and observations undoubtedly enrich the strategic connotations of peaceful development. As Xi clearly stated, the concept of the Chinese dream and the path of peaceful development are consistent with each other. The former is China’s lofty goal, while the latter is the only correct path via which China can achieve this goal.

Looking back at Chinese history since the founding of the People’s Republic, it is evident that only Socialism was able to save modern China. With the “Reform and Opening” policy, China was blessed with a pathway towards national prosperity. Looking into the future, especially the coming three decades, China has every reason to believe that as long as it adheres to a path of peaceful development, its goal of national rejuvenation will be achieved. In addition, a favorable international environment can be created to facilitate China’s achievement of its bicentennial goals and the Chinese Dream.


I. The Roots of China’s Peaceful Development


To understand how China chose its path of peaceful development, two macro perspectives are helpful. First, it is important to grasp the historical positioning of China’s own development, and second, it is just as crucial to understand the historical trajectories of world powers during their rises.

A major oriental civilization with a brilliant history, China did not start its decline until the modern era. During the 20th century, especially the six decades after the founding of People’s Republic and the three decades after Reform and Opening commenced, generations of outstanding Chinese, including Communist Party members, took strides towards China’s national rejuvenation. Now, China is once again at the dawn of a national revival. It is already the world’s second largest economy, the largest industrialized nation, the largest exporting country and the country with the largest foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China is the largest trading partner of 128 countries. According to the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts, Chinese economic growth accounted for 27.7 percent of global economic growth in 2013. It is not an exaggeration to say that the performance of the world economy depends on the performance of the Asian economy, while the performance of the Asian economy in large part depends on the performance of the Chinese economy. This statement is especially true if we consider that China accounted for more than half of the economic growth in Asia. As an important driver of the global economic recovery, China has become an indispensable player in international and regional affairs. As such, many people believe that today’s China is perhaps closest to the center of the world – fast approaching its goal of national rejuvenation.

A journey that is 90 percent complete is still incomplete. The closer China comes to achieving its goal, the more sober and alert it must be. To the Chinese nation, the coming decades are bound to be full of inspiration and excitement, as well as risks and challenges. One major challenge is how China will alleviate the concerns and worries of the international community over its future development. In other words, how will China deal with the prejudices and misunderstandings of some countries and how will it thwart the provocations and interventions of hostile forces?

There has never been a historical precedent of such an enormous country rising so rapidly. Nor has there ever been a case of such a huge population modernizing so successfully and comprehensively. China’s rise and rejuvenation will not only have a profound impact on the world situation. It will also influence the global balance of power and international order. As such, it is quite understandable that countries in the world are paying close attention to China’s strategic moves. China will have to become accustomed to living under such close scrutiny during its national revival.

Once upon a time, there were numerous “China failure” theories circulating the international community, all claiming that China’s development would be short-lived and unsustainable. Nowadays, the “China failure” theories have been replaced by various “China threat” theories. For example, in recent books, John Mearsheimer, an American realist international relations scholar, claims that war will be inevitable between China and the United States. Mearsheimer’s pessimism is not strange, for almost all Western countries in the modern era have risen through non-peaceful means. Their upward paths have been characterized either by colonial expansion or by hegemonic struggles. Since Westerners believe that a rising power will inevitably seek hegemony, they will naturally doubt whether China will be able to escape the traditional fate of rising powers.

In his classic book History of the Peloponnesian War, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides traced the cause of the war between Athens and Sparta to Spartan fears over the rapid rise of Athens, the emerging power at the time. Wars consequently broke out between the two city-states. This phenomenon spawned the term “Thucydides Trap” to describe the seemingly inevitable clash between emerging and existing powers. According to some statistics, of the 15 modern historical cases in which emerging powers sought to replace existing powers, 11 ended in war.

Historical power shifts that caused worldwide changes have usually been achieved through radical means – and sometimes through war. The Westphalia System was born after the Thirty Years’ War in modern Europe, the Vienna System after the Napoleonic Wars, the Versailles System after the First World War and the Yalta System after the Second World War. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century also led to a worldwide power shift – and in this case, the destructive effects on the former Soviet Union and the global repercussions were no less intensive than those of a war.

In short, given China’s rapid growth and development, many are concerned that China will challenge the existing power structure and international order, or even cause a war. Against such a backdrop, the Chinese people and the CPC must confront many realistic, significant and urgent questions: Can China elude the Thucydides Trap? Can it escape the historical fate of degrading into a hegemony-seeking country? Will it effectively and innovatively resolve old puzzles and thereby reduce resistance to achieving its goals at a minimal cost?

In the 21st century, the Chinese Communist Party built on historical experiences and lessons, as well as the current zeitgeist, and declared that China would unswervingly adhere to a path of peaceful development. The Communist Party has also declared that China will never resort to aggression or expansion, as many other countries have mistakenly done in the past. Instead, China will remain firmly committed to its new path of national development and rejuvenation. As proof of this commitment, the Communist Party wrote the principle of peaceful development into the 17th and 18th National Party Congresses, as well as the constitution.

During a collective Communist Party learning session in early 2013, General Secretary Xi once again stressed the importance of peaceful development as a strategic decision that is in accordance with the zeitgeist and China’s fundamental interests. As Xi said, there must be a peaceful international environment for China to achieve its goals. Without peace, neither China nor the world will be able to develop smoothly. And without development, there will never be long-lasting peace. Therefore, China must unswervingly adhere to a path of peaceful development.

China’s commitment to peaceful development is not only a key decision made by the Communist Party based on domestic and international affairs. It is also a solemn commitment that the Chinese government is making to the rest of the world. By pursuing peaceful development, China is seeking to develop itself while creating a peaceful international environment. The purpose of such a path is to achieve national rejuvenation via peaceful means, while at the same time promoting the prosperity of other countries. The path of peaceful development not only combines peace with development and connects domestic affairs with international affairs. It also links the interests of a single country to the common interests of mankind. It marks a moment of huge progress in human history and an important innovation in international relations.



II. Scientific Justifications for China’s Peaceful Development


Why must China embark on a path of peaceful development? Is it a viable path? In other words, is peaceful development necessary and feasible?


1. Peaceful development is a necessary requirement of eco-nomic globalization.

Nowadays, economic globalization and the emerging infor­mation society are changing people’s lives in a fundamental way. Interconnectivity has rendered our world smaller and flatter by bringing nations and people closer to each other. As a result, the world has evolved into a place with interwoven interests and synchronous symbiosis. In a certain sense, the new global situation can explain the differences between the grave recessions that afflicted the 20th and 21st centuries respectively. The great depression of 1930s shattered the United States, Europe and Japan, but had little impact upon other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In comparison, the international financial crisis that struck in 2008 threatened the whole world, leaving no country spared and no corner insulated. This provides evidence that globalization has already reached an unprecedented depth and breadth.

Similarly, when the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled that it would cease its quantitative easing monetary policy in 2013, this instantly caused turbulence in several emerging countries’ financial markets. Likewise, the slow-down of the Chinese economy in the first half of 2013 also triggered some global tensions. It used to be the case that when bigger countries sneezed, smaller countries would cough in reaction. But in today’s world, smaller countries can also exercise influence on big countries through “butterfly effects.” The latest proof thereof can be found in the recent Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

If the balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union that persisted during the Cold War was a “balance of terror” based on nuclear deterrence, then today’s world is more characterized by a check and balance of interests via interest fusion. This has grown to influence all countries today, especially major countries. War has become increasingly expensive, and the use of force is subject to more and more restrictions. Moreover, global challenges – such as the international financial crisis, terrorism and climate change, to name just a few – all entail international cooperation and global governance. It is not an exaggeration to say that the world is gradually evolving into one community of common destiny. Within this macro environment of world peace and opposition to war, the peaceful settlement of international disputes has become an inevitable choice. The Syrian chemical weapons case provides a great example of this new reality. When the Syrian chemical weapons issue first became public, the British parliament vetoed military intervention plans due to growing domestic opposition. Similarly, France chose to support the convention of the second Geneva conference to peacefully settle the crisis. Even the United States changed its idea at the last minute and agreed to solve the problem peacefully within the framework of the United Nations.

In his recent book “On China,” Dr. Henry Kissinger explores whether a confrontation similar to the one between the United Kingdom and Germany in the 19th Century will be inevitable between China and the United States in the 21st Century. In the book, Kissinger concludes that the decisive form of competition between China and the United States will be more economic and social than military. Kissinger’s reasoning is that the two countries have built a closer community of common interests: an annual trade volume of approximately 500 billion USD, an annual mutual investment scale exceeding 80 billion USD and an annual visitor number reaching 3.5 million people. According to forecasts by the China-US Exchange Foundation, by 2022, China is projected to become the largest trade partner of the United States and vice versa. Exports to China are projected to contribute 460 billion USD to the United States GDP, while also creating 3.34 million jobs. Exports to the United States will contribute 480 billion USD to China’s GDP and create 10.22 million jobs in China. The combined size of the two economies will account for one third of the total global economy, and their combined population and total trade volume will respectively make up one quarter and one fifth of the world totals. As such, if conflict breaks out between the two countries, the whole world will be affected. This is an important reason why the world does not wish to see the two countries in conflict with each other. In this sense, China’s path of peaceful development not only conforms to its own long-term and fundamental interests. It is also a viable route that will benefit the whole world.


2. Peaceful development is a necessary requirement of China’s own development.

China, currently the second largest economy in the world, is gradually growing into a major country. For the time being, however, it remains a developing country with per capita income that ranks roughly 80th in the world and more than 100 million people that live below the poverty line. At present, China’s development is still unbalanced, disproportionate and unsustainable. In order to allow 1.3 billion people to have decent lives, China still has a long way to go. Raising the people’s living standards through economic development will be a long-term and arduous task. It is also the most important mission of the Communist Party as a ruling party. To accelerate development, China needs a peaceful and stable international environment. This means that China must insist on and practice peaceful development. If others perceive China’s development to be peaceful and non-aggressive, and if countries view China’s rise as creating mutual benefits and win-win situations instead of zero-sum games, then the international community will increasingly welcome China’s development. In return, China will encounter less opposition and friction, fostering a better environment for its own development.

On the other hand, given China’s continued opening-up to the outside world, there are more and more Chinese enterprises and citizens venturing abroad. This has caused a new phenomenon in China’s development: its raw material supplies and markets are becoming increasingly internationalized and revenues are being shared between China and foreign countries. In 2012, China’s foreign trade volume reached 3.87 trillion USD, the accumulated scale of its foreign direct investment reached 500 billion USD and the total size of its overseas assets exceeded 2 trillion USD. More than half of China’s crude oil and iron ore supplies were imported from abroad. An integral part of China’s aggregate national interest, this emerging “overseas China” is making considerable contributions to China’s economic growth. Protecting its legitimate stake and interests overseas has therefore become one of China’s top priorities. To protect its expanding stakes and interests overseas, China should not only count on the continued growth of its comprehensive national power, but also on the development of peaceful relations with all countries. It must also better integrate its interests into the world, create efficient conduits of trade and investment and keep international regimes working well.


3. Peaceful development is the necessary requirement of China’s social system and cultural traditions.

As a Socialist country, China is thought to have an optimal social system and governing philosophy. Internally, China pursues fairness, justice, common prosperity and social harmony. Externally, China plays fair, insists on equity, respects justice and always sides with righteousness. Under no circumstances will China follow the West and admire the law of the jungle. Instead, China must fight hegemony of any form. As Comrade Deng Xiaoping once said, “the Socialism we are pursuing should facilitate continued growth of productive forces and connote peace.” Regardless of how the international situation has changed since the founding of the People’s Republic, independence and peace have always been two essential characteristics of China’s diplomacy. These two principles not only constitute the cornerstones of China’s foreign policy, but also enable China to stand firm on the just and moral high ground among nations.

China’s peaceful development is not only an important feature of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, but also a reflection of some fine ideas of Chinese culture and tradition. Benevolent love, humanitarian care, devotion to peace, good neighborliness and the ideal of harmony centered on peace are examples of fine Chinese cultural traditions. These traditions were developed by China’s ancestors in the ancient times and have been adhered to by the Chinese for millennia. These ideas are also what bolster our peaceful development today. Centuries ago, the Silk Road that connected people along a path for common prosperity was exactly such a symbol of peace. As the famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell said, the Chinese people are natural pacifists and peace-lovers. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt also rated China the most peace-loving nation in world history. Viewed in such a light, peaceful development is not only a natural extension of China’s culture and traditions. More importantly, it is an inevitable and reasoned choice made by the Chinese people based on their painful memories in the modern era.


Promoting China’s Peaceful Development in the New Environment


Since the founding of the People’s Republic more than six decades ago, generations of Chinese leaders have led their people to explore, practice and improve the strategy of peaceful development.

To facilitate China’s peaceful development in a new historical setting, the Communist Party’s Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, has continued to innovate on diplomatic theories and practices by integrating tradition with new developments. As we can see, the further China advances along the path of peaceful development, the more experienced it will become. But at the same time, it will also encounter more and more problems and challenges. As long as the Chinese people maintain full confidence and enough patience in their national strategy, China, under the strong leadership of the Communist Party, will be able to jointly overcome these obstacles and continue along the path of peaceful development.


1. Integrating China’s national interests into the common interests all nations

In today’s world, no country can afford to pursue its own national interests alone and totally neglect or ignore the interests of others. Only by collaborating with other countries and creating a bigger pie can a country’s own portion grow in size. As President Xi Jinping said, the viability of peaceful development to a large extent depends on whether China can make breakthroughs and progress in effectively utilizing opportunities in the world – not only for China’s own benefit but also for the benefit of the world. In other words, whether China can create a broader space for peaceful development depends on whether it can grasp and coordinate opportunities at home and abroad, stay committed to openness and win-win cooperation, expand its common interests with other countries and integrate itself better into the wider world.

In 2013, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang utilized high-level exchanges and visits and signed roughly 800 inter-governmental, inter-departmental or inter-regional cooperation agreements with international entities. These agreements cover a range of important cooperative initiatives in politics, economic cooperation and trade, energy, culture and military cooperation, among other areas. These moves undoubtedly enriched the meaning of China’s peaceful development strategy. During his visit to Central Asia, President Xi’s proposal to build a “Silk Road Economic Belt” on the basis of five links (political, transportation, trade, currency and cultural links) received positive feedback from the leaders of Central Asian countries. As the Economist magazine wrote, the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” which connects the infrastructures of Asia and Europe, will become a huge market encompassing billions of people. Likewise, Xi’s initiative to create a “21st Century Marine Silk Road” during his visit to Southeast Asia also received extensive support from regional countries and the international community alike.

During Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and Pakistan, China reached an agreement to construct a China-India-Burma Economic Corridor as well as a Sino-Pakistani Economic Corridor, one running in a North-South direction and the other in an East-West direction. These two economic corridors will connect the enormous markets of China and India, synergize the growth of East Asia and South Asia and eventually contribute to the Asia’s regional integration.

In addition to infrastructural integration, other development plans are being coordinated and integrated. During President Xi’s visit to Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, China signed five-year development programs with both countries to help coordinate their developmental strategies. During Premier Li’s visit to Germany, China reached an agreement with its host to cooperate in the fields of neo-industrialization, information technology, urbanization and agricultural modernization, all to enhance and combine the competitive advantages of the two countries. During the 16th meeting between Chinese and European Union leaders, the two sides signed a “2020 Program on Strategic Cooperation” to coordinate China’s 12th Five-Year Plan and the EU’s 2020 Development Program.

The 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress earmarked the deepening of reforms and the expansion of China’s opening-up, with an emphasis on the important task of accelerating the reform of China’s foreign trade system. Specific targets include the creation of an ordered environment to attract high-end production, the improvement of China’s overall capabilities to integrate world resources and develop international markets, the promotion of China’s high-level international economic integration and the construction of a renewed open economic system.

In the new global situation, China must combine domestic development with opening-up, linking its own growth to world economic growth and increasingly integrating its national interests with the common interests of mankind. Only in this way can China create a broader space for peaceful development.


2. Coordinating with other major countries to improve the strategic environment of China’s peaceful development

As major countries greatly determine the peace of the world, relations between major countries have a direct effect on peaceful development. In the field of foreign affairs, the Communist Party leadership is focusing on the important task of managing relations with major countries and solidifying and expanding bilateral relations with other major countries.

The rest of the world pays a lot of attention to the Sino-American relationship. With China being the fastest growing country and the United States being the largest developed country in the world, some people fear that the two countries will inevitably fall into conflict – an example of the aforementioned Thucydides Trap. At President Obama’s invitation, President Xi met with the Obama administration in June 2013 at the Sunnylands Summit in California. During the summit, President Xi’s proposal to build a new type of major-country relations with the United States received positive feedback from President Obama. This signaled an important consensus between the two countries on this issue. Having a Sino-American summit on a specific topic within three months of a Chinese leadership transition is unprecedented in Chinese history. It showed that both countries attach great importance to the development of their bilateral relations.

President Xi incisively summarized the connotations of a “new type of major-country relations” into three points: namely, no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect and cooperation and win-win. These three points may seem to be simple but are in fact rich with meaning. “No conflict or confrontation” aims to reverse people’s negative expectations about the long-term prospects of the Sino-American relationship and thereby influence the two countries’ current policies in a positive way. “Mutual respect” stresses that the two countries should respect each other’s chosen social systems, development paths, core interests and major concerns – this is the proper way to communicate and conduct exchanges among nations. “Cooperation and win-win” connotes forgoing a zero-sum game and instead seeking one’s own interests while caring about others’ interests. It also implies the linking of self-development to co-development. These three points not only represent common goals that the two countries should strive to achieve; they are also necessary contributions to the world that are expected by the international community. Through this historical meeting, China and the United States clarified the long-term prospects of the Sino-American relationship and sent a very positive signal to the world. Of course, with the United States and China being the largest capitalist and socialist countries in the world, respectively, constructing and realizing a new type of major-country relations is not an easy job. It requires collective exploration and practical efforts from both countries, including their domestic parties and social groups. Similarly, as a long-term objective, it will require political will and persistence from both sides.

Russia is a major country and China’s largest neighbor. Because China and Russia are currently at key stages in their national rejuvenations, they share extensive common interests. If the Sino-Russian relationship develops well, Russia will become an important strategic partner in support of China’s peaceful development. President Xi’s choice of Russia as his first overseas destination after taking office testified to the importance of the Sino-Russian relationship. During his visit, President Xi spent almost eight hours engaged in in-depth exchanges and communications with President Vladimir Putin. An important joint declaration was consequently issued by the two countries in which China and Russia committed themselves to supporting each other on a number of issues, ranging from development and national rejuvenation to the protection of their core national interests and the maintenance of each party’s chosen path and social system. In addition, the two countries signed dozens of “Century Contracts” involving huge volumes of oil and gas, nuclear power, electricity, high technology and aerospace, among other areas. These concrete measures raised the level of practical cooperation between the two countries to a new height.

The European and Chinese economies are highly complementary. Tapping the potential of Sino-European cooperation will therefore prove beneficial not only to the peaceful development of China, but also to wider global prosperity. During Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Europe in May 2013, China and Switzerland signed a Free Trade Agreement. This was the first FTA ever signed between China and a European country and it marked a great breakthrough in the history of Sino-European relations. Meanwhile, China’s practical cooperation with Germany entered an “acceleration period,” and the Sino-German relationship continues to lead overall Sino-EU relations. At the end of 2013, summit meetings between China and the Central and Eastern European countries produced fruitful results as well. And the visits to China by more than ten European leaders (including France, the United Kingdom, Greece, Romania, the Netherlands, Finland and Iceland) in less than one year represented another highpoint in China’s diplomatic relations with the European Union.

India is also an important emerging power. In recent years, some Western media have tried to badmouth the Sino-Indian relationship by fabricating a so-called “dragon-elephant tussle” narrative. The Sino-Indian relationship not only concerns China’s peaceful development but also the unity of emerging countries. In June 2013, Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India was soon followed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China in October of the same year. The successful visits by the two countries’ Premiers in a single year marked the first time that this had happened in the past 52 years. As Prime Minister Singh told President Xi, Asia is big enough to accommodate the common development of both countries and India will never join any group or alliance against China. The two countries’ joint efforts have already pushed the Sino-Indian strategic partnership to new heights.

In general, the relationships between China and other major countries all underwent smooth transitions and positive new developments in the first year since the inauguration of China’s new leadership. In the future, China will attach more importance to major country relations, strengthen high-level communications, deepen strategic dialogues, expand practical cooperation efforts and further integrate the interests of all parties to improve the strategic environment of China’s peaceful development.


3. Intensifying friendship with neighboring countries to secure support for China’s peaceful development

With the most complicated surroundings in the world, China borders fourteen inland countries and six marine countries. In addition, there are 9 countries that can still be classified as China’s close neighbors, even though they do not directly border China. These countries are substantially different from one another not only in terms of history, culture and religion, but also in terms of their political systems and development levels. Those who doubt China’s peaceful development can therefore find proof of China’s sincerity by looking at how China handles its relations with its neighbors.

China enjoys very close ties and frequent exchanges with its neighbors. These are countries and entire regions in which China’s interests are deeply integrated and in which China exerts a direct influence. In 2012, trade between China and its neighboring countries exceeded 1.2 trillion USD, accounting for roughly 32 percent of China’s aggregate foreign trade. Meanwhile, mutual investment between China and its neighbors surged and China imported a considerable portion of its energy resources from neighboring countries. For example, China imported 53 percent of its natural gas supply from Central Asia. In terms of mutual visits, China and its neighbors collectively registered a total of 35.5 million mutual visits in 2012, with around 60 percent of China’s visitors coming from Asian countries.

This is why China deems its neighbors to be the cornerstone of its subsistence, development and prosperity. Sticking to peaceful development first and foremost implies the creation of a peaceful, stable and prosperous environment. To this end, China’s peaceful development should not only benefit its neighbors; it should also be able count on their support.

Under the leadership of Comrade Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has paid great attention to diplomacy with neighboring countries. In October 2013, the Party’s Central Committee organized a forum on diplomacy with neighboring countries, an unprecedented event since the founding of the People’s Republic. During the forum, Comrade Xi made important remarks on the guidelines, policies and principles that govern neighborhood diplomacy in the new historical era. He particularly stressed the ideas of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness as requisite components of neighborhood diplomacy. These ideas are vivid declarations of China’s insistence on peaceful development. They are both brilliant summaries of China’s neighborhood diplomacy practices and innovative developments of China’s diplomatic philosophy under the new leadership.

Amity involves the strengthening of friendship on the basis of geographical proximity and kinship. China still feels the profound influence of Confucianism, as do other East Asian countries; China still values Buddhist cultural heritage, as do South Asian countries; China cherishes the historical connections brought by the Silk Road, as do other Central Asian countries. Through thousands of years of communicating and exchanging information and culture, China has forged an inextricable link and a natural sense of intimacy with its neighbors. This link extends beyond the social and cultural fields into political domains. Over the years, China and its neighbors have maintained close and frequent exchanges and communication, just like close relatives making frequent visits. As proof, since President Xi and Premier Li were inaugurated in March 2013, less than a year ago, they have visited Russia, Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan), ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei) and South Asia (India and Pakistan), while also receiving dozens of visits from the state leaders of China’s neighbors. Such frequent mutual visits and interactions fully testify to the special and intimate relations between China and its neighbors.

Sincerity requires being sincere and honest with others to win their trust and support. The Chinese nation has always attached great importance to sincerity, honesty, trust and credibility. China’s deep friendship with King Sihanouk of Cambodia is a good example in this type of respect – China’s help to the king over the years not only created a profound friendship between China and the king, but also generated favorable feedback and appreciation among the people of Cambodia. China has no shortage of similarly moving stories, anecdotes and cases. As for its disputes with some neighboring countries, China is willing to adopt a sincere attitude and seek proper solutions through dialogue and friendly consultation, as long as this is preconditioned on the safeguarding of China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Mutual benefit refers to the idea of win-win cooperation between two countries. As a non-ASEAN member more than a decade ago, China initiated bilateral talks with ASEAN countries to set up free trade zones. During these talks, China managed to take care of ASEAN’s concerns on a range of different issues. As a result, in 2010 China and ASEAN collectively set up the world’s largest free trade zone among developing countries. So far, ASEAN is the largest recipient of Chinese overseas investment, China’s third largest trade partner and a major travel destination for Chinese citizens. In 2013, Chinese leaders once again demonstrated their sincerity to ASEAN by proposing a series of constructive and win-win cooperative initiatives. These include the construction of a community of common destiny with ASEAN, the 2+7 cooperation framework, the upgrading of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone and the launching of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Inclusiveness means openness, tolerance and the pursuit of common ground, all of which are normally associated with broad minded, major countries. As a major country in East Asia, China has always supported ASEAN’s leading role in regional cooperation and welcomed non-ASEAN states to play a constructive role in East Asian cooperation regimes. China has also promoted the synergy and complementation of regimes such as the 10+1, 10+3 and East Asia Summit. In addition, China reacted positively to related countries’ concerns over the Asia Pacific regional security situation, facilitating exchanges and communications on regional defense and security issues and demonstrating the utmost tolerance, inclusiveness and open-mindedness.

Of course, China must clearly realize that in its surroundings there are still factors that could disrupt its peaceful development. This is why President Xi proposed that China emphasize the maintenance of peace and stability in its surrounding regions. On the issue of the Korean peninsula, China’s basic proposition can be summarized into three points: insistence on the goal of the denuclearization for the entire Korean Peninsula; insistence on resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation; and insistence on maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. China is a responsible major country that believes firmly in justice and is willing to play a positive role in the world – it deems all three points listed above to be indispensable and will not allow any parties to make trouble near China. Since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted its third nuclear test, China has made great efforts to urge relevant parties to have talks and consultations that will help alleviate the tensions in the region. This shows China’s unique role in addressing the Korean Peninsula issue, as well as China’s positive role as a responsible major country. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should not solely be the responsibility of China. Instead, the key lies in dialogues between the United States and the DPRK and the improved relations between the two countries. Six-party talks involving both the United States and the DPRK provide an effective mechanism for relevant parties to resolve the Korean nuclear issue. This is why China is actively working with all related parties to create favorable preconditions for the earliest possible resumption of the six-party talks. Only in this way can the Korean nuclear issue come to a peaceful resolution as soon as possible.

A stable and improving Sino-Japanese relationship is in the fundamental interests of both countries. The current difficulties between China and Japan are completely due to Japan’s mistakes and this is not a situation that China wishes to see again. To avoid the further deterioration of the situation, the Japanese side must face reality, be cautious in both words and deeds and commit itself to no longer hurting China’s sovereignty and interests. If the Japanese side really wishes to improve Sino-Japanese relations, then it should take concrete actions to prove itself. The historical issue remains a major obstacle to the improvement of Sino-Japanese relations. The Japanese wars of aggression against China plunged China into great disorder and calamity. Only by drawing lessons from history can a better future be forged. And only by choosing peace will Japan be able win the trust of its neighbors. The Japanese side should understand this basic truth and pay due respect to human conscience and justice. China sincerely hopes that intercultural and cross-regional exchanges between the two nations, as well as communications between younger generations, will help steer the Sino-Japanese relationship out of its current state.


4. Deeper cooperation and closer unity with developing countries

To better understand China’s path of peaceful development, it is important to observe how China handles the balance between common good and its own interests. In recent years, China’s growth and development received increased recognition from the international community. Amidst this recognition, however, were some voices that till sought to defame and misinterpret China’s efforts. For example, some accused China of carrying out “mercantilism,” while others slandered China as a practitioner of “neocolonialism” in Africa.

Based on China’s historical experiences and diplomatic practices since the founding of the People’s Republic, President Xi proposed that China develop a correct understanding of the relationship between self-interest and common good. He stressed that China should strive for the common good and welfare of all developing countries and provide, within its capacity, necessary assistance to poor countries. Sometimes, Xi said, China should even neglect or completely forgo its own interests for the sake of justice and common good. Stinginess and mercenary-like attitudes will by no means be allowed.

In March 2013, during his visits to Tanzania, South Africa and Congo-Brazzaville, President Xi confirmed that China would always support and assist Africa’s development. This vow resonated strongly with African leaders and their people. During his visit, Xi and his host countries signed more than 40 cooperation contracts that range from investment, trade and economic assistance to infrastructure construction and agricultural exchanges. In return, African leaders and their people expressed their sincere appreciation for China’s long-term assistance and selfless efforts to expand win-win cooperation between China and Africa. For instance, President Sassou of Congo-Brazzaville issued a candid speech criticizing Western prejudices against China at a large ceremony in honor of President Xi. He said: “We completely disagree with the West in their claim that China is practicing Neocolonialism in Africa. What is colonialism? We understand it too well, because our body and soul have both suffered from it. But China is our trustworthy friend. China’s path is Africa’s hope.”

Developing countries are China’s partners on the path of peaceful development. In the new historical era, China must adhere to a path of righteousness while increasing its aid and assistance to less developed countries in proportion to its own national strength. By exploring new opportunities and new approaches to win-win cooperation between developing countries, China can help these other countries achieve independent and sustainable development. This will further help consolidate the foundation of China’s peaceful development.


5. Playing the role of a responsible major country by providing public goods to the whole world

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China is expected by the international community to play a significant role in international affairs. President Xi has already noted that Chinese are patriotic and have international visions and aspirations. With its growing national power, China will shoulder international responsibilities in proportion to its capacity, thereby making greater contributions to the peace and development of mankind.

China has demonstrated that it is a firm supporter of world peace not only with words but also with actions. For example, China’s use of its veto right in the Security Council has primarily been against intervention into the internal affairs of other countries, especially the affairs of small and middle-sized countries. China is not fighting for its own interests. Rather, it is fighting for international justice, the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, the honor of the United Nations charter and the fundamental principles of international relations. So far, China has dispatched more than 20,000 people to participate in UN peacekeeping missions worldwide. This makes China the number one personnel dispatcher among all permanent members of the Security Council. Similarly, China’s peacekeeping costs rank top among all developing countries. To support African peace and security, China took an unprecedented step and dispatched a complete rank of peacekeeping forces to Mali.

As an active promoter of the global development agenda, China has lent strong support to the UN Millennium Development Goals and contributed many useful concepts, ideas and wisdom on a series of global issues, including climate change. For instance, China has contributed ideas like innovative development, coordinated growth and interest integration on the occasions of many important summit meetings. China has also appealed to the international community to cultivate a strong awareness of its ideas the “Community of Common Destiny” and win-win cooperation in spite of competition. China is happy to see many of these ideas and concepts accepted by the international community. At the same time, China has made great breakthroughs in projects like the BRICS Development Bank and foreign exchange reserve pool. These concrete efforts and measures will help the world economy recover, stabilize international financial markets and initiate reforms to the international system.

Nowadays, more and more countries realize that China brings opportunities and not threats to the world. A stronger China that pursues peaceful development will assume greater responsibility in promoting human peace and progress.



6. Building a stronger national defense to protect China’s national interests and peaceful development

The achievement of peaceful development depends on action, not waiting. The pursuit of peaceful development will by no means be smooth. Rather, it is bound to be full of risks and challenges. Therefore, to achieve its goal of peaceful development and national rejuvenation, China must consistently reduce and overcome disruptions and opposition. To ensure the comprehensive implementation of peaceful development, China must strengthen its national defense. As stated during the 18th Party Congress, the purpose of strengthening national defense is to protect China’s sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and peaceful development. A stronger national defense will provide better protection for China’s core interests while also allowing China to concentrate on peaceful development. Further, it constitutes a powerful deterrent against countries that threaten China’s peaceful development and serves the ultimate purpose of preventing wars.

To judge whether a country is a supporter of peace, one need only study the type of national defense policy that this country adopts. China adopts a defensive national defense policy. This means that the strengthening of China’s military power is conducive to world peace. Increasing its capacity to protect national interests, including its military capabilities, is a necessary requirement of China’s peaceful development.

As President Xi put it, China should adhere to peaceful development, but it will never give up its legitimate rights and interests and will never sacrifice its core national interests. No foreign country should expect China to trade its core interests, nor should any country expect China to tolerate encroachments upon its sovereignty, security and development interests. These clear and forceful words clarified the dialectical relationship between peaceful development and China’s protection of national interests.

As China’s peaceful development progresses, it will have more resources and measures to protect its national interests and become increasingly proactive in doing so. China will neither sacrifice other countries’ interests to achieve its own development, nor will it allow other countries to encroach upon China’s legitimate rights and interests. Likewise, peaceful development is not something that simply concerns China. Through its own example, China should encourage other countries to accept the concepts of peaceful development, peaceful co-existence and common development so that peaceful development can become a preferred policy option for all.


7. Sharing the dividends of peaceful development to secure continued support

People provide the foundation of a state. The continued progress of China’s peaceful development can be attributed both to the growth in China’s national power and the support of the Chinese people. Only by remaining rooted in the principles of the people will China’s diplomacy be able to win people’s support and trust. Only in this way can China’s diplomatic work become popular, successful and progressive.

As President Xi said, China’s national power should continuously be developed in order to bring more dividends from peaceful development to the people. In return, people will help lay a more solid material and social foundation for China’s continued peaceful development.

Bolstered by years of peaceful development, China is now able to better protect the legitimate rights and interests of its citizens abroad. In 2011, it took China only 12 days to evacuate 35,860 besieged Chinese nationals who were in Lybia, using sea, land and air transportation resources. The first large-scale overseas evacuation operation in the history of the People’s Republic could well be deemed a rare feat in world history.

So far, China has more than 20,000 enterprises operating in close to 200 countries. In 2013 alone, Chinese customs registered a total of roughly 90 million outbound trips by Chinese nationals. It is estimated that by 2020, this annual figure will jump to 150 million. Following political philosophies that are oriented around the people, China will make concrete efforts to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals overseas and provide them with better services. Meanwhile, whenever possible, China will negotiate with more foreign countries to simplify visa procedures and even obtain visa exemptions on ordinary passports. By increasing the value of Chinese passports, the overseas travels of Chinese citizens will be made easier and more convenient in the future.

China’s unprecedented peaceful development requires the wisdom and devotion of all governmental sectors and regional administrations. Only through concerted effort can progress be made. Under the leadership of the Communist Party with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China’s path of peaceful development will definitely grow broader in the future. With time and hard work, a better external environment will be created to facilitate the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.


Source: China International Studies January/February 2014 p17-44


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