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China’s Foreign Minister Reflects on 2017 in Chinese Foreign Policy

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China’s Foreign Minister Reflects on 2017 in Chinese Foreign Policy

The Chinese foreign minister looks back on 2017.

China’s Foreign Minister Reflects on 2017 in Chinese Foreign Policy
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ VOA

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a rather interesting speech on Sunday at the opening of the Symposium on International Developments and China’s Diplomacy in 2017 in Beijing. In the speech, Wang runs through China’s major foreign policy accomplishments in 2017, offering a glimpse into how Beijing conceptualizes its priorities in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. The speech isn’t the first of its kind; Wang had delivered similar reflections in 2015 and 2016.

“The outgoing year 2017 is of special, high significance to both China and the world,” Wang observed, highlighting that the year not only encompassed the start of China’s 19th Party Congress in October, but also saw the first meeting of the Belt and Road Forum, arguably the highlight of China’s diplomatic calendar. The Belt and Road Initiative, since its announcement in late-2013, has become Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy undertaking.

Wang provided an updated official accounting of the progress of various Belt and Road-related projects: “Up till now, we have signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with 80 countries and organizations, conducted institutionalized cooperation on industrial capacity with over 30 countries, and built 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in 24 countries under the Belt and Road framework.” He continued: “Chinese businesses have invested over US$50 billion and created near-200,000 local jobs in the countries along the Belt and Road.

He then went on to emphasize China’s stated support for globalization — a theme in Chinese foreign policy this year since Xi’s speech at Davos. Though China’s lip service to open trade and globalization may not be matched by its actions, Wang underlined that China has “been a strong advocate of economic globalization.” Similarly, on global governance, Wang noted that “China is emerging as the most positive factor in the evolution of the international system and the most dynamic force for improving global governance.”

From there, Wang offered reflections on China’s relationships with various countries and groups. A few relevant excerpts below:

On the United States:

The sound interactions between the world’s two largest economies and their commitment to win-win cooperation is sending a strong signal to the world that more positive things are to be expected for all parties. A good China-US relationship will benefit both countries and peoples and be welcomed by the international community. Of course, the China-US relationship has never been smooth sailing and progress can only be made by overcoming various difficulties and interferences. The social system, history and culture of the two countries are different. China has no intention to change or displace the United States; the US cannot expect to dictate to China or impede its development. The ever more extensive cooperation and close exchanges at different levels have tied the two countries’ interests closely together. There is far more that they share than they disagree. Cooperation leads to win-win outcomes while confrontation can only result in a lose-lose situation. This is a plain truth that anyone with a strategic vision and sober mind will recognize. It is a trend that will not bend to the will of any individuals. Recognizing this, China and the US need to find ways to better get along with each other. China is willing, on the basis of mutual respect, to live peacefully with the American superpower. The US needs to understand and accept a China that is following its own path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, one suited to its own conditions. When engaging with each other, both countries must observe the rules, by which I mean the commonly recognized international law and basic norms governing international relations, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the three communiqués between China and the United States. For both countries, the old-fashioned mentality of zero-sum game and confrontation works no longer. Putting aside differences, seeking common ground and pursuing win-win cooperation are the only right choice for a bright future.

On India:

Both being big developing countries, China and India have far greater shared strategic interests than concrete differences, and far greater needs for cooperation than partial frictions. China always values the good-neighborliness and friendship between the two countries as we are each other’s big neighbors and ancient civilizations. In the meantime, China is also firm in upholding its sovereign rights and interests and territorial integrity. We handled the Indian border troops’ trespass into China’s Dong Lang area in our national interest, on just grounds and with restraint. Through diplomatic means, we engaged with the Indian side and it withdrew its equipment and personnel. This demonstrates not only the value and emphasis we put on relations with India but also our sincerity and sense of responsibility in maintaining regional peace and stability. We believe that as long as we continue to engage in in-depth strategic communication and promptly dispel strategic misgivings, the strategic value of China-India cooperation will speak for itself, and there will be a prospect of “the Dragon and the Elephant Dancing Together” and “1+1=11” effect as expected by our leaders.

On Japan:

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan relations. There are more than enough experience and lessons over the past 45 years to help people come to realize the crux of the problem in China-Japan relationship and the great importance of its sound development. We value the recent steps Japan has taken to improve ties with China and welcome Japan’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. We hope Japan will not hesitate, backpedal or relapse, and we hope Japan will do more to increase understanding, dispel mistrust and facilitate sound interactions. We will see light at the end of the tunnel as long as we keep moving forward. We are ready to work with Japan to bring the bilateral relations back to normal at an early date and make friendship prevail again in our engagement.

On South Korea:

For some time, China-ROK relations met with headwinds due to the THAAD issue. Since President Moon Jae-in took office, he has opted for friendship and cooperation with China and the ROK side has made important public statement that the ROK will not consider additional THAAD deployment, not participate in the US missile defense network and not develop a trilateral military alliance with the US and Japan. Our two sides have reached agreement on handling the THAAD issue for the current stage. In a few days, President Moon Jae-in will pay his first state visit to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. China is ready to work with the ROK to take the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations as an opportunity, cherish the cooperation outcomes already achieved, increase mutual understanding and mutual trust, effectively manage differences, and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides. China and the ROK will work for the sound development of the bilateral relations and stay committed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

On Russia:

China and Russia are each other’s largest neighbors. Having stood the test of a changing international landscape, this relationship has proven to be both historic and forward-looking, and has grown increasingly resilient and stable. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, thanks to efforts of both sides, has continued to move forward at a high standard. Frequent interactions between President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin, who exchanged visits and met five times throughout the year, have enabled consistent, close coordination on major issues concerning global strategic stability, forged greater synergy of development strategies that are crucial to the revitalization of Eurasia, and steered China-Russia strategic coordination toward higher levels and into more areas and greater depths. China-Russia relationship has become a major cornerstone for world peace and stability, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.

The full speech is available on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website and addresses a range of other Chinese initiatives (including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea) and bilateral relationships.