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Foreign Policy

Foreign Minister Clarifies China’s Stance

Mar 13, 2023
  • Zhong Yin

    Research Professor, Research Institute of Global Chinese and Area Studies, Beijing Language and Culture University

Qin Gang, China’s new foreign minister, in his first media appearance held on the sidelines of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress recently, outlined China’s foreign policy agenda for the coming years. He elaborated on the country’s concerns and the guiding principles governing those concerns.

Qin’s remarks provided signposts for understanding the trend of China’s foreign policy as the country begins to implement the plan of the 20th Communist Party of China National Congress, which revolves around modernization and high-quality development. It’s also a time of rising rivalry between China and the United States.

Among other things, Qin stressed China’s understanding of world politics and international relations today and how it intends to respond. “The world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century,” he said, noting that the situation is “far from tranquil.” It is entangled in turmoil and transformation, including “the clash between unity and division and the coexistence of opportunities and challenges.” All this shows, in China’s eyes, that the world situation has become more grave, messy and challenging. Yet China still believes something positive exists that may bring about transformation, unity and opportunities. China will continue to be “a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order,” Qin said, and it will continue to pursue the independent foreign policy of peace and continue to open-up.

In recent decades, with China’s growth and influence expanding, it has actively promoted overseas engagement, such as the Belt and Road Initiative and showed firm resolve in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly on the Taiwan question

Meanwhile, the United States has been busy pushing a false narrative centered on China’s aggression, coercion and pillage. The latest version of the China threat theory is that the problem is systemic. Thus, virtually every aspect of China’s strength, ranging from the country’s political system and economic pattern to military development and involvement in foreign affairs has been targeted. Recently, this emphasis on the threat narrative has reached new heights in the wake of the balloon incident, a fabricated plan by China to sell arms to Russia and allegations that the Chinese mainland intends to attack Taiwan in the near future. The U.S. is especially sensitive about new trends of development in China’s domestic affairs as presented at the annual “Two Sessions,” and is looking to add any new elements it can to the “threat” theory.

Under this circumstances, Qin reiterated China’s benign intention to build world peace and common prosperity and its firm resolve to constructively develop both domestically and abroad. China will pursue coordination and sound interactions between major countries and seek friendship and cooperation. It will take openness and development as the objective and “facilitate high-quality development and high-standard opening-up,” he said. China will not provoke hostility but will continue on its path of reform and opening-up, seeking quality rather than quantity as the main goal.

Qin’s words, if properly absorbed and interpreted, should assuage the alleged concern about the direction of China’s development. Climbing the economic ladder is the right of any sovereign country and the commitment of any decent government to its people.  

Rather than reading objectively between the lines of what Qin was saying about China’s world vision, some people in the U.S. are trying hard to twist it negatively as usual. American media tends to have such headlines as “China’s new foreign minister warns of conflict,” or “China’s new foreign minister slams U.S. ‘malicious confrontation.’ ” It would be better for one to read the original, so that one may understand what China really means.

When asked how to make the bilateral relationship stable and healthy “given the widening conflict of interests on a whole range of issues,” Qin responded by saying about China’s unmanned airship that the U.S. “overreacted, abused and dramatized” the incident. In his eyes, this reveals that the U.S. perceptions of China as its biggest geopolitical challenge “are seriously distorted.” He further pointed out that rather than competing fairly as promised, the U.S. actually wants to contain or suppress China. The alleged goal of “establishing guardrails” is really just a way of constraining China.

Qin’s response also shows China’s increasing frustration with U.S. behavior. Although the Biden administration has expressed willingness  to manage the relationship “responsibly,” actual actions have not matched the words — especially when you think of the unprecedented scale of U.S. involvement in Taiwan affairs and the fierce economic isolation and technological sanctions it placed on China recently.

The underlying problem is structural — that is, the dominant power doesn’t want to share positive common interests with a rising power, especially when the latter holds a different value system.

Qin stressed that China — a country with a long tradition of independent diplomacy and peace — “will take it as our mission” to defend its core interests and “resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”

On the Taiwan question, China seeks to resolve the issue peacefully; however, it will never give up force as a last resort. This is why Qin reiterated China’s resolve to counter power politics and containment of any type. On the other hand, China continues to adhere to the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, win-win cooperation and pursuing a sound and stable relationship with the United States. Good wishes can only work with courage and strength.    

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