Theory and Practice
In his report at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last October, President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, expounded the guidelines of major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era, proposing a new form of international relations that could better promote a community with a shared future for mankind. The diplomatic theory, forged through careful deliberation on the future of human society and developing trends in China and the world, has opened a new chapter for China's diplomacy.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, Xi has completed 29 overseas trips, setting foot in 57 countries and visiting almost every major international and regional organization, which has helped China establish a network of partnerships around the globe. Diplomatic efforts made by China in accordance with Xi's thought have created a favorable external environment for China's development, as well as making more and more Chinese solutions and proposals appealing to the world. It is in China’s immediate neighborhood that Xi’s diplomatic thought is most visibly taking effect.
Foreign policy core
Xi has attached great importance to China's relations with its neighbors. In October 2013, the CPC Central Committee held a seminar on China’s diplomacy toward the periphery under changing global circumstances. In his speech, Xi addressed the changes and new characteristics of the international situation faced by China, and mapped the targets, plans and basic principles of China’s neighborhood diplomacy. He stressed that sound relations with neighboring countries are of strategic significance to achieving the great renewal of the Chinese nation.
Xi's report at the 19th CPC National Congress reiterated that China is to deepen relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, as well as the policy of forging friendship and partnership. Only adherence to these principles and policy can consolidate the peace and stability of China’s neighborhood.
Through dozens of visits to much of Central, South, Southeast and East Asia in the past five years, Xi has backed up China's good-neighborliness foreign policy with concrete actions, which represent the top-level design of China’s neighborhood diplomacy as well as major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.
At present, its neighboring countries remain the most important area in which China can put into practice its ethos of foreign affairs and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. Xi’s thought on neighborhood diplomacy is significant to many aspects of China's foreign policy.
In his report at the 19th CPC National Congress, Xi called on “the people of all countries to work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind, to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.” The idea of a community with a shared future for mankind adheres to the current framework of global governance. To solve the deficit in peace, development and governance, all members of the international community must work together, innovate theories of governance and optimize potential solutions. It is in this context that China is offering to build a community with a shared future for mankind to achieve mutually beneficial results.
In the 2013 seminar on neighborhood diplomacy, Xi urged the need to integrate the Chinese dream of national renewal with the aspirations of people in neighboring countries for a better life, and through the prospects of regional development, let the idea of a community with a shared future take root in neighboring countries and strengthen relations with them in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. The concept of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, as proposed in Xi’s report at the 19th CPC National Congress, makes China’s promotion of and participation in regional governance even more charismatic and influential.
As the theory of building a community with a shared future for mankind matures, the significance of the idea becomes more and more visible in global and regional governance. Regional collaborations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Boao Forum for Asia and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism have grown in stature to address regional challenges and promote mutual benefit.
In 2013, Xi proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, collectively known as the Belt and Road Initiative, in order to create greater trade, infrastructure and people-to-people connections between Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond by reviving the routes of the ancient Silk Road. In March 2017, the UN Security Council passed resolution 2344, which called for the international community to reach consensus on increasing aid to Afghanistan and strengthening regional cooperation through the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative is becoming one of the most popular international and regional public products, and one of the largest platforms for international cooperation.
The Belt and Road Initiative is representative of China’s commitment to the world. It is also reflective of equality as it seeks to address the deficit in peace, development and governance across the globe. The situation in China's neighborhood is relatively stable, but problems such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, environmental and ecological degradation, sluggish economies and poverty remain severe in many surrounding countries. The Belt and Road Initiative provides potential solutions for these regional challenges.
Xi has noted that the essence of the Belt and Road Initiative is the construction of infrastructure and the facilitation of inter-connectivity. Among those nations in China's immediate neighborhood are many developing countries. There is great potential for their improvement as poor transport and communication infrastructure has significantly impeded their economic and social development.
The construction of six economic corridors under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, best embodied by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, have spurred enthusiasm in neighboring countries for participating in the China-proposed development initiative. These nations can share in the benefits and opportunities from China's development, and expand their cooperation in trade, finance, infrastructure and people-to-people exchanges to achieve mutually beneficial results. It will also lay the foundation for promoting common development and forging a community with a shared future in the region.
Though there are many differences between China and its neighbors in terms of political, social and cultural conditions, they are alike in their pursuit of peace and development. This is why when developing relations with neighboring countries, China insists on enhancing exchange and mutual learning among civilizations, seeking to expand their converging interests and forge a partnership network in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness.
Currently, China has established partnerships of different types with dozens of surrounding countries, including Russia, South Korea, Viet Nam and Pakistan, as well as regional organizations such as ASEAN and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Partners can reach consensus on issues of common concern as their relationship as equals predisposes them to solve problems through collaboration and dialogue. Partnership-building is a major contribution made by China to international relations, as well as an important part of China's approach to developing relations with its neighbors.
However, this does not mean that there is no divergence within these partnerships. Even in cooperation at the highest level, there is still the possibility of major rifts on certain issues due to differing strategic perspectives. Nevertheless, the fact remains that partnership emphasizes a spirit of dialogue and consultation instead of confrontation, and is better suited to avoiding misunderstanding.
At the same time, in developing partnerships with other countries, China should also fully display its diplomatic confidence. Not only should China seize every chance to develop partnerships, but also its ability to turn crisis to opportunity, making partnerships an effective approach through which to promote neighborhood diplomacy.
Xi has reiterated on several occasions that “amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states, communication between minds holds the key to amity between people.” Since the 18th CPC National Congress, whether at international conferences or on bilateral visits, delivering public speeches or publishing articles in the foreign media, interacting with young people or driving exchanges between Chinese and international students, Xi has devoutly implemented China's policy of building amicable relations with other countries via personnel bonds and promoting communication between minds.
In his speech during the 2013 seminar, Xi urged China and its neighbors to meet and visit each other more frequently, and to do more things that would win and warm people’s hearts. China endeavors to become friendlier with its neighbors so that they remain close and supportive, increasing China’s affinity, magnetism and influence. At present, China is the largest source of tourists to many neighboring countries and a major source of foreign students. China’s intercity diplomacy is also growing rapidly. These exchanges have promoted mutual understanding between the Chinese people and the peoples of surrounding countries, which is of great importance to China and its neighbors in their mission to build partnerships and a community with a shared future.
Public diplomacy is also embodied in foreign aid. China’s massive effort in assisting the Maldives with its drinking water crisis and contribution to earthquake relief in Nepal are a reflection of China’s responsible and capable public diplomacy. These practices portray the ideas of public diplomacy inherent in Xi’s diplomatic thought, adding luster to China’s image around the world and winning greater trust from its neighbors. Alongside the Belt and Road Initiative, it represents a new arena for China's public diplomacy.
The author is chairman of the Charhar Institute and deputy director of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
This article is reprinted from Beijing Review.