About the author:
Wang Zaibang, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute
In recent years, the world has been going through an unprecedented state of changes and tumults, compounded by the ravaging global pandemic and ecological disruptions. Amid the ensuing chaos, challenges, and unforeseen events, China’s diplomatic maneuvers since early 2023 have amazed the world and garnered international attention. At a closer look, China’s diplomatic moves are a reasonable result of Beijing’s pursuit of a “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” since the 18th CPC (the Communist Party of China) National Congress in November 2012. It is fair to say that China has succeeded in breaking new ground in distinctive major-country diplomacy within the broader historical contexts of international relations and China’s foreign relations.
I. China’s recent diplomatic breakthroughs are unprecedented in its history
The revolutionary nature of the “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” lies in the unprecedented breakthroughs China has achieved in foreign relations in recent years.
First, many heads of state and government, and political leaders have visited China in close succession, indicating that America’s antagonistic China policy is no longer appealing. In recent months, European leaders, such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have traveled to China. Additionally, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar bin Ibrahim, and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have also made high-profile visits to China, drawing significant international attention. In the current political climate where the Biden administration carries on with Trump’s legacy of engaging in a great power competition with China, vigorously promotes the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China, and pushes for economic and technological decoupling from China, these visits have signaled varying degrees of resistance to the idea of decoupling from China and underscored China’s international standing. The US attempt to safeguard its hegemony by way of containing China in the name of competition is doomed to fail.
Second, the China-brokered restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran has triggered “a wave of reconciliation” in the Middle East and established China as a peacemaker in this new era of global politics. Through China’s mediation, Saudi Arabia and Iran, two archrivals in the Islamic world, have decided to shake hands and reestablish diplomatic relations. This move has resonated across the Middle East, easing tensions between the Shia and Sunni sects and within Arabic nations. Turkey and Egypt, who have been at odds for ten years, are planning a summit following the Turkish elections in May, marking a new phase of peace and security in the region. China has also proposed a 12-point peace plan for the political resolution of the Ukraine crisis. During his visit to Russia, President Xi Jinping had candid discussions with President Vladimir Putin on the political resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which drew global attention. All these demonstrate that China, as a major nation, is confidently advancing its own propositions and initiatives for safeguarding international peace and security.
Third, China has effectively defended against the US economic and technological suppression and improved its international economic standing. Despite the U.S. pushing for economic “anti-globalization” and industrial “de-Sinicization” and forcing economic “decoupling” from China, foreign investment into China increased by double digits in 2021. In 2022, China’s actual use of foreign investment reached RMB 1.2 trillion yuan, representing a 6.3% increase. High-tech manufacturing and high-tech service sectors saw foreign investment growth of 49.6% and 21.9%, respectively. In foreign trade, China’s total import and export value reached RMB 42.07 trillion yuan in 2022, up 7.7% year-on-year. An increasing number of countries are choosing to use RMB for settlement, which can be regarded as a sign of China’s growing influence in global industrial and supply chains despite the challenges.
Lastly, China is committed to safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our will and power to chart the course of cross-Straits relations have multiplied. Faced with major political provocation from the U.S. to upgrade its official exchanges with Taiwan, and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority's provocative actions to seek "independence" in collusion with external forces, we stand undeterred and strongly counter the US attempts to use Taiwan to contain China. Following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China decisively conducted large-scale naval and air military exercises, strengthening strategic control of the situation around Taiwan. To counter Tsai Ing-wen’s illegal meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the U.S., the PLA (the People’s Liberation Army) Eastern Theater Command launched a military exercise code-named “Joint Sword” around the island, fully demonstrating our comprehensive combat capability to secure air, sea, and information control across the Taiwan Strait. Chinese maritime law enforcement vessels have also begun to exercise administrative law enforcement powers through joint cruise and inspection operations. Clearly, the resolve and power of the Chinese government to control the situation in the Taiwan Strait have significantly strengthened.
II. Innovative diplomatic concepts and policies
The revolutionary aspect of the “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” also lies in its innovative concepts and policies that truly capture the needs of the times. In other words, the unprecedented breakthroughs that China has made in diplomacy in recent years are a reasonable result of promoting and advancing the “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” since the 18th CPC National Congress.
China’s distinctive major-country diplomacy refers specifically to a series of innovative ideas, policies, and ways of conducting diplomacy put forward by the CPC Central Committee, which has been led by General Secretary Xi Jinping since the 18th National Party Congress based on China’s basic principles, objectives and strategies for foreign relations. These new ideas and propositions take shape in the process of conception, refinement, further definition, and testing in practice.
On November 28, 2014, at the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs, Xi Jinping stressed that China should develop a distinctive diplomatic approach befitting its role as a major country. This marked the birth of China’s new diplomatic concept. Later, on March 5, 2016, at the Fourth Session of the 12th National People’s Congress, this new concept was included in the government’s work report, indicating that a new diplomatic approach had taken shape. On October 18, 2017, a report from the 19th CPC National Congress explained that China’s distinctive major-country diplomacy seeks to create a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. The development and implementation of the “Belt and Road Initiative” has also played a significant role in advancing this new diplomatic approach in both theory and practice.
As the Biden administration continues Trump’s great-power competition strategy against China, the world has been grappling with an incredibly intricate and complex situation unseen in a century, which was worsened by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. This landscape has been characterized with enormous developmental pressure and serious security threats. In response to these unprecedented complications, China has stepped up its efforts to implement policies revolving around the “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.” Since 2021, President Xi Jinping has successively introduced “The Global Development Initiative,” “The Global Security Initiative,” and “The Global Civilization Initiative,” garnering worldwide attention and strong support from a majority of countries.
Following the 20th National Party Congress, China has entered a new stage of “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.” On February 21, 2023, China officially released the Global Security Initiative Concept Paper, further deepening, refining, and clarifying the “Global Security Initiative.” On February 24, the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Beijing released China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, formally proposing China’s solution to the crisis. This paper underscores China’s impartial and objective stance, highlights its responsibilities as a major global player, and contributes Chinese insights to world peace and security. Looking back, China’s efforts to mediate and foster reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran highlighted its commitment to addressing global turmoil and crises, overcoming challenges, and maintaining world peace and security. This success, perhaps, could be attributed to China’s neutral position, as well as the appeal of “the major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” and the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
The innovative concept of the “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” derives naturally from China’s economic and social development at a specific stage. It is a response to the complex challenges that the world faces today, a development of China’s traditional cultural traits, and a continuation of China’s diplomatic practices. If we take our vision to a broader scale of human history, we can still argue that China’s new diplomatic approach and practices are groundbreaking and unique in nature, and, therefore, cannot be replicated. Given the complex global landscape after the Cold War, characterized with rapid globalization and deepening interdependence among countries, it is only China, with its rich cultural and historical legacy, which spans over 5,000 years, that can develop its unique approach of the major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, which answers the calls of our times.
III. The sustainable diplomatic trend
To say that the “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” is of a revolutionary nature is also because of the fact that in practice, it represents a watershed in the evolution of the world diplomacy and it is a sustainable rather than a temporary or short-term-based phenomenon.
First, China’s economic foundation will continue to strengthen. Looking forward, the Chinese economy will keep growing, with plenty of resources, a reasonable economic structure, and a strong internal drive for growth. As China continues to achieve new milestones in its economic and social development, it gains new momentum in pursuing its distinctive major-country diplomacy, leading global peace and development efforts, and fostering the realization of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Second, the international community will become more accepting of China’s distinctive approach to diplomacy. We’ve already seen progress with the Belt and Road Initiative, which showcases China’s unique vision for international diplomacy. Additionally, an increasing number of countries are seeking membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and China’s role in mediating peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran has helped ease tensions in the Middle East and has received praise from around the world. As China continues to develop and implement the three global initiatives, the impact and appeal of its distinctive diplomatic approach are expected to grow.
Third, the understanding of China’s major-country diplomacy, both in theory and practice, will continue to improve. As its strength and status as well as the global acceptance of its way of conducting diplomacy grow, China will become more confident in its unique approach to the major-country diplomacy. Although challenges, criticism, interference, and even sabotage from external forces are inevitable, particularly from the West, China’s commitment to its distinctive diplomacy will not waver. We believe that as long as we keep advancing the idea of building a community with a shared future for mankind, we will be standing together with people worldwide, be on the right side of history, and succeed in our endeavor.
Fourth, China will make greater contributions to the international community. With its increasing national strength and elevated international status, along with its growing confidence in its distinctive diplomatic approach, China will be in a better position to bring into full play its ability to maintain and promote global peace, development, and security. Firstly, China’s continued growth will propel worldwide development on an even larger scale. Secondly, with a strong willingness, China’s capability, and experience in fostering peace will gradually improve, thus enabling China to further contribute its wisdom in tackling major and difficult global challenges and problems.
Please note: The above contents only represent the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of Taihe Institute.
This article is from the March issue of TI Observer (TIO), which is a monthly publication devoted to bringing China and the rest of the world closer together by facilitating mutual understanding and promoting exchanges of views. If you are interested in knowing more about the October issue, please click here:
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