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Foreign Policy

Building a Community of Nations with Common Interests and Common Destiny

Oct 24 , 2016
  • He Yafei

    Former Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

After a successful G20 Summit in Hangzhou last September, world attention has been riveted on China’s foreign policy under President Xi Jinping, in particular on China’s proposal to build a community of nations with common interests and common destiny.

What does it mean for China’s foreign policy?

Generally speaking, it comes from China’s cultural DNA of “peace” which develops into “peaceful development” and “win-win through cooperation” as the main theme of China’s diplomacy.

To be specific, it is reflected in five major elements in China’s foreign policy of today.

First, it is China’s strategy of peace and development. Peace is the prerequisite of development while development is the foundation for building and maintaining peace. They are two sides of the same coin, inseparable from each other.

The trajectory of the People’s Republic since 1949 has born witness to the right path China has chosen for herself. The first 30 years saw China establishing the socialist system and its economic foundation. The next three decades witnessed China’s strategic decision to open up and reform, which produced an economic miracle with greatly enhanced comprehensive national strength. The latest round of development started from the 18th CPC Congress in late 2012 under the leadership of President Xi, which puts China “at a new historical starting point” whereupon China has been growing steadily and engaging more deeply in global governance. We can see clearly that peaceful international environment and continuous economic growth are the two pillars underpinning China’s full development.

China recognizes from her own development and interaction with the rest of the world that her relations with the world has undergone historical changes and a de facto community of nations with common interests and increasing interdependence is emerging on the horizon. China’s pursuit of peace and development is beneficial to both China and the world as a whole.

Second, it is the determination and capability of China to safeguard her sovereignty, national security and development interests that provide a solid basis for pursuing her strategy of peace and development.

From Opium War of 1840 up to the founding of New China in 1949, China had been a victim of foreign aggression, plundering and internal strife which bears the sad name of “a hundred years of humiliation”. It is from such deep-scarred memories that China comes to the realization that without sovereignty, national security and economic strength, China will not be able to enjoy peace and development, not to speak of fulfilling her special responsibility of maintaining world peace and security under “The United Nation Charter”.

It is certainly not power politics. A strong China both politically and economically is a force for global peace. Chinese leaders for several generations have pledged to the world that China will never ever be a hegemonic power with expansionist ambitions seeking her own sphere of influence. At the same time, nobody should ever expect China to swallow the bitter fruit of any detriment to her sovereignty and national security. It will be a huge strategic mistake for any country to underestimate China’s determination in this regard.

Third, it is China’s pronounced pursuit to build a network of global partnership to pave the way for a community of nations with common interests and common destiny.

As repeatedly emphasized by President Xi, humankind has been living in the same “global village” with increasing interdependence which necessitates establishing a network of global partners based on equality, cooperation and mutual benefit.

The idea of global partnership is both a continuation and innovation of non-alignment that provides a new structure for global security and international order in sharp contrast to the existing security order based on bilateral and multilateral military alliances. China’s pursuit of global partnership should not be misperceived as an effort by China to overthrow the current international system and global governance architecture.

Fourth, China’s diplomacy is oriented towards maintaining the current international order and global governance system shaped by the end of WWII and consolidated in the last seven decades. Therefore China is determined to safeguard basic principles and purposes of “The UN Charter” and the UN system, to promote a free and open global trade and investment regime, to reform and perfect global governance system including international economic and financial setups.

President Xi points out that China favors building new international relations based on a win-win approach through cooperation. For that purpose China will persist in opening up both to developed and developing countries. With the collapse of economic neo-liberalism and “Washington Consensus”, the world is searching for new model of economic growth and international cooperation.

In that context, China stands out in her economic growth model and new ideas for global governance that have attracted attention from many countries. China’s proposal to build the new Silk Road (One Belt & One Road Initiative) and her successful hosting of G20 Summit recently are two examples worth mentioning.

Fifth, China proposed the idea of building “the new type of big power relations” based on the principle of no-confrontation, no-conflict, mutual respect and win-win through cooperation. This proposal also applies to China’s relations with other major powers.

The Sino-US relationship is the most important one in today’s world because they are the two biggest economies as well as the most influential nations in geo-political terms. A good and stable bilateral relationship will not only benefit China and the US but also the world as a whole. It will in a way determine the future of the world we live in. Should the two nations fall into “the Thucydides Trap” either by default or pulled into it by a “third party”, it would be really tragic for both nations and for the rest of the world.

From the above we are reassured that the strategy of peace and development is the right choice by China as well as in the best interest of the world. 

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