by Zhang Zhijun, Executive Vice-Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affair of the People’s Republic of China
January 21, 2013 (TSR) – Since lately, I believe nothing has caught more attention about China than the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Where China’s foreign policy will be heading has become a most frequently raised topic of discussion after the 18th party congress. It also offers people one way of reading into the report of the congress. I wish to take this opportunity to share with you three observations which I hope will help you get a better understanding of China’s foreign policy.
First, we have indeed noted the many discussions in the world about those pages devoted to diplomacy in the Report. The core question in those discussions has been: will China’s foreign policy change after the congress?
In fact, the Report has given a most clear answer. If one reads through the Report, he or she will see that while China’s overall foreign policy has remained unchanged, a series of new ideas, judgments and requirements have been added, exhibiting stability and continuity of China’s foreign policy and its ability to keep abreast of the times. China’s foreign policy has been enriched and further developed on the basis of sticking to the same core principles.
In terms of what has remained unchanged, the Report reaffirms China’s commitment to the independent foreign policy of peace and the path of peaceful development, to the win-win strategy of opening-up and friendship and cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and to building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity.
China’s overall foreign policy will not change. This is emphasized not simply as a policy statement. What it represents is a necessary choice that China has made on the course of development.
– China’s foreign policy has effectively safeguarded its sovereignty, security and development interests, secured a generally stable and favorable external environment for its reform and opening-up and socialist modernization and made important contribution to the social and political stability of the country and the well-being of its people. It is endorsed and supported by the Chinese people.
– China’s foreign policy is committed to open, cooperative and win-win development. China seeks a peaceful international environment to develop itself and China’s development has given a strong boost to global growth. China has contributed significantly to world peace and stability, which has won China the appreciation and respect of the international community.
– China’s foreign policy upholds principles and justice without drawing lines along ideologies. It respects the aspiration of people of all countries and upholds fairness and justice in the world without interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. It is opposed to hegemony and power politics and does not succumb to any kind of pressure. These policy propositions are consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and universally recognized norms governing international relations and have stood the test of the fast-changing international situation.
– China’s foreign policy has won the country respect, friendship and goodwill in the world. A vivid example I can recall is the successful evacuation back in 2011 of 35,860 stranded Chinese nationals in just 12 days after turbulence broke out in Libya. The operation received timely and strong support and facilitation from many countries such as Greece, Malta, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. It could not have succeeded without the help of any of them. A friend in need is a friend in deed. The operation stands as a testimony both to these countries’ friendship towards China and to the success of China’s foreign policy.
A right policy has no reason to be changed or abandoned. As Mr. Deng Xiaoping highlighted years ago, when the path is right, the policy will not change. Even if it were to change, it would only improve.
Talking about our foreign policy being enriched and further developed, the idea of win-win cooperation now features more prominently in the Report’s sections on China’s diplomacy. It states that mankind has only one earth to live on, and countries have only one world to share. The law of the jungle will not lead to the coexistence of human society. China calls for promoting equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutually beneficial cooperation in international relations. Countries need to raise awareness about human beings sharing a community of common destiny. A country needs to accommodate the legitimate concerns of others when pursuing its own interests; and it needs to promote common development of all countries when advancing its own development. Countries need to establish a new type of global development partnership, stick together in times of difficulty, both share rights and shoulder obligations, and boost the common interests of mankind.
The decision to embrace these ideas is based on the historical experience of the world, the current shape of international relations and the judgment of the future course of the world. Globalization has brought countries in the world ever closer, who are growing into a community of interests. They are interdependent and they rise and fall together. No country is an exception. Being in the same global village, the prosperity of a few countries could not forever be based upon other countries’ poverty. No country, not even the most powerful country in the world, could ensure its security without respecting and accommodating other countries’ security interests.
Therefore, to seek one’s own development, it is essential that others get to develop too. To ensure one’s own safety, it is important that others feel safe as well. When one becomes well-off, it should let others become well-off together. This is what China believes in and what it strives for. I believe it will also receive wide recognition from the international community.
The Report has put forward new requirements for promoting China’s relations with other countries in the world. We will consolidate and grow relations with major countries and advance a new type of major-country relations featuring sustainable, stable and healthy growth. We will strengthen good-neighborliness and friendship, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and make sure that China’s neighbors will benefit more from China’s development. We will enhance solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries and will forever remain their true friend and true partner.
The Report also envisions a future in which China makes greater contribution to peace and development in the world.
– China will take a more active part in international affairs, play its role as a major responsible country, and support the UN, the G20, the SCO, BRICS and other multilateral organizations in playing their due role. This will greatly boost the international response to global challenges and help make the international order and system more just and equitable.
– China advocates peaceful settlement of international disputes and regional hotspot issues and works vigorously to that end. China opposes wanton use of force or threat of force. It rejects all forms of hegemonism and power politics. It reiterates its solemn declaration not to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, seek hegemony, or engage in expansion. This will promote the efforts to oppose war and confrontation and uphold world peace and cooperation.
– China will strive to sustain healthy economic growth. It is estimated that, during the 12th Five-Year Plan period, China’s imports will exceed eight trillion US dollars and its outbound investment will reach 500 billion US dollars. This will be a big driving force behind the global economy, now in sluggish recovery. China plays the role of a stabilizer and thruster in the global economy. This is certainly a good thing for the world.
Some people have described China’s actions to uphold legitimate national interests as being “assertive”. They have even portrayed China as a threat. I am afraid they either harbor ulterior motives or are ill-informed. China will stay committed to the path of peaceful development. At the same time, China will firmly uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests. These two are not contradictory. What China upholds is its own legitimate rights and interests. It guards over what has always been its own. It has no intention to grab from others. Only when China’s sovereignty, security and development interests are fully secured could China truly make steady progress along the path of peaceful development. China is a sensible country that sticks to principles. It has its red line, too.
With that I come to the second point I want to talk about. I have noted that some people say that the world has been a bit chaotic while the Asia-Pacific has been relatively “hot” in recent years. They are interested in how China views the Asia-Pacific and how China handles its relations with its neighbors, especially with regard to disputes.
There is a point in the comment about a chaotic world. Indeed, the world today is still far from being peaceful. There is uncertainty in the international economic and financial landscape. Hegemony and power politics have risen to some extent. War is raging in some countries, leaving many displaced. Global issues such as food security, energy and resources security, and cyber security are more acute. These are all common challenges to mankind. The international community must demonstrate resolve, courage and wisdom and come up with a joint response.
On the regional situation, Asia is, in my view, undergoing profound and complex changes. New complicating elements are emerging in the regional situation. But on the whole, the situation is good in Asia, especially when compared with other regions. First, with sustained robust economic growth, Asia is one of the regions with the greatest development vibrancy and potential. According to authoritative international economic organizations, Asia’s economic growth this year will be more than two percentage points higher than the global average. By 2050, Asia’s GDP will account for half of the world’s total. Second, Asia has maintained overall peace and stability. Disputes are under effective control and all parties concerned are looking for peaceful solutions through negotiation. Third, with a rising standing in the global architecture, Asia has attracted attention from across the world. Asian countries are happy about and proud of the achievements the region has made. They want to sustain the good momentum of peace, development and cooperation in the region. This is the shared aspiration of people across the region and a development trend that cannot be stopped. Any move against the overriding trend in the regional situation will be unpopular and unsuccessful.
To explain China’s relations with its neighbors, I’d like to cite a few figures first. China shares 22,000 kilometers of land boundaries with 14 countries. It has a continental coastline of 18,000 kilometers and faces eight countries across the sea. Few other countries in the world have so many neighbors. A sound regional environment is both the natural objective of China’s neighborhood policy as well as the sincere hope China cherishes. And it serves the common interests of regional countries. To achieve it, China and its neighbors have worked together and made good progress.
– China has completely settled land boundary issues with 12 out of its 14 neighbors on land. Though China has yet to delimitate its boundaries with the remaining two countries, the momentum of negotiation and overall stability in the border areas have been maintained.
– China has achieved normalization of relations with its neighboring countries and established partnerships of various forms with the majority of them.
– China has maintained close high-level exchanges with its neighbors, with nearly 100 high-level visits taking place each year, which enhanced mutual understanding and political trust. Personnel exchanges at other levels are also dynamic. For instance, in last year alone, over 13 million people travelled between China and ASEAN countries. Between China and the ROK, over 6.5 million visits were made and there were more than 830 flights each week, which means one flight in every 12 minutes. More than 170,000 students from other Asian countries were studying in China.
– China and ASEAN have set up the largest FTA among developing countries. Trade soared from 50 billion US dollars in 2002 to 362.8 billion US dollars in 2011 at an average annual growth rate of 20%. China has become the principal trading partner of ASEAN countries and most of China’s neighbors. China is also the biggest investor in many countries in the region. Over the past 10 years, China’s trade with its neighbors registered a six-fold increase, growing from 170 billion to over one trillion US dollars.
The friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and its neighboring countries has brought real benefits to all countries in the region. It has also given a strong boost to peace, development and cooperation in the region and the world at large.
In a somewhat chaotic world, Asian countries, now in a key stage of faster development, need to cherish all the more the sound environment of peace and stability and the momentum of sustained and fast development, and should not allow any factor to disrupt, delay or destroy our development and cooperation. The past twenty years since the end of the Cold War has seen peace, stability, win-win cooperation, fast development and continuous emergence of Asia. Asia now stands at a new historical starting point. If countries in the region could rise above disturbances, properly handle differences, help each other with a sense of common purpose and concentrate on development and cooperation, Asia will surely reach new heights and score fresh achievements in the coming twenty years. By then, Asia will make new contribution to world peace, development and cooperation and set a new example for the rest of the world. Time and tide waits for no man. Such a historic opportunity, if lost, could hardly be regained. Therefore, we must seize the opportunity and make concerted efforts.
As we Chinese say, a close neighbor is better than a distant relative. China will follow the spirit of the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, continue to promote friendship and partnership with our neighbors and strengthen good-neighborly relations and cooperation with them. We will act to ensure that China’s development will bring more benefits to neighboring countries and contribute even more to the common development and cooperation of Asia. We will work with our neighbors to ensure a stable, prosperous and harmonious regional environment.
We will remain committed to deepening practical cooperation with neighboring countries, vigorously advance connectivity, expand trade and investment, deepen people-to-people exchanges and enhance security dialogue and cooperation. We will keep to the effective regional cooperation model that features seeking consensus through consultation, making incremental progress and accommodating the comfort level of all parties and strive to build an open and inclusive regional architecture.
No matter how much more progress China will achieve in its development, it will only strengthen, not weaken, its policy of promoting friendship and partnership with its neighbors. China will remain forever a good neighbor, good friend and good partner of its neighbors. We reject the logic that a country is bound to seek hegemony when it gets strong. Because seeking hegemony or expansion is not part of the Chinese culture, still less China’s policy. History has proved that never has a country ended up well that seeks hegemony or engages in expansion or bullies others, however strong it might be. This is the iron law of history.
Indeed, there still remain some prolonged disputes over issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in Asia. We believe that disputes should be properly resolved and managed by countries concerned through dialogue and negotiation with full respect to historical facts and the international law. The interests of regional peace and stability should be served so as to avoid deterioration and escalation of tension. Pending complete settlement, relevant parties should refrain from taking actions that may expand or complicate the disputes. So doing will facilitate efforts for stability in the region.
On the issue of Diaoyu Dao, we hope that the new Japanese government will face up to history and reality, make the right decision and take concrete measures to overcome the difficulties in its relations with China and bring the relations back on track of normal development.
On the issue of the South China Sea, China’s position and proposition is consistent and clear-cut. The essence of the issue is the disputes between relevant countries over the sovereignty of some islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands and the delineation of some waters in the South China Sea. China believes that the disputes, as such, should be resolved by countries directly concerned through dialogue and consultation. Pending a solution, all parties need to endeavor to maintain stability in the South China Sea. China believes that the proposal put forward by Mr. Deng Xiaoping of shelving differences and conducting joint development may still well be a practical approach to tackle this difficult issue.
What I want to emphasize is that while China is firm in its resolve to follow the path of peaceful development, it is equally firm in its resolve to uphold its territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests. We will remain committed to working with neighboring countries to properly address disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and uphold the overall good relations with our neighbors. We hope that the countries concerned will work with us together toward this goal.
Asia cannot develop in isolation from the world, nor can the world develop without Asia. We welcome countries outside the region to take a constructive part in Asia’s development and cooperation and share, together with us, Asia’s development opportunities and benefits.
The third point I want to discuss today is China-US relations. This past November, China’s new central leadership with Comrade Xi Jinping as the General Secretary was elected at the Eighteenth CPC National Congress, and in the US Presidential election, President Obama was elected to a second term. I guess all of you present and many friends from around the world are interested to learn the prospect of China-US relations and how China views the growth of this relationship. I have also noticed the talk in the media about how the two countries are going to address their “strategic mistrust”.
China and the United States, one the world’s largest developing country and the other the biggest developed one, are also the two largest economies in the world. That makes their relationship one of the most important yet complex in the world. Whether the two countries will live amicably with each other is an issue whose significance goes far beyond the bilateral scope and which concerns peace, stability and prosperity of the whole world. Some regard it a law of history that there have always been fierce clashes, at times, conflicts and wars, between an established power and an emerging power. But we reject such fatalism. In our view, in this globalized era when countries are inter-dependent with their interests closely linked, there has been a major shift in international relations. In the face of frequent global challenges, all countries would want to stick together to meet challenges together and pursue common development. This is an unstoppable historic trend. Those who go along with it will prosper and those against it perish. We are sober-minded on this and it is from this perspective that we view and approach China-US relations. We are committed to seeking new answers to old problems and are determined to foster a new major-country relationship based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
What has happened in China-US relations shows that both sides stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the Shanghai Communiqué and the resumption of contact between the two countries. China-US relations have entered a stage where they should no longer have doubts about further growth of this relationship. Over the past 40 years, great progress has been made in China-US relations. In particular, the two presidents have reached important agreement to build a new type of major-country relationship based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation, heralding a new, historic starting point for China-US relations. Two-way trade has surged from nearly zero at the time of resumption of contact to 446.6 billion US dollars last year and is expected to exceed 500 billion US dollars this year. The two sides, once in estrangement and confrontation, now engage in dialogue and cooperation. We have had the Strategic and Economic Dialogues (S&ED), the High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange and a total of more than 90 consultation mechanisms covering political, economic, trade, security, defense, scientific, technological, people-to-people, cultural, energy, the environment and many other fields. This is not commonly seen in major-country relations and speaks volumes about the dynamism and potential of China-US relations. More than 3.5 million visits are taking place between the two countries every year, nearly 10,000 every day on average. The two countries have maintained close communication and coordination on counter-terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change and regional hotspot issues.
That being said, China and the United States still differ significantly in social system, development stage, history, culture and tradition and still face major and sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet-related issues. These issues, if not handled properly, will upset or even seriously damage the bilateral relationship.
To dispel strategic mistrust and build a new type of major-country relationship is a demanding task which calls for unflinching efforts from both sides. At the current stage, I believe it is important for the two countries to do the following:
First, they need to have candid and in-depth communication so as to avoid strategic misjudgment. China and the United States have maintained close high-level contacts and exchanges through quite a number of mechanisms of dialogue and communication including the S&ED, the Strategic Security Dialogue and the Consultation on Asia-Pacific Affairs. Given the profoundly changing and complex international and regional landscape and the growing destabilizing factors and uncertainties, to have in-depth, candid discussions to find solutions and to strengthen coordination and cooperation will help reduce mutual suspicion and boost strategic mutual trust. Apart from increasing dialogue, coordination and cooperation on global issues and international and regional hotspot issues, it is also important that the two sides truly follow the principle of mutual respect, understand each other’s national condition and public opinion, respect each other’s choice of social system and development path, and refrain from imposing one’s own will on the other side.
Second, they need to vigorously expand new bright spots in their pragmatic cooperation. China and the United States are each other’s second largest trading partner. Over the past decade, exports from 47 US states to China have grown at triple-digit rates. China has become an important source of profit for US enterprises, whereas the United States has become one of China’s key investment destinations. China and the United States should seize the opportunity for cooperation in the fields of new energy, clean energy and infrastructure development, support the increase of two-way investment, step up local, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, tap cooperation potential, and actively expand converging interests. With growing common interests, the two countries will gather more positive energy to boost the building of a new type of major-country relations between them.
Third, they need to work to ensure that dialogue and cooperation outweigh friction and difference in the Asia-Pacific. The Asia-Pacific is a region where China and the United States have more closely intertwined interests and more frequent interactions than elsewhere. China respects the legitimate interests of the United States in the region and welcomes its constructive role here. Likewise, the United States needs to respect China’s interests and concerns in the region. The two sides need to increase candid discussions on issues concerning situation in the region and their respective Asia-Pacific policies so as to boost mutual understanding, expand common ground, steadily promote trilateral and multilateral cooperation and appropriately approach and manage differences. As far as the differences and frictions between countries in the region are concerned, we hope the United States will take an objective and impartial position instead of siding with one party or doing things that are of disservice to settling the issue. The Asia-Pacific region should not be an arena for China-US competition. Instead, it should be a grand stage for China-US cooperation.
Last and most important, the two sides need to truly respect each other’s core interests. On issues bearing on sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, the United States needs to respect and accommodate China’s core interests and major concerns, follow the three Sino-US joint communiqués, and approach Taiwan and Tibet-related issues both cautiously and properly so as to remove stumbling blocks hindering sound and steady development of China-US relations.
To build a new type of major-country relationship between China and the United States is a pioneering cause, a cause that will bring benefit to the two countries and the world at large. Let us stick to win-win cooperation, uphold the principle of seeking common ground while reserving differences, base ourselves on reality and work tirelessly until we reach this goal.
Under new circumstances, China’s diplomacy is expanding in content and in scope. To strengthen public diplomacy and gain greater understanding and support from people of all social sectors is increasingly becoming an important area of our work. Acting in the spirit of the 18th Party Congress, we will bolster extensive exchanges and interactions with people both at home and abroad and continue to adopt new working methods so that people will know more about and give more support to China’s diplomatic work. While speaking at the forum, I wish to inform you that the China Public Diplomacy Association is about to be launched soon. I’m sure it will serve as a new channel and platform for you to learn more about China’s foreign policy and diplomatic work.
Zhang Zhijun began as chief of the research office of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee in 1975. He served as director-general there until 1996, and was elected deputy director in 2001. In 2010, he became Executive Vice-Minister and Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.