Transformation of International Structure and China's Diplomatic Strategy

China International Studies, July/August 2015, pp. 5-25. | 作者: Su Ge | 时间: 2015-09-10 | 责编: 王嘉珮
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Su Ge[1]


The world has undergone extremely complicated and profound changes since the beginning of the 21st century – the 9/11 incident, the rapid rise of emerging powers, the world financial crisis and the adjustment of international strategy by the United States. From a practical and theoretical standpoint, it is now ever more important to make an objective and comprehensive assessment of the international state of affairs, understand China’s international position and formulate overall strategic and realizable goals for China’s diplomacy.



Assessing the International Situation in an Objective and Comprehensive Manner



Since the signing of the Westphalia Peace Treaty, the international structure has experienced several changes – from the Vienna System to the Versailles/Washington System and then to the Yalta System. The end of the Cold War in early 1990s marked the beginning of a new transformation of the international structure. With the disintegration of the US-USSR confrontational bipolar system, a unipolar structure came into being in which the United States was the only superpower and assumed dominance. The United States’ national strategy, characterized by neo-conservatism, was fundamentally outreaching – seeking to reinforce American “leadership” in the world and solidify the US-led international political structure.


The 9/11 incident marked a major turning point in the evolution of the international structure at the start of the 21st century. Resolved to take revenge upon its attackers, the United States launched the Afghan and Iraq Wars in quick succession. The former obtained the authorization of the United Nations Security Council due to its anti-terrorism justification while the latter did not. The United States acted without any restraint – but “fortune and misfortune are two buckets in a well”, and things turn into their opposite when they reach an extreme. In a certain sense, the law of the rise and decline of empires, laid out by Paul Kennedy, has not really changed. The two protracted wars consumed huge amounts of money and resources: the official public military expenditures on the two wars reached 1 trillion USD, respectively, but researchers at Harvard estimate that the two wars and post-war reconstruction will amount to between 4 and 6 trillion USD. The damage caused by being deeply bogged down in the quagmire of war may have never been fully anticipated by the United States.


The 2008 international financial crisis constituted another turning point in the adjustment of the international structure. The power and image of the United States were both damaged by the two wars – but the financial tsunami resulting from Wall Street bubbles deeply affected American society and the public mentality, mauling the economy and financial sector. The financial crisis created a watershed dynamic: the economies of the United States and Western developed countries tended towards relative decline while those of some newly emerging economies experienced new vitality and an increase in strength and standing. World polarization accelerated and witnessed a qualitative change. Of course, in the process of economic adjustment since the crisis, emerging powers have faced challenges, and the United States and other mature economies have displayed some stamina in their recoveries.


The United States has made major adjustments to its national security strategy since President Obama took office. It sped up its “return to Asia” or “rebalancing towards Asia-Pacific” strategy, and gradually withdrew troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This marked a shift in strategic priority towards preventing challenges resulting from the rise of other major countries. As a result, the Pacific region has become even more agitated. Due to changes in its national strength and international standing, China has become the focus of attention in the international community. This seems to confirm the ancient Chinese maxim, which states: “A tree taller than the forest will certainly be subject to gusts of wind.”


Across the world, international relations are demonstrating the following features:

First, cooperation and contradiction coexist in international political relations; peace and development remain the dominant trends. The call for cooperation and transformation continues to be heard, and the demand for building communities of common interest and common destiny has become even stronger. The United States needs to cooperate with other countries because of the exhaustion of its strength and resources from the comprehensive anti-terrorism wars and financial crisis. The G20 summit has become the principal platform for the international community to cope with the financial crisis, the emerging countries have enhanced their influence in international affairs, and the trend of world multi-polarity is becoming increasingly salient. The rise and decline in the strength of major powers is continuing, and countries are seeking to cooperate despite deep competition, avoiding all-out confrontation in an attempt to find convergence of their respective national interests. The international community continues to work to maintain peace and promote development, with some hotspot issues starting to ease up.


Uncertainties in international political relations, however, persist, and it is by no means easy to transform the old international economic and political order. The struggle between a unipolar and multipolar world will continue and certain contradictions in international relations may, at times, become intensely acute. The United States, which has only suffered relative setbacks, maintains its superpower position in the world, both in terms of military power and international influence. To protect its leading position as a superpower, the United States, while perceiving some rising contradictions with China, an important representative of the emerging economies, has adopted some measures vis-a-vis the latter. Of course, this does not mean that the two countries’ relations have become entirely antagonistic. In present-day international relations, the line between ally and foe is less distinct than under the former bipolar international structure. In other words, “the margins are obscured.” Some regional contradictions stand out, with conflicts flaring up in an entangled way. Moreover, some regional issues, like the Ukraine conflict, may affect the global strategic structure, igniting a new round of competition between the United States and Russia and tangentially affecting relations between Russia and Europe, Russia and Japan, and even China and Russia. Whether or not this will lead to overall or continued confrontation between the United States and Russia remains to be seen.


Second, interdependence and competition are inseparable in international economic relations. The historic adjustment of global production relations has been driven by a drastic leap in productivity. The unprecedented development of international trade, global finance, transnational production, technological transformation, worldwide connectivity, and many other spheres have brought about an international economic relationship of mutual integration and interdependence. The shockwaves of the international financial crisis impacted every corner of the globe, and no country can act alone to achieve development. The Greek debt, though accounting for only 2.3 percent of the European economic aggregate sum, sufficed to bog down all of Europe. Though China is widely separated from the United States and Europe, its industry, agriculture, commerce and various other trades all suffered strong impacts from the financial crisis. In the process of addressing the international financial crisis, more and more countries came to accept the idea of interdependence – “helping each other when in the same boat”.


At the same time, the double-edged sword of economic globalization is getting ever more salient and “economic security” has become a popular concern for all countries. The post-crisis recovery of the world economy has been arduous and trade protectionism has made a comeback. The United States attributed its difficult situation to some of the rules governing the current international economy and trade, alleging that emerging economies have been unfairly finding loopholes for years. Hence, the United States is pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Treaty of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), in an attempt to bypass or replace relevant WTO rules and formulate a capital operation system that overrides state sovereignty. Once again, this has caused uneasiness in the international situation and further intensified the call from developing countries to reform the international financial order. As the disadvantaged group, lesser-developed countries face the danger of being marginalized in the process of economic globalization.


Third, non-traditional security problems are becoming increasingly prominent, while traditional security problems remain as severe as ever. Since 9/11, terrorism and other non-traditional security problems have garnered the attention of the international community. A decade of war and other measures against terrorism failed to wipe out the phenomenon; instead it has been changing its tricks and become even more rampant. The development trends and scale of ISIS have shocked the world. The international community is concertedly trying to eradicate the roots of terrorism and contain the regional disturbances caused by national separatism, extremism and terrorism. The development and popular application of advanced technologies has made cyber security a major security problem within the international community. In addition, financial risks, climate change, grain and food security, disease treatment and prevention, disaster management and other global issues are all growing in importance.


The necessity of “sustainable development” is now widely accepted by the international community, but traditional security problems remain. The superpower United States will naturally guard against the rise of other major countries that challenge its position. With remnants of Cold War mentality, the United States has not only retained military alliances it established during the Cold War but also made new deployments. It has continued its strategic military framework with NATO, extended its military alliance with Japan, South Korea and Australia in the Asia Pacific region, pushed forward a number of triangle security cooperation arrangements, and intensified its military presence in the Western Pacific. The series of events aimed at nibbling away at China’s maritime territory in China’s vicinity have complicated international relations, and the conduct of some countries in the East China Sea and South China Sea have not benefited regional stability, taking America’s foreign policy as hostage. The United States has taken actions, overtly or covertly,, that contradict its promise to “not take sides.”


Fourth, competition over “soft power” is escalating and the impact of IT application in society is increasing. Since the beginning of the new century, competition over “soft power” has been rising. Positive progress has been achieved in the peaceful coexistence of different civilizations, and settling problems by means of dialogue instead of confrontation. That said, the struggle between infiltration and counter-infiltration persists, and one may be forced to submit to new threats. The new round of international competition does not confine itself to “hard power” but instead manifests itself more in the vying over moral and legal high ground. The swift development of information technology has ushered in the extensive application of so-called “new media.” Web 2.0 is in wide use and mobile phone subscribers are able to release information instantly through the interactive functions available on the internet. Its significance, according to some people, can match the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. Along with the popularization of mobile terminals such as 3G and 4G, the internet has achieved “seamless docking” with all different aspects of daily life and information being disseminated and exchanged. As noted by scholar Joseph Nye, every person, enterprise, NGO, terrorist or social movement can now become an important variable influencing international politics, thus weakening the government’s ability to control domestic affairs. The increasing expansion of new media and public opinion has further exasperated the “internationalization of domestic issues and domestication of international issues.” The significance of public diplomacy is becoming ever more prominent, which has given rise to a host of new topics.



China’s International Position and Goals of Its Diplomatic Strategy



“Know the enemy and know yourself and you can win every battle”. In the course of its development, China needs to position itself in a realistic way. It is not only necessary to define its direction and position in light of history and the future – China must also make decisions in light of the present situation. Attention must be paid to combining principles and flexibility, coordinating the country’s short, medium and long-term objectives and balancing various types of interests. In this process, it is necessary to make objective general judgments – while also making subjective strategic choices. Mao Zedong once proudly expressed that China should make fairly big contributions to humankind. Deng Xiaoping, looking at the world development trends, pointed out: “Concerning the so-called multi-polarity, China should be regarded as one pole. China must not belittle itself; by any standard, it constitutes one of the poles.”


From the perspective of historical materialism, China is steadily pushing towards the “Four Comprehensives” – to build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, govern the nation according to law, and strictly govern the Party on a deeply comprehensive level. The clear objective is to realize the “two centenary goals” and the Chinese Dream. Meanwhile, China’s international role is undergoing significant changes: from poverty to exerting an increasingly large influence on regional and international affairs; from maintaining lax relations with the international system to paying close attention and taking on an active role in international relations; from receiving little attention in the past to receiving close attention from and being counted upon by the international community in an unprecedented manner. Dialectically speaking, due to variables in the international environment, the positioning of a country in the international structure is a dynamic question with unforeseen factors, and hence one should not draw simple conclusions. Man’s social being determines his consciousness. When a country’s economy reaches a certain scale and level, it will correspondingly raise demands different from those in the past.


Now, let us look at China’s international positioning from a political, economic, security and cultural perspective.

Political direction. The socialist system is a historical choice made by New China. The Communist Party of China’s core purpose is to lead the people to build a strong country and let the people enjoy better lives. While serving the people, the CPC has constantly improved itself and raised its capacity to exercise power – democratically and according to law. It has been proven that socialism with Chinese characteristics is a road that suits China’s national conditions, and it will be constantly improved and developed according to the environment. Following the principles of independence and self-reliance, the Chinese people have chosen their own development path and persisted in reform and opening, thus laying the foundation for the development and prosperity of the country and its people. In the present-day international structure, socialist China, while being counted on by the international community, may become the target of constraint and even containment by some people and stakeholders, together with its social system and related ideology. China should be soberly aware of this reality and pursue a path with a strong strategic focus, regardless of what others may say.


Diplomacy is an extension of domestic politics. China’s major-country diplomacy has its roots in the vast and abundant Chinese homeland and represents the fundamental interests of the Chinese people. At present, China’s overall development and security interests are closely linked to world development and security. Along with the consistent growth of its comprehensive national strength and international influence, China has become a significant force in the transformation of the international structure. One must adopt a broad perspective when examining China’s diplomatic mission, and the connection between the overall international and domestic situations must be kept in mind when devising strategy. Domestically, China must pursue fairness, justice, common prosperity and social harmony. And internationally, China must uphold justice, promote fairness, stick to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and safeguard international law and the basic norms governing international relations. A strong China that has risen in stature will not take the old path of a “strong nation bound to seek hegemony,” but will firmly pursue the path of peaceful development and endeavor to build a new type of international relations featuring win-win dynamics. The mission of China’s diplomacy is to serve the achievement of the Four Comprehensives and create the longest possible period of strategic opportunity for the nation’s long-term peace, order and comprehensive development.


Prioritize development. Development impacts the fundamental interests of the people and is the foundation of a country’s comprehensive strength. China made the major historic choice of developing its economy and carrying out reform and opening in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since the beginning of the 21st century, China has maintained high-speed economic development and strengthened its national conditions. In 2010, China surpassed Japan in terms of GDP to become the world’s second-largest economy. China already ranks first in commodity trading, exports, foreign exchange reserves, iron and steel production, ship-building, automobile manufacturing, railway building and grain production. It has also become the largest trading partner for 128 countries. China plays a role in the world that captures global attention and has been acknowledged as one of the major engines driving world economic growth. Firmly promoting win-win cooperation, China has been actively engaging in economic diplomacy and working hard to converge its interests with those of other countries to consolidate the foundation of its foreign relations. Meanwhile, in light of the overall situation, China is taking an active role in the setting of international rules, constantly making its voice heard in the international arena. China should persist in its strategy of opening up, push forward the restructuring of its national industries, encourage scientific and technological innovation, and vigorously welcome foreign investment and advanced science and technology from abroad. At the same time, it must encourage its own capital and technology to “go global” in accordance with the objective laws of economic development. Indeed, only by opening to the outside world, promoting open trade, pushing for the integration of the market, resources (including energy) and investment into the world economy can China develop in a sustainable manner.


Even though China is now the world’s second largest economy, its per capita GDP still ranks roughly 80th in the world, due to its huge population. Therefore, China is still a developing country. Moreover, China faces pressing problems in attaining sustainable development. In 2013 China surpassed the United States in terms of daily oil consumption, becoming the largest oil-consuming nation in the world, with the rate of dependency on imported oil reaching 60 percent. No economic pattern under any social system can go against the laws of nature. Moreover, environmental pollution resulting from high-speed economic development requires time and massive effort to be treated. On the question of reducing emissions, China has its own reasonable demands but also remembers its international responsibilities. The relevant agreement reached by China and the United States benefits not only the two countries but also the rest of the world. China’s development is still unbalanced. The regional disparities between urban and rural areas in China are notable, and a considerable portion of the population still lives below the United Nations poverty line. It remains an arduous and long-term task to provide all people in China with happy and decent lives. In foreign exchanges, China does not churn its duties and obligations corresponding with its international status as a major country, but should act according to its ability and not overreach.


Overall security. In the new century, China faces unprecedentedly complex situations in terms of national security, both domestically and internationally. The new generation of the Chinese leadership has formulated its concept of overall national security aimed at opening a path of national security with Chinese characteristics. This concept covers five distinct aspects: First, paying high attention to both external and internal security, pursuing peace, cooperation and win-win results to build a harmonious external world, while pursuing development, reform and stability to build a peaceful country. Second, paying high attention to both territorial and popular security, persevering in putting the people first and sticking to the principle of national security that serves the people. Third, paying high attention to both traditional and non-traditional security to build an integrated national security system that covers political, territorial, military, economic, cultural, social, science and technology, information, ecological, energy and nuclear security, among other areas. Fourth, emphasizing both development and the issue of security, maintaining that development and security are interdependent, and that only a prosperous country can build a strong army and only a strong army can defend the country.  And fifth, stressing that China and the rest of the world depend on a community of common destiny, and that different parties must work towards the goal of mutual benefit and common security.


Both the positive and negative elements in international security are becoming more prominent. As China establishes its position in the world, it is inevitable that opportunities and challenges coexist side by side. Addressing both sides of the situation is a necessary step for China’s diplomacy to implement an overall concept of national security. As traditional security elements continue to play a role, China must earnestly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, maintain long-term peace and order, and safeguard the rights of existence and development of the Chinese nation. China’s diplomacy should enhance the comprehensive national strength of the country and make it invincible. It should make adjustments and changes but also maintain continuity and consistency, taking into consideration both the demand for retaining present-stage peace and stability, as well as the need to pursue and maintain long-term interests. Given new developments in the region, China should act in accordance with the situation and address problems in an appropriate way. China must adhere to the neighborhood policy of building partnerships with neighboring countries, showing due regard to reasonable concerns of the other parties. China must promote exchanges and cooperation with neighboring countries in various fields and expand points of convergence, to maintain peaceful and stable state-to-state relations with neighboring countries and in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, China must not stay away from contradictions and problems but should appropriately address differences and frictions when they arise. China should strengthen its sense of urgency, maintain vigilance regarding various dangers and try its utmost to steer an adverse situation in a positive direction. In the meantime, China should also keep to its bottom-line – prepared for the worst and ready to resolutely defend state sovereignty and territorial integrity.


Cultural confidence and great renewal. A strong nation is often backed by strong, flourishing culture. In light of conflicting and intertwining value systems in the period of world structural transformation, the Chinese people must have confidence in the path they have chosen – both the system and their culture. For China, one of the world’s great civilizations, peacefully coexisting with other countries will require China to carry forward its fine cultural tradition and actively promote a community of common destiny featuring mutual benefit and win-win results in line with the current era. Having a long and rich history, Chinese civilization has unique features passed down through the years, and much of this is the result of exchange with other civilizations. In the course of exploring ways to solve common challenges, the profound wisdom contained in traditional Chinese culture contains reference points in forging a community of common destiny and developing partnerships. These include the ideas of “harmony between man and nature”, “all under heaven are equal”, “do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire”, “self-improvement and social commitment”, “benevolence and mutual trust”, and “uphold virtues and always do good turns”, etc.


At the international symposium commemorating the 2,565th birthday of Confucius, President Xi Jinping presented four principles to demonstrate respect for cultural diversity: one, maintain diversity of world civilizations; two, respect civilizations from different countries and nations; three, carry out mutual learning between civilizations in the right way; and four, treat cultural traditions in a rational manner. The diverse civilizations of the world are a source of valuable common wealth for all the people of the world. As a major civilized country with 5,000 years of fine cultural tradition, China should have high ideals and a broad mind. With regards to foreign civilizations, the Chinese nation has always “embraced all rivers like the ocean,” resulting in the flourishing and glory of the Chinese civilization from generation to generation. Present-day China is ready to draw on the fruits of the world’s different civilizations. It will not, however, copy the development models of other countries, nor impose its own system and values onto others. China will continuously foster a reasonable and mature mentality appropriate for a major country, and strive to positively influence world development through its own development. China will provide more and more public goods that benefit world peace, stability, development and governance with a more responsible attitude, and it will work together with various countries to open up a new era of human development. Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” is merely a warning by one Western scholar, and not the inevitable development path for world civilizations.



Promoting Chinese Major-Country Diplomacy



The overall situation must be fully contemplated before strategy and tactics are planned. China’s reform and opening not only ended the country’s history of “class struggle as a guiding principle” but also opened a new era of Chinese diplomacy. Under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping’s diplomatic theory, the fundamental purpose of China’s diplomacy become the quest to create a long-term stable international and surrounding environment for China’s economic construction. Under the drastically changing international situation that followed the end of the Cold War, China dealt with outside sanctions by keeping a low profile and striving to accomplish things in its diplomatic work, eventually overcoming the difficult tide. A review of China’s diplomatic work since reform and opening shows that the fundamental factor underlying its success is the correct mastery of general trends and changes in the international situation, as well as the practical formulation of periodical targets, principles and policies according to China’s national conditions.


In the second decade of the 21st century, the international situation and China’s own development have again pushed China’s diplomacy to a fresh historic start, calling for new strategic adjustments in China’s diplomacy in accordance with the times. President Xi recently set forth the task that “China should conduct major-country diplomacy with its own characteristics,” building on the basis that China must correctly assess the international situation and comprehensively analyze changes in the international structure. At the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs, China set the strategic goals, basic principles and major tasks that will guide its diplomatic work under the new situation. President Xi stressed that China should hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and win-win results; coordinate the overall domestic and international state of affairs, combining the two vital matters of development and security; firmly grasp the principal theme of peaceful development and national renewal and safeguard China’s state sovereignty, security and development interests. These objectives will undoubtedly help China create a more favorable international environment for its continued peaceful development, maintain the important period of strategic opportunity for China’s development, and provide a strong guarantee for China to realize “the two centenary goals” and the Chinese Dream of great renewal.



1. External political relations

Against the backdrop of globalization and multi-polarization, China should seize the current opportunity to manage its relations with foreign countries. As a country, China should be both daring and prudent; making pioneering advances and being prepared for danger in times of peace; maintaining established interests and pursuing deserved interests. In the meantime, China should also keep a low profile and devote itself to continued development.


China should hold high the banner of peace, development and cooperation and make plans that consider four key factors:

First, China must consider relations with other major countries. China should strive to make positive progress in the building of a new model of major-country relations with the United States, by strengthening communication, expanding cooperation and controlling differences. This will enable China and the United States to hold to the bottom-line of “no conflict and no confrontation” , reinforce the foundation of “mutual trust” and jointly promote the  “win-win objective.” The basis of Sino-Russian partnership for comprehensive strategic coordination has been reinforced with greater mutual trust and cooperation, and relations between the two countries are becoming more mature and stable. The China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization has been deepened, the convergence of interests between the two sides is growing more profound, and the strategic cooperation is becoming enhanced. Active efforts are also being made to promote friendly and cooperative relations with other major developing countries and major regional countries.


Second, China must consider relations with surrounding countries. China continues to make surrounding countries a priority in its diplomatic work. Coexisting peacefully and helping one another, China and its neighboring countries have been promoting peace, stability, development and prosperity together, and relations are progressing in a positive way.


Third, China must emphasize relations with developing countries. The comprehensive unity and coordination partnership between China and developing countries is constantly becoming stronger and increasingly rich, with friendship, mutual trust, cooperation, and the pursuit of common development.


Last but not least, China must consider multilateral relations. China has participated profoundly in multilateral diplomacy and demonstrated leadership in the context of the United Nations and other major international organizations. China has followed the principle, “those who share a vision are partners; those seeking common grounds while preserving differences are also partners.”


Meanwhile, it has worked to uphold the idea of equality, inclusiveness and win-win results, and tried to open up a new road of “dialogue instead of confrontation, partnership instead of alliance.” Until now, China has established various types of partnerships with 80 countries and international organizations, forming an increasingly extensive network of global partnerships. The road of win-win cooperation is getting wider and wider.



2. External economic relations

The priority of China’s diplomacy is reform and opening, and China strives to create a more stable and friendly external environment for this purpose. In conducting external economic cooperation, China advocates that people of various countries share the fruits of development and every country endeavors to promote common development. China, as the representative of developing countries and emerging economies, is bound to make its due contributions to common regional and global development. China’s economic development has entered a “new normal.” In the coming five years, the total volume of China’s imports will exceed 10 trillion USD while outbound investment will top 500 billion USD, which will provide many countries with greater development and cooperation opportunities.


China maintains that the unbalanced development of the global economy is not purely an economic problem. Rather, it is one of the root causes of world and regional instability. China supports the UN Millennium Development Goals and the impending Post-2015 Development Agenda, and it has advocated a community of common interest to seek the greatest common denominator and jointly promote common development. Persistently pursuing the principle of “joint consultation, joint construction and sharing,” China has promoted the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to push forward new economic corridors on both land and sea that will reduce differences in regional development and enhance regional integration. Continuing the spirit of cooperation of the ancient Silk Road and providing a large inclusive platform of common development for various countries, this initiative has received positive acclaim from all sides. In view of the fact that Asian infrastructure badly needs improvement and upgrading that will require massive financing, the proposal to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been welcomed by developing countries in Asia and accepted by an increasing number of developed countries. In addition, mechanisms like the Silk Road Fund and the Dialogue on Partnership of Connectivity will play a significant role.


3. International security problems

Holding high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, China insists on the peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and consultation and opposes the practice of resorting to force or the threat to use force. China stands for discarding the Cold War mentality and advocates that countries should buy into the notion that security is built together and shared by all. China promotes the common security, cooperation security, comprehensive security and sustainable security of the region and the entire world.


China has taken an active role in maintaining international peace and security and has sent the largest number of peacekeeping troops among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China is committed to maintaining regional stability and security and has promoted defense exchanges and cooperation among regional countries through the Asian Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the East Asian Cooperation Framework and other mechanisms. China actively participates in the peaceful settlement of hotspot issues, advocating and practicing three principles: adherence to non-interference in internal affairs and opposition against the practice of imposing solutions on others; upholding of fairness and justice and opposition of the pursuit of one’s own interests; and adherence to political settlement and opposition to the use of force. In addition, China has taken an active role in international cooperation, countering terrorism, maintaining cyber security, resisting epidemics and other crises. It is playing the role of a responsible major country in matters of international security.


China firmly follows the path of peaceful development, but will not sacrifice its core national interests. No country should expect China to swallow the bitter fruit of damaged sovereignty, security and development interests. On the question of territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and conflicting interests with some surrounding countries, China has persevered in solving these problems through peaceful means and has proposed the “dual-track approach” to settle the South China Sea question.


Meanwhile, China should be vigilant and guard against the attempts of some international forces to “win without a fight” through such means as the “color revolution.” As the saying goes, “Disaster usually begins from within”, and the fundamental threat to China’s comprehensive security may come from within. China must therefore formulate appropriate policies in this regard, managing its internal affairs in a practical and earnest way.


In his speech at the UNESCO headquarters, President Xi pointed out that civilization becomes colorful through exchange and rich through mutual learning. The profundity of Chinese culture puts a unique imprint on China’s diplomacy and is the inexhaustible valuable spiritual source for the latter. China’s diplomacy is committed to resolving development difficulties together with other countries, and it will contribute its wisdom and proposals to this end – upholding justice, putting people first, cherishing peace and pursuing a “Great Harmony.”


4. Exchange and mutual learning between civilizations

Good relationships between countries depend on affinity between the respective populations. China’s diplomatic work endeavors to strengthen friendly exchanges between people from different countries with the goal of laying a solid popular and social foundation for cooperation. During visits to foreign countries by Chinese leaders in recent years, there are often state-level cultural exchange activities between China and foreign countries. One of the purposes is to forge deep friendships and strengthen mutual understanding through comprehensive people-to-people exchanges. This will enable the Chinese Dream to be closely integrated with other beautiful aspirations from people all over the world. In addition, large-scale international activities held by China have attracted worldwide attention, such as the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai World Expo, as well as the Confucius Institute and other educational exchange mechanisms. This has not only helped culture set the stage for multi-facet international activities but also contributed greatly to displaying China’s comprehensive national strength and image.


In its international exchanges in the 21st century, China must strengthen itself from within and assimilate the essence of other cultures. While modestly learning from the strengths of others, China should be good at “sailing on borrowed ships,” telling the Chinese story and spreading the Chinese voice in a way that can be easily accepted by the outside world. A country’s soft power plays a subtle but influential role, like “fine rain moistening things in silence”. In 2014, foreign visitors to China totaled more than 26 million, and more than 100 million Chinese traveled abroad. It is anticipated that in the coming five years, more than 500 million Chinese nationals will go abroad for tourism. Whether at home or abroad, every Chinese citizen is like a name-card representing China’s image and culture, reinforcing the importance of having all-round, high quality citizens. The people are the foundation of the state, like water that keeps the boat afloat. “Putting people first” and “serving the people” will forever be the core duty of China’s diplomacy.






The international structure is under transformation, “like the sea changing into mulberry fields”. The peaceful rise of China is a new mission for an ancient country. China is approaching the world center-stage as never before, and the Chinese nation is nearing the realization of its great renewal. Under the guidance of the overall strategic thinking of a major country with a corresponding style and character, China’s diplomacy will undertake top-level designing and overall planning with a broad global vision; formulate its immediate, medium and long-term goals in a rational and realistic way; guide and handle diplomatic work dealing with major countries, surrounding countries, developing countries and multi-lateral platforms with careful consideration and deployment; and work out practical principles and policies to implement win-win cooperation in the political, economic, security, cultural and various other fields. “The path in front of us is full of danger, and challenging like a wall of iron.” China’s diplomacy will constantly seek to strike a balance between ideals and reality, and build the community of common destiny together with other countries in an active and steady way. In doing so, China will courageously advance the “Great Harmony” of the world.



Source: China International Studies, July/August 2015, pp.5-25.



[1] Su Ge is President of China Institute of International Studies. He is former Ambassador to the Republic of Suriname and the Republic of Iceland.