عربي Español Русский Français 简体中文

A Changing China and Its Diplomacy

——Speech by Foreign Minister Wang Yi At Center for Strategic and International Studies

2016/02/26

I appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas with the experts and scholars here and I want to talk about a changing China and its diplomacy.

The biggest change and development in China is that for over 30 years, we have registered double-digit economic growth, creating a China miracle. We have not only become the second largest economy in the world, but also lifted over 600 million people out of poverty. We have done better than any country in accomplishing the UN Millennium Development Goals.

On the other hand, we have come to realize that the old development model is no longer tenable. For the sake of the long-term interests of the Chinese people and sustainable development of the world, we must change our development model. So we took a hard decision to press ahead with structural reform, despite all the pains and sacrifices that would come with it. The goal is to take an energy conserving, environment friendly, green, circular and sustainable path of development.

Let me tell you here that we have already made visible progress. Last year, the tertiary industry accounted for over half of our economy, and environmental degradation was kept under control. Consumer spending is contributing to a significantly larger share of China’s growth. The figure last year was 66 percent. In other words, among the three drivers of growth, investment, export and consumption, consumption became the biggest driver for the first time. This is a more healthy and sustainable pattern of growth. Of course, in the absence of large-scale investment, economic growth slowed down a little bit. Yet, we’re now talking about a 10 trillion dollar economy. Last year, we achieved 6.9 percent growth. Every percentage point of that growth was equivalent to 2.6 percentage points of growth a decade ago. So China is still an important engine for the world economy.

Indeed, we are against some economic headwinds recently. This has a lot to do with the global economic environment, because China is now a very open economy. We hear some concerns about the Chinese economy, but let me make it very clear to the friends here that there will not be an economic hard landing in China. China will not close its door, and our reform will not come to a halt.

We have relied on reform and opening-up for our past success in economic development, and they have become China’s basic policy. The entire Party and country agree that we need to continue with reform and opening-up. The economy will become healthier and more efficient and, on that basis, we’re confident it will achieve a medium-high rate of growth for a long period to come and at the same time move to the medium to high end of the value chain.

Where does our confidence come from? I’m not an economist, yet I want to highlight three key advantages of the Chinese economy.

First of all, we have huge market potential. Yesterday afternoon, I was up on Capitol Hill, and several congressmen complained about the United States’ serious trade imbalance with China. They said, we’re buying too much from China, and you’re buying too little from us. I said to them, don’t be anxious, just wait a little longer and the situation will change. With its 1.3 billion people, the Chinese market is potentially four times the size of the American market and the potential is rapidly becoming a reality. When the Chinese market matures, we will buy lots of goods from the United States and the rest of the world, and China will run a large deficit. Of course, the US needs to sell high-quality and inexpensive goods to China.

The second key advantage is the pace of urbanization. Developed economies normally have an urbanization rate of above 80 percent. But when you look at China, the registered urban population is less than 40 percent. In other words, we have enormous potential to tap. Herein lies tremendous business opportunities.

The third key advantage is the expansion of the service sector. Normally, the service sector would account for over 70 percent of mature economies. In China, it’s just passed the 50 percent mark. That is to say, there is enormous potential in this area too.

To sum up, China will continue to grow and develop, and this will mean more business opportunities for the United States and other countries. China and the United States will surely become long-term economic and trade partners.

Moving on to China’s diplomacy, I want to say that diplomacy is the extension of domestic affairs. We have set the two centenary goals, and we’re uniting all the people in China in a common effort to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. Chinese diplomacy will serve this overriding domestic agenda. We will do what we can to facilitate the accomplishment of these goals. We want to create a more stable, enabling and friendly external environment and harness more external resources for China’s development.

I’m sure you’re all impressed with what China has achieved in its diplomacy in recent years. In the past three years, President Xi Jinping, building on the good tradition of China’s diplomacy, articulated a whole series of new ideas and approaches. In our diplomacy, we are more proactive in defending China’s legitimate national interests. We’re more proactive in fulfilling our due international responsibilities. We’re also more proactive in working with other countries, particularly the United States, to pursue win-win relations.

Now what are the main tasks for Chinese diplomacy at present and for a period to come? In my view, there’re five main tasks. Let me spell them out for you:

First, we will help other countries and their people better understand China’s social system and development path. China wants to be more deeply integrated with the international community. At the same time, we will remain committed to socialism with distinct Chinese characteristics. This is because this choice suits China’s national conditions and the people’s needs and has the broadest support from all sectors of Chinese society. Socialism with Chinese characteristics, put simply, is about mobilizing the hundreds of millions of our people to make utmost efforts to pursue the goal of common prosperity. That is to say, every Chinese, whether in cities or the countryside, in good times or bad, and no matter what their backgrounds are, has hopes for the future and can realize their dream through hard work. That is why socialism with Chinese characteristics, as a path and a system, has received strong support from the overwhelming majority of our people.

As you know, China is a country of 1.3 billion people, with uneven development and great disparity. To realize modernization requires a staunch political force with ideals, commitment and dedication. This force is none other than the Communist Party of China (CPC) with a membership of 86 million. If all Party members follow the requirements of the Party constitution and act as pace-setters in all walks of life, then no problem or difficulty can stop China on its march forward.

More importantly, the 86 million CPC members need a strong leadership, namely the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the General Secretary. Under the leadership and guidance of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as General Secretary, the giant ship of China is sailing steadily forward along its planned route and it will certainly reach its destination. We have every confidence about this.

China’s development is related to not only the well-being of every Chinese, but also the interests of all people in the world. We sincerely hope that as we further integrate with the international community, we will have the understanding of more and more countries around the world. China will never export our social system or development model because we are convinced that every country has the right to choose a development path suited to its own conditions. On the other hand, we are ready, on the basis of equality, to conduct exchanges with the international community.

You might know about the book Xi Jinping on the Governance of China. Published in 2014, it soon became popular around the world, with more than five million copies sold in more than 100 countries and regions. We hope and believe that as China deepens its engagement with the world, more countries and people will come to understand and support the social system and development model that China has chosen. It is the task of China’s diplomacy to make this happen.

Second, we will firmly safeguard the international order and system established after the victory of the Second World War. We are not trying to create a parallel system. The reason is simple. China was the first country to sign on the Charter of the United Nations. We helped to secure world peace at a cost of over 35 million Chinese lives.

To begin with, we will be a staunch safeguard of the UN-centered contemporary international system and the basic norms governing international relations represented by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. In our view, an important reason of instability and turbulence in many parts of the world is that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter have not been fully implemented and that such important concepts as non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs and the peaceful settlement of disputes have been cast aside. Therefore, an important task of China’s diplomacy is to lead by example and faithfully implement the purposes and principles of the UN Charter in state-to-state relations and practices. This is the role that China should play in the world.

We will maintain a free and open world trade system. It is by relying on opening-up that China has achieved rapid development. We hope to build an open economic system together with the world and we are working toward this goal. We oppose any form of trade protectionism. There is an “alphabet soup” of regional or sub-regional FTAs. We hope to prevent a fragmented situation. Be it TPP or RCEP, they are all pathways leading to a broader FTA. This was the clear consensus of the APEC meeting held in Beijing in 2014. The US, China and other APEC members all committed to it. Not only do we need to defend an open and free trading system, but we want to build such an investment system. As you know, the world has not worked out a set of common rules for investment. At the G20 summit that China will host in Hangzhou in September, we hope G20 members will discuss and develop a set of open rules for global investment observed by all. This is not something that can be achieved overnight, but we want to get the discussion started.

We would also like to improve the current international economic and financial governance system. China is already deeply involved in the existing global financial and economic system. For example, after the IMF reform was finally approved at the end of last year by the US Congress following a five-year delay, China’s quota and voting rights in the IMF have increased significantly. At the beginning of this year, China became a full member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We will continue to play our due role in the existing international economic and financial system. At the same time, we took the initiative to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Some countries were skeptical at first, and suspected that China wanted to create an Asian version of the Monroe Doctrine. But it’s very clear that from the very beginning, we welcomed the participation of all countries rather than limiting membership to the region. In fact, over half of the 57 founding members of the AIIB are non-Asian countries. Most developed countries, except for the US and Japan, have joined the bank. We welcome that. Besides nearly 40 countries are lining up to join in. We will work with all members to make sure that the AIIB is of international standard, professional, less bureaucratic, and devoted to addressing financing bottlenecks that hinder Asia’s infrastructure development. The AIIB would supplement the existing international financial institutions rather than replacing them.

Third, we will work harder to serve China’s development. At present, the most important job is to work with various countries to take forward the Belt and Road Initiative. For thousands of years, the Eurasian continent has been haunted by incessant wars, instability and blood bath. Today, the priority of all Eurasian countries is seeking development, accelerating industrialization, and increasing the capacity of independent development. China can provide them with advanced equipment, mature technologies, management expertise, financing and training. So the Belt and Road Initiative is about drawing on each other’s strengths and pursuing win-win economic cooperation. It will open up new horizons and areas of cooperation for China and other participating countries. This is beneficial not only for China, but for all other countries. So far, more than 70 countries have expressed support and willingness to take part in the Belt and Road Initiative.

There are three pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative. The first is connectivity. China is working actively with other countries to create the corridors of greater connectivity. Not only do we want to build a corridor through the Eurasian continent, but also a pan-Asian railway network. We support the aspiration expressed by African countries to link the 54 African countries with high-speed railway. China has built more than 18,000 kilometers of high-speed railway domestically, which make 70% of the world’s total. We have the capacity to work with other countries to build greater connectivity.

The second pillar is the cooperation on production capacity. We’ve signed agreements on production capacity cooperation with more than 20 countries. We hope that, through such cooperation, we can speed up the industrialization process in relevant countries and realize a higher level of development. We’ll then be better placed to meet the challenges brought by sluggish global growth. Similarly, the US has got a reindustrialization plan. It’s the same for Europe. China’s production capacity cooperation plan is open to all. We want to work with all interested countries and welcome tripartite cooperation. If we can combine China’s advanced equipment and ample funding with the technologies and core components from developed countries, for example the US, then we can be more effective in promoting global growth and prosperity.

The third pillar is people-to-people and cultural exchange. There are diverse civilizations and cultures on the Eurasian continent. None is superior to the others. We hope in the process of pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, these different civilizations and cultures can learn from each other in an inclusive way and contribute to human progress.

Fourth, we will effectively protect China’s ever-growing overseas interests. Like other major countries before us, China has come to a stage where more of our businesses and citizens are going abroad to seek opportunities. Now, over 30,000 Chinese companies have set up operations across the globe. Several million Chinese citizens are now working or living in all parts of the world. Non-financial direct investment from China is rising rapidly. Last year, it reached 120 billion dollars. This figure is close to or may be even bigger than overseas investment into China. Every year, about 120 million Chinese travel abroad. This may be the largest flow of people in the world. The Chinese government certainly has a responsibility and obligation to protect the lawful rights and interests of these institutions and personnel. But to be honest, we have inadequate means, resources and capacity to do so. Therefore, an urgent task for China’s diplomacy is to enhance our ability to protect our lawful rights and interests abroad. We need to utilize more resources and work together with the international community to uphold our huge and growing overseas interests, our lawful and legitimate interests, to be precise.

Fifth, we will play an even more constructive role in the settlement of international and regional issues. This is primarily because, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, we shoulder important responsibilities for international peace and security. Besides, the resolution of hot-spot issues can create a more enabling environment for China’s development. In Africa, we’re helping to mediate the dispute in South Sudan. In Asia, we are facilitating peace talks in Afghanistan and the reconciliation process in Myanmar. We have worked with other parties to conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue. And we are an active participant in the process of seeking a political settlement of the Syrian issue.

I figure the issue that’s foremost on your mind at this moment is the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. I’m prepared to answer your questions afterwards. For now, let me emphasize three points of China’s basic position. First, we’re against the development of nuclear weapons by the DPRK. There should not be nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, either in the north or in the south, either developed indigenously or introduced from the outside. Should there be nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, it would not serve the interests of any party, nor could the DPRK maintain its own security. Therefore, the Korean Peninsula must be denuclearized. This is China’s firm goal.

Second, there must be no war or turbulence on the Korean Peninsula. Otherwise, there will be horrible consequences. How to achieve denuclearization? Ultimately, it can only be resolved through negotiation. Just as in the case of the Iranian nuclear issue, where 10 years of negotiation produced the comprehensive agreement. In the case of the Korean nuclear issue, it is owing to the fact that the Six-Party Talks have been stalled for eight years that the DPRK has conducted nuclear tests one after another. In response, we have to adopt a new UN resolution, take further and strong measures, and effectively stem DPRK’s nuclear and missile ambitions. This being said, we must not give up efforts for peace talks, because they are the only viable solution to the issue. China is the host country of the Six-Party Talks. We are conscious of our responsibility and obligation. Taking a just and objective position, we have put forward the idea of pursuing in parallel tracks the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the replacement of the Korean armistice with a peace agreement. Without the former, we cannot replace the armistice with a peace agreement. Without the latter and without addressing the legitimate concerns of all parties, including the DPRK’s security concern, denuclearization cannot be achieved in a real and sustainable way. We have to pursue both in parallel. This proposal makes clear the overall direction of denuclearization and at the same time satisfies all parties’ requirements in a reasonable and balanced way. We are willing to work with other parties to explore the pathway and steps for this dual track approach.

Third, China’s legitimate national interests must be upheld. Here the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system naturally comes to mind. The United States is considering the possibility of deploying THAAD in the Republic of Korea. It’s up to the ROK government to make a final decision. We of course will not interfere with ROK’s internal affair. We understand that under such a complex environment, the United States and the Republic of Korea have an urgent need to ensure their own security. But what you may not know is that the X-band radar associated with the THAAD system has a radius that goes far beyond the Korean Peninsula and reaches into the interior of China. In other words, China’s legitimate national security interests are likely to be jeopardized or threatened. So when the US and the ROK discuss the deployment of THAAD, China’s legitimate security concerns must be taken into consideration, and a credible and convincing explanation must be provided to China. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. It’s a reasonable position.

You may also be following the situation in the South China Sea. Let me say to you that the general situation there is stable. No commercial vessel has complained that its freedom of navigation had been threatened or jeopardized. It’s true that there are disputes over some of the islands and reefs in the Nansha, where 42 of China’s islands and reefs there have been illegally taken by others. Still, China wants to have a peaceful resolution of the issue through dialogue and negotiation, in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is a firm and clear commitment from the Chinese government, which is an important factor in ensuring overall stability of the South China Sea. We’re working with ASEAN countries to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and we’re speeding up consultation on a code of conduct in the South China Sea (COC) . China and ASEAN countries have every capability to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea on our own. We have made several proposals:

First, the claimants must peacefully resolve their disputes through negotiation in accordance with the DOC. Article 4 of the DOC makes it clear that the dispute must be resolved by the directly concerned states. Since the leaders of China and the 10 ASEAN countries have signed off on the DOC, it should be a binding document. The Philippines is not willing to have dialogue with China. Still, China and the other ASEAN countries are doing our best to implement this stipulation.

Second, non-claimants in the region, as states bordering the South China Sea, should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, and to uphold the freedom of navigation in accordance with international law. China will play its due role.

Third, countries outside the region, it is hoped, will support the resolution of the disputes through negotiation between the directly concerned parties, and will support the efforts of China and ASEAN to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

In my view, if all the three points are satisfied, then people don’t need to worry, peace and stability will be assured in the South China Sea.

Finally, I would like to speak about the China-US relationship. Many people are saying it is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. I agree. It’s a relationship between the world’s largest developed country and largest developing country. A good China-US relationship will benefit both nations and the world at large. However, if the relationship is mishandled, then we might fall into the so-called Thucydides trap. President Xi Jinping has suggested that the two countries work together to build a new model of major-country relationship. The goal is to make the relationship win-win for both sides. I think it’s the smart move and the right way to go. We’re working with the United States in this direction, to increase our dialogue, deepen mutual understanding and take forward our relationship. And we hope this vision will be shared by our two societies, and enjoy ever more support from the Chinese and American people.

Recently there have been quite some discussion about China-US relations. The media seem to be focusing on the differences in the relationship. After my meeting with Secretary Kerry, when we met the press, we both reaffirmed that the common interests of our two countries far exceed our differences. Never mind that there are differences, we can work together to address them through consultation. There is, however, one argument which merits our attention. Some friends in the US view China as the main rival of the United States. They worry about the prospect that one day, China will replace the US. This is a reflection of strategic mistrust between the two sides and of suspicion of China’s long-term, strategic intentions. And if the strategic mistrust is not addressed, small problems will grow into big ones and someone may create a problem where there should be none. On the other hand, if we can establish strategic trust, remove misunderstandings and strengthen strategic cooperation, then we can overcome any problem through dialogue and consultation.

Would China become the US’s principal rival some day, or even replace the US? This is a pseudo-argument. First of all, although China is the world’s second-biggest economy, in per capita terms we are behind over 80 other countries. Human development is the basis for national development. This is why we say we remain to be a developing country, and we still must focus our efforts on development, not just at present, but for a very long time to come. We will not vie against others, nor do we have the intention to replace others.

Secondly, China and the US are now in an age of interdependence. Many American businesses have thrived in China. More Chinese enterprises are entering the US. In almost all states here, there are Chinese companies creating jobs for the local people. Last year, China became the US’s biggest trading partner, with a trade volume of over $558 billion dollars. Mutual visits amounted to 4.75 million every year. Every day, tens of thousands of visitors fly between the two countries.

Why should there be conflict between two closely interdependent countries? If that happens, it will be a lose-lose situation. Only cooperation leads to a win-win situation. If everyone understands this, then there is no reason for confrontation. There is no reason to engage in zero-sum competition. Instead, there is every reason that we work with each other and deepen our cooperation. There are strong complementarities between China and the US. We should constantly explore the potential and space for China-US cooperation.

There is another reason why China will not replace the US. It is that China is not the US. China is always China, and will not become another United States. Expansionism is not in the DNA of the Chinese people. There is no urge for China to be the savior of the world. Over 2,000 years ago, we built the Great Wall for self-defense. That is a good manifestation of the Chinese culture. And this tradition will remain in our DNA. Even when in the future, when China becomes stronger and probably even the world’s biggest economy, China will still not be the United States. China will still act in the Chinese way, think the Oriental thinking, adopt a harmonious and inclusive attitude in dealing with other countries, and play our due role in world affairs. At that time, cooperation between China and the US will be deeper and closer. But for now, we must work hard to improve our understanding of each other.

This is the message I want to leave you. Thank you for your attention.

Suggest to a friend
Print