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How will China interact with the rest of the world in the new era?
With China entering a new era of development, the transformative changes and tremendous progress taking place in the country have been attracting ever increasing attention from the rest of the world. But though reports on China abroad have been exponential, the messages are confusing. While China's development is regarded as an opportunity by some, others view it as a challenge or even a threat
By Tong Xin  ·  2020-05-31  ·   Source: NO.23 JUNE 4, 2020
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a press conference via video link on the sidelines of the Third Session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing on May 24 (XINHUA)

With China entering a new era of development, the transformative changes and tremendous progress taking place in the country have been attracting ever increasing attention from the rest of the world. But though reports on China abroad have been exponential, the messages are confusing. While China's development is regarded as an opportunity by some, others view it as a challenge or even a threat.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, China's diplomatic activities have been fruitful, covering high-level visits, economic cooperation, cultural exchanges, public diplomacy and non-governmental activities. A comprehensive framework coordinating bilateral, multilateral, regional and global affairs has been established. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy is the crystallization of these new thoughts and approaches.

At its center are 10 key concepts, which are the essence of China's diplomacy in the new era, extracted and distilled from its long-held principles and decades of practice. Together they constitute the foundation of the idea and practice of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

Han Xiaofei, Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Senegal, and Abdoulaye Bousso, Director of Senegal's Health Emergency Operations Center, attend a China-Africa video conference on COVID-19 in Dakar, Senegal, on March 18 (XINHUA)

Diplomacy in the new era

The goals of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics are first, to be responsible for national rejuvenation, and second, to contribute to human progress.

History shows that the pursuit of hegemony, alliance and confrontation and the abuse of power in international relations will only induce chaos or even war. Unilateralism and power politics lead to nowhere. The return of the law of the jungle means regression of civilization. A zero-sum mentality and beggar-thy-neighbor policy are recipes for failure. It is imperative to rise above the outdated categorization of countries into hierarchical groupings or blocs. The world is becoming increasingly multipolar and globalized and instead of carving out spheres of influence, an open and inclusive world should be the new pursuit.

The evolution of world history and the trend of international situation has three important implications for China's development and its relations with the world:

First, the law governing the rise and fall of great powers in world history shows that aggression and expansion by force will eventually end up in failure. Chinese rejuvenation cannot follow the path adopted by the Western powers characterized by overseas war and expansion.

Second, against the background of globalization, the opportunities for China and the rest of the world are intertwined. As President Xi Jinping said, "The world's prosperity and stability is China's opportunity while China's development is an opportunity for the world. The success of the path of peaceful development relies largely on our ability to promote the mutual cross-fertilization of China's opportunities and those of the world, and to make progress through positive interaction and win-win cooperation between China and other countries."

Third, China should participate in world affairs and assume global responsibilities. To quote Xi, "We should continue to expand mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries, participate in global affairs with a more positive attitude, work with other countries to cope with global challenges, and strive to make contributions to world development."

All this makes China's relationship with the world clear: China has taken on the responsibility to pursue happiness for its people, rejuvenation for the nation, and peace and prosperity for the whole humanity, linking the Chinese dream to the dreams of other people around the world.

China's path

Having experienced bitter sufferings in the past, China knows well the value of peace and development, and sees it as its sacred duty to promote the peaceful development of the world. It is committed to an independent foreign policy of peace, and is willing to engage in friendly cooperation with other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and will never pursue hegemony or seek expansion.

China firmly defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, its legitimate right to development, and its dignity and place in the world which the Chinese people have worked so hard to earn. China's commitment to peaceful development does not mean it will abandon its legitimate rights and interests or sacrifice its core national interests. China is not to be cowered by threats or subdued by pressure. No country should ever expect China to trade off its core interests or swallow any bitter fruit that undermines its sovereignty, security and development interests.

Vision for the world

Where is the world heading? What kind of world should we shape? In answer, Xi put forward the initiative of jointly building a community with a shared future for humanity, an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.

Building a community with a shared future for humanity is the crystallization of innovations in the theory of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. This lofty goal has been written into the Constitution of China and the CPC Constitution. It is also endorsed in the documents of important regional and international organizations including the UN.

Building a community with a shared future is a well-rounded, systematic proposal. Its essence is described in Xi's report to the 19th CPC National Party Congress in 2017, laying out a five-pronged overall approach and plan that covers politics, security, development, culture and the environment.

Building a community with a shared future does not mean conformity to the same values by all countries or the implementation of unilateral proposals pushed by one country or a small minority of countries, nor does it mean the establishment of a single unitary actor around the globe, or the replacement of one system or culture by another.

Rather, it calls for countries with different social systems, ideologies, histories, cultures and levels of development to align their goals and interests, enjoy equal rights and share responsibilities in international activities for the progress of humanity as a whole.

Sources of strength

Boosting confidence in China as a major socialist country with distinctive Chinese features

The strength of China's development road and its foreign policy lies in its independence, taking control of one's own destiny rather than copying others or living on handouts. It lies in the leadership of the CPC, whereby the Party plays an overarching role to bring together the resources of the whole nation. It lies in the philosophy of governing for the people and by the people, oriented toward the people's wish for a better life and relying on the people for big undertakings.

Finally, the strength lies in the policy of reform and opening up, enabling China to keep abreast of the times and progress with the rest of the world through openness and cooperation.

It has been proven that socialism with distinctive Chinese features represents the biggest strength, the most salient characteristic and the greatest opportunity for China's external affairs, and is the underpinning driving force to ensure their success. The CPC and Chinese are fully confident of offering Chinese inputs to the global exploration of better social systems.

The CPC Central Committee's overall leadership in China's external work

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee has enhanced the role of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, previously known as the Central Foreign Affairs Leading Group, and convened a meeting on neighborhood diplomacy and two central conferences on work relating to foreign affairs to improve the top-level design, strategic planning and coordination on external affairs.

It has adopted and improved major regulations on foreign affairs management, advanced institutional reforms on external work and coordinated the efforts of various departments and regions. All these endeavors have provided powerful political support for China to overcome difficulties and forge ahead in external work.

Upholding the right approach to justice and gain

China does not put its interests above others'. On the contrary, it believes that a country should never sacrifice the greater good for material interests. It pursues both the greater good and shared interests, and puts the greater good first when necessary.

Politically, China stands for fairness and justice. In its economic cooperation with other countries, China follows the principle of mutual benefit and common development. When dealing with international affairs, it upholds integrity, amity, justice and morality, acting in good faith and valuing friendship.

Particularly, this approach must be applied in China's relationship with the neighboring countries and other developing countries. Xi stressed, "More consideration should be given to accommodate the interests of those neighboring and developing countries who have long been China's friends and face daunting development challenges."

Sharing Chinese wisdom

A new blueprint for human progress

The vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity is China's proposal to the international community in response to the major changes in today's world. It transcends the differences between nationalities, political parties and systems, reflects the biggest common interests of all countries and the common values of mankind.

This represents China's global vision of pursuing both its own development and the development of the world, and demonstrates that China's diplomacy has come to the forefront of the times, and China is ready to shoulder its responsibility as a major country.

A new thought on international relations

A new type of international relations is China's answer for the 21st century and its key principles are mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.

China believes in equality among all countries, respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, and the social system and development path independently chosen by the people of each country.

China stands for fairness and justice. On the international stage, China speaks for justice, opposes hegemonism or bullying, calls for handling international affairs based on the merits of each case and for settling issues through extensive consultation.

China stands for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, holding that disputes should be settled through dialogue and consultation and that common threats should be addressed through international cooperation in the interest of sustaining global peace and common security.

China pursues mutually beneficial cooperation. It is committed to replacing confrontation with cooperation, monopoly with shared benefits, calling for the principle of win-win cooperation to be integrated into all aspects of political, economic, security and cultural cooperation among nations.

A new type of global partnership

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has been striving to build a global network of partnerships. The principle is non-alignment, equal, peaceful and inclusive. Those who share the same ideal and follow the same path can be partners; those who seek common ground while reserving differences can also be partners.

Transcending the traditional model of international relations, which is characterized by alliance or confrontation, and the Cold War mentality of "either with us or against us," these partnerships are not dominated by any party, or draw lines of division, and are still less directed against any imaginary enemies or third parties. It presents the world with a new modality for developing state-to-state relations.

A new mode of economic globalization

Economic globalization is a historical trend. Erecting walls will not resolve global challenges, blaming others for one's own problems does nothing but create hatred and confrontation. Tariffs and trade disputes, which upset global industrial and supply chains, serve only to undermine the multilateral trading regime and global economic and trade order, and may even plunge the world into recession.

The solution to the problems occurring in globalization lies in its further advancement. Facing the growing backlash against globalization and the serious challenge of rising protectionism and unilateralism, Xi has sent out a clear and consistent message of China's firm commitment to safeguarding multilateralism and free trade, calling for promoting economic globalization based on mutually beneficial cooperation and building an open world economy.

Advancing the Belt and Road Initiative in accordance with the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits is the overarching design for China's opening up and international cooperation, and has developed into an open and inclusive platform of international cooperation, a widely welcomed public good for the global community.

Over the past seven years, China's trade in goods with other Belt and Road participating countries has exceeded $7.8 trillion, and direct Chinese investment in these countries has topped $110 billion.

According to a World Bank report on Belt and Road economics, once the transport corridors are fully completed, travel time along the corridors will shrink by 12 percent, trade will be up by 2.8 to 9.7 percent, people's real income will increase by 1.2 to 3.4 percent, and 7.6 million people will be lifted out of extreme poverty in the participating countries.

The initiative, highly compatible with the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is a manifestation of China's commitment to sharing interests with others, and making globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.

A new guideline for global governance

China has been promoting reform of the global governance system to make it fairer and more equitable, inclusive and balanced. Its essence lies in both procedural and substantive democracy.

Procedural democracy means each and every country is equal, no one is privileged, and international affairs shall be truly discussed and decided by all involved. International relations shall be based on international rule of law and justice, the bedrocks of which are the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, including respect for national sovereignty, peaceful resolution of disputes and non-interference in countries' internal affairs.

The essence of substantive democracy is reflected by a Chinese adage: "A just world should be pursued for the common good." China maintains that global affairs should be run together by countries in the world, and that all people, irrespective of their nationality, social status and walk of life, should be able to benefit from global governance. Particularly, it reflects the need to increase developing countries' representation and strengthen their voice in international affairs.

The global governance reform that China takes part in is not about overturning the current system and starting all over again. China remains committed to upholding the international system underpinned by the UN and the international order anchored upon international law. China stands for reform and improvement, not reinventing the wheel.

A constructive role

Peace and security

The world has become more peaceful and safer thanks to China's development. China has provided peace, security and a happy life for its citizens, or one fifth of the world's population. That itself is a major contribution to world peace and development.

While safeguarding its own peace and security, China is also contributing its wisdom, solution and strength for world peace and stability. It safeguards the UN-centered international order and is the second largest funding contributor to both the UN and UN peacekeeping operations, not for once repudiating its funding obligations.

Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, it has dispatched the largest number of peacekeeping personnel—39,000 to 24 UN peacekeeping operations. The 10-year $1-billion China-UN Peace and Development Fund supports efforts to safeguard peace and development worldwide.

China applies a Chinese approach to hotspot issues and non-traditional security issues such as counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, disaster relief, cybersecurity and climate change. Dedication to peaceful dialogue for win-win cooperation has contributed to China's progressing diplomacy for handling common challenges.

Development and opportunity

According to the International Monetary Fund, China contributed as much as 34 percent to global GDP growth between 2009 and 2018. China's development has been a source of confidence for the international community.

As the largest trading partner of over 130 countries, China's development and progress has delivered enormous benefits to other countries. With a population of 1.4 billion, a workforce of 900 million and a talent pool of 170 million with higher education or professional skills, China will remain the fastest growing major export market, one of the most popular investment destinations, and a source of growth, stability and vitality for the global economy. In the next 15 years or so, China will estimatedly import $30 trillion of goods and $10 trillion of services.

Openness and cooperation

China has, through reform and opening up, embraced the world. Its trading partners are all over the world. It has reached 16 free trade agreements with 24 countries and regions, and signed cooperation documents with 138 countries under the Belt and Road Initiative, with more than 2,000 projects launched and tens of thousands of jobs created in these countries.

China fulfilled its commitment on tariff cuts upon joining the World Trade Organization as early as in 2010. Its overall tariffs level has now gone down to 7.5 percent, lower than that of the overwhelming majority of developing countries. China has also fulfilled its international obligations and honored its commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change ahead of schedule.

Over the years, China has provided a vast amount of assistance to other developing countries through concessional loans, technical, personnel and intellectual support, and projects directly benefiting local communities. The China International Development Cooperation Agency was set up to contribute more to international development efforts.

China's pledge

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has wrought havoc across the world. When life eventually returns to normal, we must not forget the lessons learned.

The key takeaway is that pandemics require a collective and united response. Whatever our nationalities, our interests are closely entwined and so are our futures.

China has been building a health community in the fight against COVID-19. Acting with openness, transparency and responsibility, it has assisted the countries in need, and pledged to provide $2 billion over two years to help affected countries, especially developing countries.

China will work with the UN to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub, establish a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals, and accelerate building the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters.

It will, together with other Group of 20 members, implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries. The COVID-19 vaccine being developed in China will be made a global public good when available. This will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

The author is an op-ed contributor to Beijing Review and a senior expert on international studies

(Print Edition Title: Understanding China)

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com

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