Ruan Zongze, China International Studies, January/February 2016
In his New Year Message for 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “It’s such a big world with so many problems. The international community expects to hear China’s voice and see its proposals. We cannot be absent.” Recognizing the profound changes taking place in the global landscape and the development trend of human society, President Xi has put forward a new concept of international relations, which is to “build a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at the core, and forge the community of shared destiny for all humankind.” This is not only a declaration of policy, but also a vision for international relations that transcends the old “zero sum game.”
Core of President Xi Jinping’s Diplomatic Theories and Practice
In the new year message, President Xi expressed the hope that “the international community can join hands to contribute more peace and cooperation to the world, turn confrontation into cooperation, turn conflicts into peace, and work together to build a community of shared destiny possessed and shared by people of all countries.” This is China’s world view; and also its global dream.
The opening ceremony of the AIIB was held on January 16, 2016. The photo snapped the moment that President Xi unveiled the symbol sculpture of the AIIB –“Midas Touch.”
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2012, the CPC Central Committee with President Xi Jinping as general secretary has been actively promoting the establishment of a “community of shared destiny for all humankind,” with win-win cooperation as its core value, refuting the idea that “a country will definitely seek hegemony once it becomes strong.” In March 2013, President Xi delivering a speech in Russia in which he said, “In the world today, countries are interconnected and interdependent in an unprecedented way. The human race lives in the same global village, and in the same space where history and reality meet. We are increasingly a community of shared destiny in which we are becoming ever more closely interconnected.” In April of the same year, in his speech during the Boao Forum for Asia, Xi stressed that, “Humans have only one planet, and all countries share the same world. Common development is an important basis for sustainable development, which is in line with the long-term and fundamental interests of people in all countries. As we live in the same global village, we should firmly establish a sense of a community of shared destiny, act in keeping with the times, grasp the correct direction, and make joint efforts to bring the development of Asia and beyond to a new level.” Xi has said he likes the phrase “community of shared destiny” very much, and in December 2015, he proposed “building a cyberspace community of shared destiny” at the Second World Internet Conference.
In September 2015, in his speech at the 70th UN General Assembly, Xi said that all countries now depend on each other and share together each other’s weal and woe. He said all countries should inherit and carry forward the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, build a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at the core, and establish a community of shared destiny for all humankind. He called for partnerships featuring equal treatment, wide consultation and mutual understanding, and the upholding of integrity and justice, and urged the establishment of a security structure shared by all. He said countries’ development paths should be mutually beneficial, inclusive and respect nature, and exchanges between civilizations featuring mutual accommodation and harmony without uniformity should be promoted. At the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia, Xi outlined four principles to promote the establishment of a community of shared destiny for all humankind: all countries should uphold mutual respect and equal treatment; adhere to win-win cooperation and common development; achieve common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security; and stick to inclusiveness, mutual accommodation, mutual learning and borrowing between different civilizations. From bilateral communities of shared destiny to regional communities of shared destiny, to a community of shared destiny for humankind, Xi has continually broadened the scope of China’s vision of a common community.
In recent years, China has being building communities of shared destiny with Arab states, Latin American countries, African countries and ASEAN countries. It has further proposed to build an “Asian community of shared destiny,” “a community of shared destiny with China’s neighboring countries” and “a community of shared destiny for all humankind.” Xi has explained the concept in different ways. For example: “Once the water rises, the lotus blooms higher”; “You travel faster when you travel alone, but you travel farther when you travel with others”; “One single tree is incapable of blocking the wind”; “When the big river is full of water, the smaller ones will never run dry, and vice versa”; “One will burn one’s hair blowing out another’s candle”; “A single flower does not make a spring, which is defined by all flowers in bloom.” These traditional expressions vividly portray the concept, and show that a community of common destiny for all humankind is now at the heart of China’s diplomatic theory and practice. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has pointed out that the country’s new type of international relations answer the question of what kind of international relations China wants to build. And a community of shared destiny for humankind further answers the question of what kind of a world China seeks to build. “Once this important idea was raised, it was universally recognized and welcomed by the international community, developing countries in particular. It is becoming another important banner of China’s diplomacy on the global stage.”
The Chinese Dream and a Community of Shared Destiny
Provide Opportunities for Each Other First of all, the destiny of China is closely related to that of the world. The Chinese dream and the dream of building a community of shared destiny for all humankind depend on each other and reinforce each other. China thus has two dreams: the Chinese dream and a global dream. The realization of the Chinese dream also requires the construction of the community of shared destiny for all humankind. While, at the same time, it is of great significance for the global community that China realize the Chinese dream.
Never before has China been so close to the center of the global stage. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, it has been a common expectation of the Chinese people that the Chinese dream of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be realized. The realization of the Chinese dream and the peaceful development of the world are closely associated and offer opportunities to each other. On December 5, 2012, when he was talking to foreign experts living in China, President Xi mentioned the relationship between China’s development and the shared destiny of the global community, saying, “Our undertaking is an undertaking to achieve win-win cooperation with all countries around the world. The international community is increasingly becoming a community of shared destiny in which every country is dependent on one another.” Countries should be consistent with the trend of the times, grasp the right direction, and achieve mutual benefit and win-win results by firmly establishing the awareness of a community of shared destiny for all mankind.
In the face of the great changes and adjustments taking place in the world, China’s diplomacy in the new era has adopted a broader global vision and sense of responsibility. The CPC Central Committee coordinates domestic and international policies, strengthens top-level design, and combines various diplomatic approaches such as host diplomacy, pointenhancing diplomacy, and multilateral diplomacy. Being both flexible and pragmatic, China’s diplomacy employs both hard and soft approaches and makes greater progress with each passing year. Xi makes the most of various international occasions and forums to explain to the outside world “China’s story” and create a favorable environment for the realization of the Chinese dream. He clarifies what kind of a country China is, China’s commitment to a peaceful path of development, the future prospects for the Chinese economy, and why the Chinese dream is of great significance to the world. Xi has pointed out that we should “focus on the new situation and new tasks, actively promote diplomatic innovation in terms of theory and practice, give priority to explaining how the Chinese dream is relevant to the world, enrich the strategic thinking of peaceful development, establish a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, uphold friendship and use the right way to achieve interests, advocate common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security values, build a new type of relationship between major countries, put forward and implement the philosophy on peripheral diplomacy of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and carry out the guidelines of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith in our relations with African countries.
In 2015, China made sustained efforts to strengthen its diplomacy and this yielded remarkable results. President Xi made eight foreign visits in 2015, covering four continents, 14 countries and nine international conferences. The fruits of these include: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which has been officially launched, preliminary achievements of the Belt and Road Initiative, China provided another $60 billion as assistance for Africa, the renminbi was successfully included in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies, and China joined the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The US Congress approved the reform program of the IMF, which raised China’s share in the institution from 3.996 percent to 6.394 percent, and it now ranks third among all member countries, up from sixth. This move has added to China’s weight in the global economy. The free trade agreements China signed with South Korea and Australia came into force on December 20, 2015. All these show, as Xi said, “China will always open its arms to the rest of the world; and we will try our best to help those in need. We will make our circle of friends larger and larger.”
Second, the world expects China to play a greater role. By advocating the building a community of shared destiny for all humankind, President Xi is demonstrating China’s willingness to shoulder greater responsibility in world affairs. And, as he has pointed out, that while the Chinese people uphold patriotism, they also have global horizons and think globally. As the country’s national strength grows, China will shoulder more international responsibilities and obligations within its capabilities, so as to make greater contributions to world peace and global development.10 Today’s China is a global country. The Chinese people share weal and woe with the rest of the planet. As a builder of and contributor to the international order, China actively participates in global governance, and it is expanding its status and role in world affairs. China played a key role in the making of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the post-2020 climate change arrangement. It has also actively responded to all kinds of global challenges, including terrorism. In September 2015, during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, President Xi expounded China’s “five-in-one” values on international order, which was the first time that the ecological system was introduced in the context of the international order.
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. As a founding member of the UN, China has taken concrete actions to support the organization in its efforts to play a larger role. Xi announced that China would join the new UN peacekeeping standby mechanism. China has taken the lead in the formation of a standing peacekeeping force, and established a 8,000-people standby peacekeeping force. In the next five years, China will train 2,000 peacekeeping personnel for other countries, and carry out 10 mine clearance assistance projects; provide the African Union with $100 million of free military assistance, so as to support the establishment of Africa’s standing army and emergency response forces; arrange the first helicopter unit for the peacekeeping operations of the UN in Africa; and part of the China-UN Peace and Development Fund will be used to support the peacekeeping operations of the UN.11 Xi stressed in the UN Development Summit that we needed to promote fair, open, comprehensive and innovative development. In the future, China will continue to follow the principle of “pursuing both integrity and interests, with priority given to integrity,” and make joint efforts with other countries to realize the post-2015 development agenda. China will establish the South-South cooperation assistance fund, and offer $2 billion as the first period support for developing countries to implement their post-2015 development agenda. It will also intensify its investment in the least developed countries, striving to invest $12 billion by 2030. It will also remit the unpaid intergovernmental interest-free loans and debts due by 2015 of the least developed countries, inland developing countries and small island developing countries.12 Though still a developing country, China is willing to do its best to contribute to the economic growth of other developing countries and the improvement of people’s livelihoods in those countries.
From late November to early December 2015, during the opening session of the Paris Conference on Climate Change, President Xi called on the developed countries to share more and take more responsibility to achieve mutual benefits and win-win results. He further said that we should ensure the effective compliance and implementation of international rules, uphold democracy, equality, justice, and the international rule of law, and follow the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and that all countries should be allowed to seek the strategies and responses to climate change most suited to their national conditions. During the critical period of negotiations, President Xi talked to President Obama on the telephone, which played a major role in enabling the conference to achieve concrete results. After the Paris climate change agreement was signed, Xi talked with Obama again, as scheduled, to emphasize that China stands ready to coordinate and cooperate with all relevant parties including the United States, so as to ensure the effective implementation of the agreement, expand bilateral pragmatic cooperation in the field of climate change, and bring more and better benefits to people of China and the United States, as well as the other parts of the world. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that China had demonstrated “strong leadership” to promote and secure an agreement in Paris.
Focusing on the building of a community of common destiny for all humankind, President Xi has spread China’s voice by fully explaining China’s views on the most important issues facing the world today, covering such fields as politics, economy, security, culture, global governance, the environment, development, counterterrorism, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, peacekeeping, the rights of women, and natural disasters. These efforts have raised the strength of China’s voice in discussing global issues and shaping international rules, enhanced the transparency and predictability of China’s policies, and won the praise of the international community.
The Building of a Community of Shared Destiny for All Humankind Promotes Major-Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics
The concept of a community of common destiny for all humankind has enriched China’s strategic thinking of peaceful development. The report of the 18th CPC National Congress points out that China will continue to hold high the banners of peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, and will unswervingly seek to safeguard world peace and promote common development. It further stresses that China remains committed to the path of peaceful development, adheres to an independent foreign policy of peace, and follows its opening-up strategy for mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. In January 2013, when he was presiding over the group study of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee, President Xi pointed out that while pursuing the path of peaceful development, we cannot sacrifice our core national interests. For the first time, the Chinese leader clarified the dialectics of China’s peaceful development as well as its bottom line. He stressed that China should be good at analyzing the general situation to make the right decisions while “grasping the international trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation, and the domestic trend of prosperity, strength, democracy, cultural progress, and harmony.”
The Paris Climate Conference is held from 30 November to 12 December 2015 aimed
at reaching an inter’l deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curtail climate change.
Faced with rapid changes in the international situation, China’s diplomatic thinking and practice have been highly innovative, demonstrating distinct Chinese characteristics: In terms of major-country relations, China has proposed a new type of major country relationship featuring “nonconflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation”; in terms of country-to-country relations, it follows a path of “upholding dialogue rather than confrontation, and partnership rather than alignment.” China seeks to make friends with as many countries as possible, and forge a network of partnerships covering the whole world and a circle of friends that expands with each passing year (see the chart below). But even as China promotes the establishment of a community of shared destiny for all humankind, it must properly deal with its relations with other major countries, as well as its developing neighbors. In terms of conflicts, China consistently advocates solving disputes through dialogue and disagreements through consultations.
China’s partnerships with 74 countries or organizations at the end of 2015
Note: Resource from mfa.gov.cn, xinhuanet.com and people.com.cn, as of 2015.
China-Russia relations have been managed at a high level. Russia outnumbers all other countries as the host of President Xi’s visits. Both in 2013 and 2014, President Xi paid visits to Russia. In May and July 2015, he went to Russia twice to attend the event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of Russia’s great patriotic war, and the BRICS Summit and SCO Summit in Ufa. President Putin also visited China in early September 2015 to attend the event commemorating the 70th anniversary of victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945) and the world’s war against fascism. The two leaders have had close communication and frequent meetings. In December, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev co-chaired the 20th China-Russian regular prime ministerial meeting in Beijing, with over 30 bilateral cooperation documents signed to enrich the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries. China and Russia also cooperate closely within the platforms of United Nations, G20, and BRICS. The coordination and communication on international and regional issues have enriched and deepened the China-Russia strategic partnership of coordination.
China has pioneered a new type of major country relationship with the United States. China-US relations in the 21st century and the future of the world will be determined by whether the two countries, as the world’s largest and second-largest economies, can coexist peacefully. In February 2012, when Xi was visiting the United States as Chinese vice-president, he proposed building a new type of major country relationship. This was unprecedented. In November of the same year, the report of the 18th CPC National Congress pointed out that we should “establish a new type of major country relationship featuring long-term, stable and healthy development.” In September 2015, President Xi paid his first state visit to the United States, during which the two countries further removed doubts, focused on cooperation and looked forward to the future. Against the complex backdrop of the United States’ upcoming presidential election and its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, both leaderships have stressed the need to further expand cooperation and effectively manage disagreements. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, this visit “will lay a solid foundation for the development of China-US relations over the longer term, create more opportunities for China to realize domestic development goals, and set a good example for building new type of international relations.” To build a new type of major country relationship featuring “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation” has become the basic guiding principle of China-US relations. Special meetings between the two leaders, such as the “no-ties meeting” in Sunnylands in 2013, the Zhongnanhai talks in 2014 and White House talks in 2105, have helped promote a new type of major country relationship between China and the United States. Despite all the twists and turns on the road towards a new type of major country relationship, travelling along this road is an irresistible trend.
The dialogue and cooperation between China and the European Union have been in-depth and extensive. In March 2014, President Xi paid a historic visit to the EU headquarters and proposed establishing a China-EU partnership for peace, growth, reform, and civilization. 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China
and the European Union. In late September, President Xi paid a successful state visit to the United Kingdom, signing deals worth 40 billion pounds. During his visit, the United Kingdom expressed the desire to be China’s “best partner in the West.” China-UK relations are now believed to have entered a “golden age.” Subsequently, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande successively visited China. The intensive meetings and discussions about cooperation among the leaders of China, the United Kingdom, Germany and France have helped to further advance China-EU relations. From late June to early July, Premier Li Keqiang flew to the EU headquarters to attend the 17th China-EU Summit and visited Belgium and France. China and the European Union have made great efforts to align the Belt and Road Initiative with the Europe Development Plan, international production capacity cooperation with the Investment Plan for Europe, and “16+1” cooperation with China-Europe cooperation. For 11 consecutive years, the European Union has been the largest trading partner of China. And for 12 consecutive years, China has been the European Union’s second-largest trading partner. In 2014, bilateral trade exceeded $600 billion. The European Union’s cumulative investment in China has reached nearly $100 billion. In 2014, China’s investment in Europe exceeded Europe’s investment in China for the first time.
The proposal to establish a community of shared destiny for all humankind has made China a shaper of its peripheral diplomacy, which enables it to better safeguard peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s peripheral areas have been basically stable, with the regional economy growing rapidly. However, recently, some countries both inside and outside of the region have colluded with one another to make trouble in the South China Sea. Some countries outside the region are interfering in the disputes with a view to provoking conflicts between China and its neighbors so that they can benefit from the troubles. In October 2013, the central government held a symposium on peripheral diplomacy, which comprehensively analyzed China’s peripheral diplomacy and strengthened its top-level design. China’s guideline for its peripheral diplomacy is “being a good neighbor and partner” and it adheres to a policy of “building an amicable, prosperous and secure neighborhood” through amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. In April 2015, when President Xi went to Indonesia to attend events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Summit and the Bandung Conference, he proposed strengthening Asian-African cooperation and promoting the building of a community of common destiny for all humankind to bring greater benefits to people in Asia, Africa and beyond. China and ASEAN are each other’s opportunities. As a community of common interests and destiny, the two sides are committed to building “diamond years” over the next 10 years, promoting the China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone version 2.0, and discussing and concluding a treaty on goodneighborliness, friendship and cooperation, so as to provide an institutional framework and legal guarantee for the long-lasting peaceful coexistence of both sides. China insists on dealing with the South China Sea issues with a dual track approach—direct negotiations between disputing parties and joint efforts to maintain peace and stability—so that the issues will not affect China-ASEAN relations as a whole. In November of the same year, President Xi visited Vietnam and Singapore, two countries along the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, in order to further expand friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN countries.
In October 2015, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited South Korea and attended the sixth China-Japan-ROK Summit. The total GDP of China, Japan and South Korea is more than $16 trillion, accounting for over 20 percent of the world’s total. The foreign trade volume of the three countries is nearly $7 trillion, accounting for over 20 percent of the world’s total. The China-Japan-ROK Summit is an important platform to promote Northeast Asia cooperation. However, after the fifth meeting in May 2012, China-Japan and South Korea-Japan relations deteriorated due to the actions and words of the Japanese government. The resumption of the summit after three year will help improve relations, manage disputes, and promote the peace and stability of Northeast Asia. In November 2014, during the East Asia Summit, Premier Li said China stood ready to join hands with countries in the region to build an Asian community of shared interests, shared responsibilities and shared destiny. In November 2015, Premier Li attended the 18th meeting of China-ASEAN “10+1” Summit, the 18th ASEAN “10+3” Summit with China, Japan and ROK, as well as the 10th East Asia Summit, and visited Malaysia. In short, from Central Asia to Southeast Asia, from Northeast Asia to South Asia, the Chinese leaders have sought to build a community of shared destiny for all humankind starting with neighboring countries.
As the largest developing country in the world, China shares a unique relationship with other developing countries. In 2015, the arrangement and plan of China’s diplomacy have given priority to developing countries. 2015 started with the China-CELAC Forum, and ended with the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The China-CELAC Forum, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and China-Arab States Cooperation Forum have become three major platforms for China to build a community of common destiny with developing countries. Together with the Belt and Road Initiative, the three platforms cover most of the developing countries in the world.
In early December 2015, President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Zimbabwe and South Africa, and co-chaired the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation with the South African President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg. He delivered a speech titled Open a New Era of China-Africa Win-Win Cooperation and Common Development, which expressed China’s willingness to join hands with Africa to implement 10 major cooperation plans over the next three years. President Xi presided over the adoption of the Declaration of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018) of the
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and gave a closing speech, in which he stressed that China’s policy toward African countries is one of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and it upholds friendship and the right way to achieve interests. Xi said China will continue to join hands with African countries to make even greater progress and realize the common development of China and Africa. Despite all the readjustment and evolution of the international pattern, the brotherhood of equality, mutual trust and mutual support between China and Africa remains unchanged. Despite the ups and downs of the economic situation, the fundamental purpose of win-win cooperation and common development between China and Africa remain unchanged. Despite all the changes of the times and society, the coordination spirit of mutual understanding and common progress between China and Africa remains unchanged. Despite all the possible threats and challenges, the firm will to share weal and woe between China and Africa remains unchanged. In December 2015, the Chinese government issued the second document about China’s Africa policy, which comprehensively explained the new ideas, initiatives and measures of China. After 15 years of efforts, the trade volume between China and Africa has jumped from $10 billion to $220 billion, and China’s investment in Africa has soared from $500 million to nearly $30 billion; over 3,000 Chinese enterprises have chosen to invest and run business in the African continent. China has won the trust of African countries through sincere cooperation. The mutually beneficial cooperation between China and African countries has witnessed remarkable achievements, effectively responding to some of the Western media which have tried hard to discredit China’s role in Africa.
Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as general secretary, China is vigorously advancing the strategic deployment of the Four Comprehensives—to comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepen reform, comprehensively govern the nation according to law, and comprehensively govern the Party strictly—and making unremitting efforts to establish a well-off society in an all-round manner and realize the first centenary goal of building of a moderately prosperous society by 2020. The major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics embodies the great traditions of China with an innovative and pioneering spirit, and it has made visible and concrete achievements. The community of shared destiny for all humankind advocated by President Xi vividly encapsulates China’s global vision. As another major idea on international relations after the “new type of international relations,” it transcends the zero-sum game mentality which has prevailed in historical hegemony-seeking between big powers. When it comes to international and regional hotspot issues, China actively promotes peace and dialogue, shoulders its due responsibilities, and upholds fairness and justice. To actions that violate rules governing international relations and the spirit of the UN Charter, China dares to say no, which is also a demonstration of its sense of responsibility. Living in the same global village, the human race has witnessed more and more common challenges, and its destiny should be considered with a global view. But the world is very diverse and the future should be built not only upon the idea of “seeking agreement,” but also upon “allowing differences.”
2016 marks the first year of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). China is moving from being a big country to a strong country. With the globalization of China’s interests, the challenges it faces are also globalized. Therefore, China must be good at creating opportunities in a smart way, uphold trust and good-neighborliness, highlight its priorities, and make steady and concrete progress. Guided by the principle of building a community of common destiny for all humankind, Chinese diplomacy promises to become even more fruitful and outstanding.
Ruan Zongze is Senior Research Fellow and Executive Vice President of China Institute of International Studies.