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Foreign Policy

China’s Policies Make More True Friends

May 31 , 2016
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

hout any doubt, it is not true in any sense to say that the People’s Republic of China is essentially friendless. In the eyes of most Chinese, China is not alone, and it has friends all over the world. Chinese are often proud of citing the following example to describe their friends:It is their poor friends and little friends in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other justice-upholding countries who carried China into the United Nations in 1971, when the 26th session of the UN General Assembly passed a resolution restoring all of the legitimate rights of China to the PRC in the UN. The vote was by overwhelming majority, 76 votes to 35, with 17 abstentions.

It is generally understood that the foreign policy of a sovereign country is closely associated with making friends by the country. But foreign policy is not the only factor. The country’s political system and domestic policies also play an important role. In a larger picture, the changing world situation and international structure also have an impact on making friends. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Chinese and some US scholars sometimes have totally different assessments of China’s friends. When we take into account the following major differences between China and the US, we’ll see more clearly how China and the US define and make friends in different ways.

The first is the fact that China and the US are different in their political and economic systems. China is a socialist country under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, while the US is a capitalist country in which the President, Congress and judiciary share powers. China has a socialist market economy, which is under a constant process of perfection, with the common development of businesses of both public ownership and various other ownerships. The US, for most part, has a market economy in which individual producers and consumers determine the kind of goods and services produced and the prices of those products. When making friends, those differences could either help or hinder China or the US in promoting mutual understanding, exchanges and cooperation. During the Cold War period, the political system of a country and geopolitical interests played a dominant role in the division of the capitalist and socialist camps of countries led by the US and the Soviet Union. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the world situation witnessed dramatic changes. With the further implementation of its policy of reform and opening-up, China continued to make more new friends with developing and developed countries. Now, China has established economic, trade and cultural relations with almost all countries and regions in the world. But the US still has constant troubles with a number of countries whose governance is different from its own.

The second is the fact that China is a developing country that has an urgent need for further development,while the US is a well-developed country, and also the only superpower in the world. Before US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, it was not strange that China had a large number of developing countries, not many developed countries, as its close friends. As China’s policy of reform and opening-up achieved great successes, especially its economic development momentum in the last 10 or 20 years, industrialized countries have seen growing business opportunities in China. China’s circle of friends keeps on expanding. The strong support of a great many countries for China’s initiative on the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and on the Belt and Road are the most recent examples of China’s growing number of friends. The US has now stressed n making new friends with newly emerging countries, especially in Asia. The interesting new phenomenon to note is the competition between China and the US for friends on certain specific issues and in some specific areas. It is more interesting to see that most countries want to be friends of both China and the US when the two countries have a dispute. Despite the repeated calls for joint patrols in the South China Sea by the US military, none of the Asian countries, with the exception of the Philippines, has expressed its readiness to join the US navy. The US has also remained the lone seller of arms to Taiwan, although the US acknowledges it to be a part of China.

The third is the fact that China is promoting the establishment of a new international relationship of win-win cooperation, while the US is doing every thing possible to maintain its leadership or dominance in the world. Therefore, China is making friends with all countries so long as they respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and adopt a friendly policy towards China, while the US always wishes to have an enemy or adversary and persists in carrying out a strategy of military alliance. As a result, China has no military allies, while the US has a good number of both staunch and reluctant military allies.

The fourth is the fact that China strictly observes the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries, and opposes the use or the threat to use of force in international relations, while the US has all along pursued a policy of intervention in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries, either by military force or by other peaceful means. As a result, the US has a very close friend or very good friends for a certain period of time. However, when those countries have big changes in political situation, they often become reluctant friends or even enemies. Such instances are not rare in recent history. By comparison, friends of China’s are stable and more sincere, as China does not get involved in the internal affairs of its friends.

As China is so different from the US in many ways, it will not imitate the US-style military alliance strategy. It has no intention to seek expansion or hegemony by military force. China knows very well that there is still a long way to go before it reaches the level of a modestly developed country. But China is very confident that its domestic and foreign policies are making a growing number of true friends in the world. By making friends on the basis of common economic and security interests, and under the principle of equality and mutual benefit, China is focusing on world peace and prosperity. The US, on the contrary, has done great harm to world peace and prosperity by implementing its strategies of military alliance and of intervention. Up to now, the aftermath of the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq launched by the US with the support of its allies or close friends is still destabilizing the two countries and the whole region. This lesson paid for by lives and blood should never be forgotten.

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