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Foreign Policy

On the Road to Cooperation

Apr 02 , 2013
  • Fu Mengzi

    VP, China Institutes of Contemporary Int'l Relations

President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo, and his participation in the fifth BRICS summit in Durban has sparked speculation over China’s diplomatic inclinations among some circles overseas.

Many believe Xi’s first foreign trip after becoming president highlights China’s diplomatic priority. This has given rise to different interpretations about Beijing’s foreign policy leanings and response to international events.

That Russia was chosen as the first stop for Xi’s weeklong visit shows the great importance China’s new leadership attaches to developing ties with the world’s major powers as well as neighboring countries.

China and Russia established a constructive partnership in 1994, followed by a higher-level strategic cooperative partnership in 1996. The two countries’ development-focused ties have helped them strengthen mutual political trust and deepen cooperation. In fact, taking bilateral ties to new heights is part of both countries’ foreign policy agenda.

“China and Russia are mutually the main and the most important strategic partners”, Xi said in a recent interview with journalists from BRICS member states, giving Sino-Russian ties an unequivocal strategic orientation. The agreement between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin to carry out “all-direction strategic” cooperation is expected to further raise the level and quality of bilateral ties.

Xi’s visit to Africa shows that China’s new leadership also attaches great importance to developing ties with developing countries and old friends in Africa. Xi’s visit to Tanzania is aimed at promoting mutually beneficial and win-win partnerships with African countries. Tanzania’s friendship with China can be traced to the 1970s when the generations-long symbol of Sino-African friendship, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway was built.

His visit to South Africa to attend the BRICS summit reflects that China regards its relationships with emerging markets as very valuable and that its diplomatic focus is on multilateral cooperation.

Xi’s foreign visit is also aimed at popularizing the “Chinese Dream” and promoting a mutually beneficial and win-win diplomatic approach among other countries. After three decades of fast-paced economic growth, China has become stronger in many respects. But Chinese people are yet to realize the dream of national rejuvenation.

Chinese people yearn for better education, stable and higher income, a more powerful social security system, a better and more accessible healthcare system, a more comfortable housing market, and cleaner environment, said Xi. As the president of a developing socialist country, Xi’s emphasis on the “Chinese Dream” at important international events reflects the high degree of self-confidence and political responsibility the new Chinese leadership has when it comes to improving Chinese people’s livelihood.

Xi said that other nations, too, have dreams. Russia, for example, wants to realize the dream of national rejuvenation. Expanding and strengthening cooperation between China and Russia, especially in the context of the global financial crisis and economic slowdown, will help both countries realize their dreams.

During his presidential election campaign, Putin had stressed that Russia needed to borrow “China’s whirlwind” to push the sail of Russia’s economy. He had also said that Russia needed a prosperous and stable China, while China needed a strong and successful Russia. It is this common aspiration of realizing their national dreams that has prompted China and Russia to strengthen their strategic cooperative partnership.

Xi’s visit to Africa is aimed at strengthening China-African cooperation, and promoting peace and prosperity across the world. It is in this context that Xi said in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that a wealthier China would be better placed to help African people fulfill the “African dream”.

Although globalization has made countries interdependent, international relations is still plagued by the Cold War mentality and power politics. No single country or bloc of countries alone can dominate world affairs today. The colonial approach of handling international affairs will not work either. China will adhere to its peaceful development path without trying to spread its development model despite its success. Above all, it will continue to attach great value to mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

No political system or development model can be suitable for all countries, Xi said in Tanzania. Every country should respect others’ choice of development models. Xi’s remark that “Africa is the Africa of African people” shows that China has the highest degree of respect for African countries and people, and their choice of development models.

The trade, infrastructure building and cultural exchange agreements signed between China and African countries will enrich the substance of China-Africa cooperation.

Pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia, between China and African countries, and between China and other BRICS member states will help build a new state-to-state cooperation mechanism, and strengthened cooperation among emerging nations will promote democracy and fairness in international relations.

Fu Mengzi is vice-president of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Copyright: China Daily

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