Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that China should have major-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics at the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs held in November 2014, which not only designated the direction for future development of China’s diplomacy, but also put forward new demands. How should one understand this new form of “major-power diplomacy”? In my opinion, China has now arrived as a country whose foreign diplomacy befits its role of an important country, which I outline as the following four elements.
“Major-power diplomacy” should have the ability to set the agenda, yet this agenda setting must still gain the approval and participations from the involved countries. Setting the agenda is the first step in the strategic planning, but for it to have real effects depends on external factors, namely the support and participation of the other countries involved.
“Major-powers” should have the capability to promote the strategy, primarily through material and monetary conditions necessary to advance the strategy. Actually, “big diplomacy” should at least have two characteristics—benefits for all and inclusiveness. In other words, the big country should take into account the interests of other countries when designing its diplomatic strategy, provide “public goods and service” to the world community and achieve win-win results.
“Major-power diplomacy” should be underwritten by a good decision-making mechanism. Improved diplomatic decision-making bodies ensure the scientific way to lay down the diplomatic strategy, and guarantee the timely and effective implementation of foreign policy.
“Major-power diplomacy” should have adequate flexibility and resilience, which mainly refers to the ability to adapt to new situations and recover from frustrations and setbacks. In other words, it should be capable of correction, reflection and resilience, and accordingly build the appropriate and effective policy monitoring systems, emergency mechanisms, and systems of evaluating its effectiveness.
Analyzed through the above four elements, China’s major-power diplomacy is taking shape. In terms of the agenda-setting capacity, since the establishment of Xi’s administration, a number of policy initiatives and strategic plans have been put forward, most of which receive the reception and support from relevant countries, such as the proposal to establish an Asia-Pacific free trade zone and an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
As for material conditions, China has become the world’s second largest economy since 2010 and has ample foreign exchange reserves, which provide a solid and indispensable material foundation for China’s diplomacy to achieve more. At the same time, China’s diplomacy has increasingly reflected the principle of “benefits for all.” The 18th CPC National Congress report explicitly declared that the Chinese government ensures that “China’s development will bring more benefits to our neighbors.” During a visit to Mongolia on August 21st to 23rd of last year, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech and made it clear that China welcomed others, even free-riders to “board China’s train of development.”
In the realm of mechanisms building, China has established a sound foreign policy decision-making system. After the establishment of the National Security Council, the system has become more refined and efficient. The big changes taking place in China’s foreign policy implementation during the last year have proved this point. As Mr. Zheng Yongnian in Singapore wrote in his article titled, “China Opens Major Diplomacy Era,” he is most probably right.