THIS year, China’s diplomacy was highlighted at three major diplomatic events in April and May – The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Conference of Dialogues on Asian Civilizations, and the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing. Then followed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s busy diplomatic month of June, which saw his four overseas trips: From June 5 to 7, Xi first paid a state visit to Russia and attended the 23rd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) held in St. Petersburg; June 12-16 saw him in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan attending the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek and the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe; from June 20 to 21 he headed to the DPRK for a state visit; and a week later, he flew to Osaka, Japan, for the 14th G20 Summit.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan and guests of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation attend a banquet in Beijing, capital of China, April 26, 2019. Wang Ye/Xinhua
In recent years, with its increasing national strength, China has proactively taken on international responsibilities as a major nation, contributing to issues of global concern. However, responding to China’s rise in the international arena, some people in the West have expressed doubt about China’s development and strategic intentions. This is illustrated by the China threat theory, claims about the collapse of China, belief about the inevitable confrontation between China and the U.S., the sharp power theory, and giving China the new colonialism tag for its assistance to African countries.
All these criticisms fully embody the traditional thinking model of binary opposition prevailing in the West and the concept that a major power is bound to seek hegemony. In fact, what China seeks is common development of the whole world. So what are the guiding principle, core values, and missions of China’s diplomacy? To get clear answers on these questions requires an understanding of Xi Jinping’s thoughts on diplomacy.
Missions of China’s Diplomacy
Keeping in mind both domestic and international imperatives, Xi’s thought on diplomacy addresses major theoretical and practical issues in China’s foreign policy in the new era, on the basis of a comprehensive summary of the country’s historical achievements in its foreign policy since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Xi’s thought clarifies the missions, general objectives, and guiding principles of China’s foreign policy in the new era.
Xi stressed that to have an accurate assessment of global affairs, Chinese people should first be clear about the imperatives of the world and their own country. At present, what China primarily seeks is to realize rejuvenation of the Chinese nation; and internationally, to achieve peace, development, and common progress is what the world needs foremost. Therefore, Xi’s thought emphasizes that China should carry out its diplomacy with the mission to realize national rejuvenation, and advance the building of a community with a shared future for humankind with the aim to maintain world peace and promote common development; and the two should be integrated.
Liu Shiqiang, deputy dean of the School of Marxism at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, indicated in his speech made at a seminar about Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy jointly hosted by the International Department of the CPC Central Committee (IDCPC) and Guangming Daily on July 11, 2019, that to serve the cause of national rejuvenation and promote progress of human society are exactly the missions of China’s diplomacy, according to Xi’s thought on diplomacy.
Xi has mentioned on multiple occasions, the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. On one hand, peace, development, and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times, with the rapid development of new technologies, represented by big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, which are reshaping the society and economy worldwide. On the other hand, global issues like the current anti-globalization trend impelled by trade protectionism and populism is bringing greater global uncertainty, thus posing a great challenge for China to realize national rejuvenation. Xi’s thought on diplomacy also serves as a response to issues of global concern and China’s corresponding solutions.
China’s Relations with the World
Since 1949, China’s relations with the world have changed dramatically. In 1955, when the Asian-African Conference was convened, China had only established diplomatic relations with 22 countries. In 1950, China’s foreign trade volume only stood at US $1.13 billion. Now, China has established diplomatic relations with 178 countries. In 2018, China’s total trade volume soared to US $4.62 trillion as China became the largest trade partner of more than 120 countries and regions. China has benefited from economic globalization and the existing international system, while simultaneously promoting global development.
To counter the criticism about China’s rise, Xi proposed new theories about the country’s relations with the world, represented by building a community with a shared future for humankind. They expound the way that a rising China should relate to the world: it’s to build a community with a shared future for mankind together with all other countries, instead of seeking hegemony, waging wars, bullying the weak, or a beggar-thy-neighbor attitude.
At the seminar about Xi’s thought on diplomacy held in June, minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, Song Tao, noted that Xi’s thought shows the way for China to promote a new form of international relations and advance the building of a community with a shared future for humankind. China intends to connect its fundamental interests with those of other countries, and associate the Chinese dream with the dream that people around the world seek to achieve. China has endeavored to promote its development through common development of the whole world, and forge international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation, instead of seeking hegemony.
“The concept of building a community with a shared future for humankind proposed by Xi not only addresses the issue of how a rising China relates to the world, but provides a Chinese plan on what kind of international relations and order the world should foster,” former vice president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee Li Junru said at the seminar.
Xi has stressed, to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, common security, and shared prosperity, the international community should promote partnership, security, growth, inter-civilization exchanges, and the building of a sound ecosystem. To this end, China’s objective in its diplomatic work is to advance the building of a community with a shared future for humankind by being a practitioner of peaceful development, promoter of common development, vindicator of a multilateral trading system, and participant of global economic governance.
Being committed to a path of peace and development, Xi’s thought also underlines that China’s diplomacy should safeguard the country’s core interests, including its sovereignty, security, and development interests. According to Liu Shiqiang, China promotes building a global partnership network, trying to blaze a new path for diplomacy where confrontation and alliances must be eschewed in favor of dialogue and partnership. The Belt and Road Initiative, featuring the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, is one of the focus areas of China’s diplomacy, and also serves as a solid platform for the practice of building a community with a shared future for humankind.
Features of China’s Diplomacy
Fairness and justice is the most salient aspect of China’s diplomacy, Vice President of China Foreign Affairs University Wang Fan said at the seminar. He went on to elaborate that in their rise, many big powers in history have proposed their ideas of value, as shown by democracy and freedom championed by the United States. So then what are the values behind China’s diplomacy with Chinese characteristics? “As a socialist country led by the CPC, the most distinct value in diplomacy is fairness and justice,” said Wang. He believes that this value will play a significant role in steering the world’s future development and cooperation.
“In fact, with the excuse to uphold their core values, some Western countries have interfered in other countries’ domestic affairs and trampled on their sovereignty to realize their own interests. In contrast, what China has advocated is fairness and justice on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” said Wang. He said that equality in international relations is the central principle. “China treats all countries equally, not ignoring any small country or confronting or rivaling any big power,” said Wang.
Therefore, Xi’s thought proposes fairness and justice to steer reform of the global governance system. In the world today, with global problems increasing, the international community has weakened in its ability to address issues of global concern. In particular, Western powers, which once provided many public goods of global governance to the world to cope with global issues, are showing declining willingness and capacity, with some even blatantly quitting international organizations and agreements. Against this backdrop, China has taken the initiative to advance the reform of global governance, guiding the international order towards fairness and justice.
Another salient feature of China’s diplomacy lies in the leadership of the CPC. According to Li Junru, since China entered the new era, its deepening comprehensive reforms, including institutional reform, has given rise to the system of the CPC leading the country’s work in foreign affairs and the corresponding effective administration approach and mechanism. Meanwhile, in its foreign policy, China has strengthened Party discipline and discipline in its foreign affairs work, which has become a highlight in the country’s efforts to advance the modernization of its state governance system and capability in improving and developing the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.
Since its founding, the CPC has associated its patriotism with internationalism. The report delivered by Xi at the 19th CPC National Congress declares, to make new and greater contributions for humankind is the Party’s abiding mission. “In the rapidly changing world, there are many uncertainties. The CPC’s leadership in all of China’s undertakings is a certainty. To cope with so many uncertainties requires something certain. And the CPC’s leadership is also the political guarantee of the diplomacy with Chinese characteristics,” said Luan Jianzhang, director of the Research Office of the IDCPC.