Serving the Nation with Vigorous Steps: China's Diplomacy in 2011
By Yang Jiechi
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
In 2011, the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, the world went through extraordinarily profound and complicated changes. In this fluid situation, China's diplomacy forged ahead under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Serving the central tasks of the Party and the State, we rose to the opportunities and challenges, broke new ground, and upheld China's sovereignty, security and development interests. A review of China's diplomacy in 2011 will go a long way towards improving our work in the future.
Although the international situation of 2011 was generally peaceful, major events, difficult challenges and pressing issues emerged one after another, causing instability and exerting a far-reaching impact on the world. At the same time, steps were quickened to adjust and reform international relations and the international order. And some emerging patterns and trends became more pronounced.
(1) The deepening and spreading of the international financial crisis weighed on the recovery of the world economy. The worsening sovereign debt crisis of some countries impacted global economic recovery and financial stability in more ways than one. The deep-seated consequences of the financial crisis were more keenly felt, exposing deficiencies in the global economic governance mechanisms and problems in some countries' institutions, policy approaches and growth models and leading, in some cases, to street demonstrations and protests. Major economies saw their growth slow down. Emerging markets faced contraction of external demand and rise of internal inflation. Protectionism of various forms was on the rise. Some authoritative international agencies forecast that the world economic growth had dropped from 5.1% in 2010 to 4% in 2011. Without new sources of strong growth, the world economy could expect low growth for a long period to come.
(2) Turbulence and hotspots dealt a serious blow to regional and international situation. Since late 2010 and early 2011, dramatic political changes have erupted in west Asia and north Africa, causing a shift in the balance of power and realignment of countries in the region. It will take a long and tortuous process for the region to emerge from instability and establish a new order. The issue of Palestine and Israel remained difficult to resolve. The Iranian nuclear issue resurfaced. The rebuilding of Afghanistan was riddled with challenges. The situation on the Korean Peninsula calmed down somewhat due to the concerted efforts of relevant parties. Non-traditional security challenges such as terrorism, energy and resource security, cyber security and natural disasters caught greater attention. Security issues became more unexpected, contagious and interconnected, highlighting the urgent need for a holistic approach to global security governance.
(3) Various parties devoted more attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific as the region's strategic importance continued to rise. The Asia-Pacific region, representing 40% of the world's population, 54% of its economy and 44% of trade, maintained overall stability in a turbulent world. Emerging economies in our region contributed over 60% to the growth of the world economy. Regional and sub-regional cooperation blossomed. The Asia-Pacific was increasingly seen as the most dynamic and promising region in the world. As a converging point of several major forces, the region received greater attention and input, which created new complications for regional situation and relations and heralded shifts in the regional landscape. Some countries have disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime interests, yet they chose dialogue and consultation as the way to solve them. Peace, stability, development and cooperation continued to be the primary pursuit of the region.
(4) The international distribution of power became more balanced with steady progress in reforming the global governance mechanism. Emerging markets and developing countries continued to rise and became an important driver of change in the world. Cooperation further deepened between BRICS countries and under other mechanisms composed of emerging countries, giving a strong boost to South-South cooperation and North-South dialogue. G20 functioned as an important platform for global economic governance. Reform of international financial institutions and financial regulation made fresh headway. Despite this, there is still a long way to go before a multi-polar world and democracy in international relations can be achieved.
In the new phase of the 21st century, diplomacy can and will play a greater role in the work of the Party and the State. It must better support China's reform, development and stability; uphold sovereignty, security and development interests; and help to preserve the important period of strategic opportunities for China's development. During 2011, under the wise leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council and thanks to the cooperation of various departments and local governments as well as the active support of the people, China's diplomacy took into account both the international and domestic situations, further improved the overall layout, properly handled unexpected situations in various parts of the world, actively shaped the changing international system, and created a sound international environment and more favorable external conditions for the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
(1) We maintained the important period of strategic opportunities by actively promoting and managing relations with various parties. The first two decades of this century is a period of strategic opportunities for China's development. In this new situation, diplomatic work is required, first and foremost, to secure this period. Last year, President Hu Jintao, NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo, Premier Wen Jiabao, CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin and other national leaders attended a number of important multilateral events and paid goodwill visits to major countries, neighboring countries and developing countries. These productive summit diplomacy and high-level exchanges greatly boosted China's friendly and cooperative relations with various parties. November was a month of international summitry and marked a new climax of China's diplomacy. President Hu attended the G20 Summit in Cannes and the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Hawaii. Premier Wen attended the Prime Ministers' Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in St. Petersburg and the East Asian leaders' meetings in Bali. Their successful participation in these summits further enhanced China's international standing and influence. The steady growth of relations with major countries consolidated China's favorable position in a changing world. President Hu paid a successful visit to the United States. The two sides reached the important agreement of building a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. China and Russia elevated their relations into a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination featuring equality, mutual trust, mutual support, common prosperity and lasting friendship. China-EU relations and China-Japan relations also saw further growth, with practical cooperation and people-to-people exchanges reaching new levels. China successfully hosted the BRICS Leaders Meeting, which enhanced the coordination and cooperation among BRICS countries. As always, China pursued good neighbourly relations with neighboring countries, worked hard for both its own development and the common development of neighboring countries, and secured overall stability and development of the neighborhood. China became the largest trading partner of most of its neighbors and the largest export market of more and more countries. China's shared interests with other countries had never been deeper. Following the spirit of enterprise, openness, inclusiveness and mutual assistance, China made important contribution to such regional cooperation processes as 10+1, 10+3, SCO, APEC and EAS. China promoted peace and facilitated talks on Korean and Iranian nuclear issues, supported the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and worked hard to cool down hotspots in the neighboring areas. China reached agreement with ASEAN countries on the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), launched cooperative projects within the framework of the DOC, and announced the establishment of a three-billion-yuan China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund. These are all examples of the positive role China had played in maintaining stability in the South China Sea.
(2) We served the central tasks of the Party and the State, i.e. promoting development and ensuring stability. For China, a big developing country with 1.3 billion people, the most important tasks are to grow the economy, maintain social stability and run its own affairs well. Diplomatic work must be subordinate to and serve these central tasks. Throughout 2011, we focused on facilitating a good beginning in implementing the 12th Five-Year Plan, worked vigorously to remove the impact of the international financial crisis and sovereign debt crisis in some countries, and strived for a favorable external economic environment. We assisted the implementation of "bringing in" and "going global" business strategies, deepened mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries, and brought about fresh progress in large cooperation projects of energy, resources and cross-border infrastructure building in Eurasia, the Middle East and Latin America. We enhanced macroeconomic policy coordination with other countries, supported relevant countries in overcoming economic and financial difficulties in coordination with the international community, and played a part in guiding reform of the international system. We opposed protectionism of various kinds and properly handled economic and trade frictions. We enhanced preparedness, stayed vigilant against infiltration and sabotage activities carried out by hostile forces, and worked assiduously to help safeguard social and political stability at home.
(3) We unswervingly upheld our national interests and at the same time strengthened shared interests with other parties. The deepening and expansion of shared interests with other countries have set the bar higher for our diplomatic work. The White Paper on China's Peaceful Development released by the Chinese government demonstrated our firm resolve to safeguard China's national interests and our commitment to expanding common interests with other parties. We firmly defended China's sovereignty, security and development interests and resolutely opposed interference in China's internal affairs regarding Taiwan and Tibet-related issues. We took an extensive part in international cooperation against terrorism, piracy and cyber crimes, worked with other countries to address non-traditional security threats, and launched joint patrol of the Mekong River with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. We operationalized the principle of "putting people's interests first and conducting diplomacy for the people", properly responded to major emergencies around the world, and safeguarded the safety, security and legitimate rights and interests of overseas Chinese nationals and enterprises. In the wake of the turbulence in west Asia and north Africa, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council ordered an evacuation of Chinese nationals. Thanks to close coordination between home and abroad, the evacuation operations were completed with great success. From Libya alone, a total of 35,860 Chinese nationals were evacuated, making it the largest evacuation of Chinese nationals from overseas since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
(4) We made continuous efforts to uphold world peace and promote common development, further consolidating China's sound international image. As a responsible member of the international community, China is a staunch force for world peace and common development. China, having sent approximately 21,000 personnel to 30 United Nations peacekeeping missions, is the biggest peacekeeper contributor among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Bearing in mind our basic condition as a developing country, China upheld the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries in international and regional affairs, provided strong support for their efforts to escape poverty and speed up development, and offered emergency food aid to African countries hit by serious famine. Observing the principle of non-interference in others' internal affairs, we respected and supported the efforts of west Asian and north African countries to handle their internal affairs on their own, and determined our principled position on Libya and Syria on the basis of the situation on the ground. China's position in this regard won the understanding and support of the international community. Appreciating the fact that soft power is an increasingly important aspect of international competition and building on the opportunity of implementing the spirit of the sixth plenum of the 17th CPC Central Committee, we promoted cultural and people-to-people exchanges, understanding and friendship between China and the rest of the world, and enhanced the international appeal of Chinese culture. On the occasion of such major events as implementation of the 12th Five-Year Plan, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC and the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution, we conducted public diplomacy, displaying China's commitment and sincerity to follow the path of peaceful development and the bright future of China's development.
Looking ahead, the year 2012 will witness more profound changes in the international balance of power, reform and adjustment of the international system and dynamics of international relations. Peace, development and cooperation, the trend of the times, will gain greater traction. However, there will be many predictable and unpredictable factors of instability and uncertainties in the international situation. China's status and role in the world will be taken more seriously. There will be more risks and challenges in store for us. But on the whole, opportunities will outweigh challenges. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as the General Secretary, we will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and the win-win strategy of opening-up, work for durable peace and common prosperity in the world, and strive to foster a better external environment for the success of the 18th CPC National Congress and all-round implementation of the 12th Five-Year Plan. To be more specific:
We will enhance mutual trust and expand cooperation with other major countries, properly manage differences and move bilateral relations forward in a steady manner. For those countries that are scheduled to hold general elections, we need to do more targeted work, prevent interference to bilateral relations from their domestic politics factors, and realize stable transition and fresh progress of bilateral relations.
We will continue to follow the policy of fostering friendship and partnership with our neighbors, step up solid and effective practical cooperation and mutually beneficial institutional improvement, strengthen trust and dispel mistrust, and enhance strategic relations with neighboring countries.
We will make good use of high-level exchanges with other developing countries and such platforms as China-Africa and China-Arab Cooperation Forums to strengthen unity and cooperation with other developing countries and increase their fundamental importance in China's overall diplomatic work.
We will make full use of the Meeting of the Council of the Heads of State of the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and China-Japan-ROK Leaders' Meeting as well as Chinese leaders' participation in multilateral summits to show that China is a big responsible country on the multilateral stage.
We will continue to take part in international cooperation to address the financial crisis, promote cooperation with relevant countries in fiscal, financial, economic, trade and investment areas, and work for strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the world economy.
We will conduct public and people-to-people diplomacy through multiple channels, in various forms and at different levels, and promote cultural exchanges with other countries. We need to enhance institution- and capacity-building of overseas consular protection and better protect China's overseas interests.
In next year's diplomatic work, we will further raise the awareness of opportunities, dangers and risks, seize opportunities, appropriately meet challenges, and make even greater contribution to achieving the great goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
(This article appeared in the January 2012 edition of the Seeking Truth magazine.)