Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies offers an insight into Chinese Foreign Policy strategy following the recent 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The 16th Party Congress hailed the mission to build a “well-off society in an all round way” and push forward the development of a modern society. This is recognized as defining the core issues of public interest for the first 20 years of the 21st century. Diplomacy abroad exists to serve the nation at home. Against this backdrop, the role of China’s foreign policy can be seen as creating a favorable international environment within which these domestic aims can be met.
The Win-win Diplomacy of Cooperation
Three main strands of cooperation can benefit everyone as follows:
--Good relations with the major powers
First of all, China should devote itself to developing long-lasting, stable, friendly and cooperative relations with the major powers.
The positive, balanced and parallel development of Sino-Russian, Sino-US, Sino-European and Sino-Japanese relations have a key role to play in strengthening China’s position within the international community as it plays a greater role in world affairs.
Current joint efforts in the drive against terrorism represent a key factor in maintaining unity and strengthening cooperation among the major powers.
China and Russia have together established an anti-terror workshop after first setting up a long-term counter-terrorist exchange and cooperative mechanism conjointly with the United States. China has since gone on to participate in significant exchanges of anti-terror information with Pakistan, India, Britain, France and Germany.
By its untiring efforts to build a stable and cooperative global structure, China is making a major contribution to the cause of world peace and stability.
--World peace and development
Secondly, China should promote international dialogue and cooperation, safeguard world peace and push forward common development.
It is good to see China playing a more and more active role in multilateral diplomacy, especially through emphasizing the core role of the United Nations in resolving global disputes. In fact, multilateral diplomacy is becoming an important platform on which China’s influence is being built.
At the same time, China has been active in calling for international cooperation in the fields of economics, the environment and in social affairs. All these are very consistent with the new way of thinking on promoting security.
In November this year, China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This came at the end of the sixth China-ASEAN Summit and clearly signaled China’s willingness to address its security concerns via multilateral diplomatic efforts. This demonstrates that the new concepts on security are being put into practice in the diplomatic field.
--Respecting different civilizations and cultures
Thirdly, China should actively promote dialogue and communications among different civilizations and cultures.
For China’s part, it believes the worth of interactive economic coexistence and learning from each other should be accepted by all nations. The same applies to different civilizations and cultures. All should appreciate each other’s merits and prosper together instead of sinking into confrontation and hostilities.
Culture and civilization are the common heritage of the whole of humanity. Their differences should be bridges for communication and not the causes of conflict. Communication and dialogue are very necessary if this is to be achieved.
Since September 11 the international community has given unprecedented attention to the coexistence of different cultures in its search for an understanding of the roots of global terrorism.
The APEC ministerial meeting in Mexico last October was the setting for its first conference on culture and civilization.
A Strategy of Neighborly Co-existence
China’s foreign policy towards its neighbors both north and south has borne fruit since the beginning of the new century:
Looking to its north, China seeks geo-political security entirely through constructive cooperation.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has its roots in the mid-1990s. It has now developed into an effective body for the co-ordination of economic and political interests within the region. Its activities embrace confidence building in border areas and the close economic cooperation thought necessary to consolidate China's security in its northwest.
To its south, China is working hard to raise levels of cooperation in the region. Two mechanisms are favored. One is the grouping known as the 10+1 (ASEAN +China) which in turn could pave the way to an enlarged 10+3 (ASEAN +China, Japan and South Korea).
In recent years relations between China and ASEAN have advanced through four important stages:
· Full diplomatic relations were established or normalized.
· China became a “full dialogue partner” of ASEAN in July 1996.
· Jiang Zemin met with the heads of state of nine ASEAN countries at an informal summit in 1997 thus establishing a friendly good neighborly partnership with ASEAN in preparation for the new century.
· On November 4 this year when China signed the landmark Framework Agreement on China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation it marked a significant step on the road to a China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone. It is a key example of finding a win-win solution in the face of today’s economic challenges.
In the long run, a group of countries will hopefully emerge to share peace and prosperity with China in its neighborhood.
Meanwhile China has also met with recent success at a more local level of economic cooperation. Leaders from the six countries through which the Mekong River flows have attended the first summit meeting of the Greater Mekong Sub-region. This influential river has its headwaters in southwest China where it is known as the Lanchang. Their meeting to discuss development has profound positive significance to peace and development in the area. This project will create a favorable international environment for economic development in western China.
Alongside the strengthened economic cooperation between China and ASEAN, they have come active consultation on matters of security. For example the recent joint issue by China and ASEAN of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in which China has agreed to resolve disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiation. China and ASEAN want to strengthen their good neighborly partnership and preserve peace and stability in the area of the South China Sea. This declaration has helped bring political trust between China and ASEAN to a new high.
Currently though the world economy may be showing some signs of recovery, it is not yet stable. The developing countries like China are now playing an increasingly important role in helping the world economy recover.
China’s economic development and huge market have turned out to be positive influences for the economic development of the South Asian countries, which in turn form an integral part of the wider Asian-Pacific economy.
China’s economy is now closely connected with the economies of the Asia-Pacific region through high levels of mutual interaction.
Against this background, China can play a constructive role by contributing to the debate on how best to strengthen regional cooperation. The success of China’s cooperation with its neighbors has demonstrated that they are able to rely on each other at a strategic level.
Continuing Development Despite All Difficulties
Since the dawn of the new century, the international situation has seen many ups and downs. The world is still feeling the aftershocks of September 11. Terrorism is prevalent, regional hot spots spring up one after another and power politics dominate the international community.
The negative effects of an expansion of American unilateralism coupled with a first-strike policy can only add uncertainty and a measure of instability to international relations.
China’s critics never seem to miss a chance to apply pressure by exploiting any issue of nationality, religion, democracy or human rights. Such activities serve to pose additional challenges for China in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In addition there is what can be called a “turmoil curve” appearing along Eurasia to the Pacific. It encompasses those areas of the world that are most in conflict, have the greatest oil riches and have the most important strategic bases.
The United States has won the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Now its saber rattles in the direction of Iraq. Here it can kill two birds with one stone, not only reshaping the middle-east situation but also gaining control over its oil.
At the same time as the United States brought the Israel-Palestine conflict into its anti-terror framework it has adopted a different approach to the North Korean nuclear issue. While keeping up the pressure on North Korea, it has opted for a policy of “Iraq first North Korea second.”
Once the United States has won the war against Iraq it might well turn its attention eastwards to deal single-mindedly with North Korea. If so the clouds of war could come to cast a dark shadow over North East Asia.
As for South Asia, the situation is as complicated as it is delicate. There are many potential variables in the equation. Any sign of trouble could result in the escalation of some pre-existing disagreement.
In terms of regional geo-politics, China has to be prepared to anticipate any one of a number of different scenarios, each of which could roll out quite independently. Consequently China must remain alert in the face of any crisis which may arise unintentionally and be fully prepared to deal with the unexpected.
Looking to the future, September 11 has indeed changed many things. For example, almost every country has revisited its strategy for homeland security in the light of the international situation.
However, peace and development are still the key themes of our current era. They take first place among the aspirations of today’s global society.
The emergence of multi-national cooperation and economic globalization bring opportunities and create the right conditions for world peace and development. This is the very environment that China needs if it is grow and develop. The priority now is to identify how to seize the moment and secure China’s continuing development.
The aim of Chinese foreign policy is to serve the cause of world peace and to promote common development. The past 20 years of development in China have seen a wealth of opportunities created not only for its near neighbors but also for countries in other regions.
China’s stability was fully demonstrated during the Southeast Asia Financial Crisis. It will show the world by its actions that its vision for further development is founded on its role as a power for peace. It will be active in the cause of world peace and development.
(China.org.cn translated by Zheng Guihong December 18, 2002)