An Anchor of Stability amid Global Turbulence and a Positive Force in the Changing International Landscape

By Zhou Jian

The world is in the middle of profound development, transformation and adjustment. The international situation features volatility and turbulence, as evidenced by an obvious increase of uncertainties and destabilizing factors. Against this backdrop, China, as the biggest developing country, the second largest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has resolutely safeguarded its legitimate rights and interests, shouldered its international responsibilities, and become an anchor of international stability, an engine of global growth, a champion of peace and development and an active participant in global governance.

I. The world is fraught with volatility and turbulence.

Following a series of “Black Swan” events last year, the trend toward volatility and turbulence continues to unfold in 2017, giving rise to concerns over the elusive security, the ineffective governance and the sluggish economy. 

Ineffective governance. Since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, the negative impact of economic stagnation has spilled over to social and political areas. The immediate result is the emergence of populism, protectionism and anti-globalization sentiments in developed countries. 

The new US administration clamors for “America first”, pursuing a hard-line immigration policy, planning to erect a wall along the US-Mexico border and renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement, and backsliding on the multilateral trading regime, climate change and other issues. The European integration process trudges ahead amid difficulties, with the UK officially kicking off the Brexit negotiations and the EU bringing up the idea of a “Multi-speed Europe” for the first time at its summit. With Europe entangled in economic malaise, refugee crisis, terrorist attacks and other problems, the general public there are more and more disappointed with conventional politics and the elite groups. Some fringe parties that preach populism are expanding rapidly, exerting huge impact on political changes. Plagued by mounting economic, social and political problems, developed countries tend to be more inward-looking and play a diminishing role in shaping economic globalization and global governance.

Complex and intertwined security challenges. Since the beginning of this year, the interplay between geopolitical maneuvering and hotspot issues has increased. The situation in Syria is still turbulent. The United States attacked Syria with its alleged use of chemical weapons as an excuse, making the prospect of a political settlement even more unpredictable. Forces within and outside the region vie for leverage over Syria and the Middle East. The situation in Ukraine is generally stable, but conflicts keep flaring up in the eastern part of the country. The United States and Europe and Russia are still significantly divided over how to solve the Ukrainian issue through political means, particularly over matters like sanctions, anti-missile plans in East Europe and military deployment in the Baltic region. Following the multiple ballistic missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, the United States turned from strategic patience to maximum pressure when dealing with the DPRK and scaled up its military deployment and exercises with the Republic of Korea (ROK). Such provocations between the United States and the ROK and the DPRK have fueled the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Exploiting the situation, the United States advanced the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the ROK, bringing grave challenges to regional strategic balance and stability. Japan keeps breaking the bounds of the pacifist Constitution by accelerating its rightist tendency and militarization. Non-traditional security challenges in the areas of counter-terrorism and cyber security remain serious. According to incomplete statistics, there were 728 terrorist attacks around the world in the first quarter of this year alone. While terrorists and extremists in the Middle East are losing ground thanks to the efforts of the relevant parties, violent extremist forces seek survival by breaking up into smaller groups and are spreading to Asia, Europe and other regions, posing new challenges to peace and stability of relevant regions.

Sluggish economic recovery. The world economy is recovering, but its foundation remains weak. The IMF upgraded this year’s growth forecasts for the world economy, the developed economies, and the emerging economies and developing countries to 3.5%, 2% and 4.5% respectively. Nevertheless, there are still many risks and challenges. First, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes have caused capital outflows from some countries and rising risks of financial market volatility, exerting tremendous difficulties on the economic structural reforms of many countries, and casting a shadow on the world economic growth. Second, with global trade growth lagging behind economic growth, anti-globalization sentiments gaining ground, developed countries frequently resorting to protectionist measures and free trade arrangements becoming more fragmented, the world economy is under more downward pressure. Third, regional turbulence and economic sanctions caused by hotspot issues add an extra layer of complexity to the world economic recovery.

II. China’s diplomacy is playing an increasingly important role in maintaining global stability.

In the face of global turbulence and volatility, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China has championed the concept of a community of shared future for mankind, stayed confident and focused, assumed its due responsibilities and forged ahead against all odds. China’s commitment to world peace and stability and its efforts to promote common development and advance reform of the global governance system have won more and more recognition and acclaim from the international community.

China is an engine of the world economy. Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis in 2008, China’s contribution to the global economy has averaged over 30% every year, the largest in the world. In response to the sluggish world economic recovery and increasing challenges from protectionism, the Chinese people have rolled up their sleeves and worked vigorously to move forward the supply-side structural reform. Outcomes have been achieved in their efforts to cut overcapacity, reduce excess inventory, deleverage, lower costs, and shore up weak links. In addition to attaining a fairly high growth rate of 6.9% in the first quarter of this year, China has promoted industrial transformation and upgrading, maintained the momentum of sound and stable economic performance, and made great contribution to global growth. The IMF upgraded its forecast for China’s economic growth this year, demonstrating its confidence in the robust Chinese economy.

As an old Chinese saying goes, one should treat his neighbors with sincerity and bring benefits to them. China pursues a neighborhood diplomacy of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and is ready to share its development dividends and strengthen win-win cooperation with its neighbors. It has worked actively with ASEAN countries to ensure the success of the upgraded China-ASEAN FTA and further advanced the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations. Substantial progress has been made under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework jointly initiated by China and countries in the Mekong sub-region, with 45 “early harvest” projects and initiatives well under way. China has launched the first round of negotiations on an upgraded China-New Zealand FTA and reached agreement with Australia on more effective implementation of China-Australia FTA, giving a strong boost to peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by China, yet its benefits are shared by all. China is advancing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and its industrial capacity cooperation with Kazakhstan as a paradigm for international cooperation along the Belt and Road. During the visits by the King of Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister of Israel to China, President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of agreements on major industrial capacity and investment cooperation projects with the Saudi King, and announced the establishment of an innovative China-Israel comprehensive partnership with the Israeli Prime Minister, which signify new breakthroughs in building the Belt and Road in the Middle East. More examples include the launch of the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port in Djibouti and the trial operation of the Mombasa-Narobi Standard Gauge Railway. In advancing the Belt and Road Initiative with countries along the routes, China follows the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and promotes policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity to bring benefits to relevant countries and meet their needs for infrastructure development and financing, thus setting a fine example of win-win cooperation and common development.

As President Xi puts it, the common development we pursue delivers benefits to both China and other countries. China’s ten cooperation plans with Africa has yielded bountiful early harvests, including investment and cooperation projects totaling almost 60 billion dollars. China is taking solid steps to advance practical cooperation with Latin American countries under the “1+3+6” framework, and cooperation with Arab countries following the “1+2+3” format. Our vision for common development is reflected in the investment we made and the railways and industrial parks we built. Our efforts are consistent driving forces for development of China and other countries.

China is an anchor of stability amid global turbulence. As a major country, it is our due responsibility to uphold world peace and stability. China is actively exploring new approaches to major-country relations, committed to maintaining a sound and stable framework for such relations, and facilitating what is conducive to world peace. Last April, President Xi met with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago. The two leaders established a sound working relationship, made plans for high-level exchanges and announced the establishment of four high-level dialogue mechanisms focusing on diplomacy and security, economy, law enforcement and cyber security, and social and cultural exchanges. They also agreed on a 100-day plan to boost economic cooperation. This meeting charted the course, drew the blueprint and laid a constructive foundation for China-US relations, sending a positive signal of stability to a world beset by turbulence. China puts great emphasis on the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. Since the beginning of this year, there have been frequent meetings between the two heads of state and close exchanges between high-level officials, which deepened the two countries’ political trust and strategic coordination, and injected strong impetus into regional stability and world peace. China actively advances its partnerships for peace, growth, reform and civilization with the EU, firmly supports European integration and works with the EU for multilateralism and democracy in international relations. China is committed to strengthening its solidarity and cooperation with emerging economies. It is making preparatory work for the ninth BRICS Summit to be held in Xiamen this September, in an effort to make BRICS cooperation a premier platform with global influence for South-South cooperation.

A country’s peace comes from and depends on its neighbors. On the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, China stays committed to the goals of denuclearization, stability on the Peninsula and peaceful settlement, and has played an important role in maintaining peace and stability on the Peninsula. It has strictly implemented the relevant UN Security Council  resolutions imposing sanctions on the DPRK. It has put forward the “parallel” approach and “suspension for suspension” initiative, urging the DPRK to curb its provocative behavior, and encouraging the United States to take concrete actions to fulfill its commitment of achieving denuclearization on the Peninsula without seeking regime change, regime collapse, an accelerated reunification of the Peninsula or an excuse to come north of the 38th Parallel. China has worked with ASEAN countries to facilitate the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, deliberate on and adopt the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, formulate maritime rules acceptable to all parties and jointly uphold peace, stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. China firmly supports the political reconciliation and peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan. On the issue of Syria, China condemns the use of chemical weapons, respects and upholds Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and views political settlement as the only viable way to peace.

China is a positive force in the changing international landscape. Against the backdrop of rising global uncertainties, protectionism and anti-globalization sentiments, President Xi Jinping articulated China’s position and vision in the speeches he made in Davos and Geneva. He explicitly reaffirmed China’s support for economic globalization and multilateralism, and put forward propositions on rebalancing economic globalization and building a community of shared future for mankind, reflecting the trend of peace and development in the world, and the common aspiration of people in most countries. He called on all countries to develop a model of dynamic growth, open and win-win cooperation, fair and equitable governance, and balanced, equitable and inclusive development to deal with global economic difficulties. His remarks set the goal for global growth and economic globalization and presented China’s vision for better global governance, which received wide acclaim from the international community.

As a saying goes, “If you want to go fast, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk together.” China has actively contributed to global economic governance in a spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation. Since President Xi put forward the Belt and Road Initiative four years ago, it has been well received and supported by over 100 countries and international organizations. It is a new effort that China has made to promote rebalancing of economic globalization and the most important public good that China provides to the international community. This May, 29 heads of state and government and over 1,500 representatives from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations gathered in Beijing for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF). The BRF released the Joint Communiqué of the Leaders Roundtable and a List of Deliverables, which includes 76 items comprising more than 270 concrete results in five key areas. China’s propositions, including the community of shared future, the Silk Road spirit, the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, have been written into the Joint Communiqué, which demonstrates the important role China plays in shaping global development and governance. 

III. Major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics provides a new perspective on international relations.

Vision guides action, and direction determines the path forward. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has kept to the course of peaceful development and grasped the overall trend of the changing international landscape. While maintaining the consistency and continuity of China’s foreign policy, the Central Committee has been actively advancing new ideas and practices, and leading us onto a new path of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. Compared with traditional Western theories of international relations, it has distinct Chinese features, which can be summed up with the following key words:

The first key word is vision. As an ancient Chinese poem puts it, “The old leafs are always replaced by the new, and the waves in front always give way to the ones behind.” In the 21st century, sharing converging interests and facing intertwined and interconnected challenges, countries live in a global village where they increasingly depend on each other and rise and fall together. With a keen understanding of the trend of the times and the course of history, President Xi has initiated a series of new ideas and new thinking. He calls for fostering relationships based on dialogue and partnership rather than confrontation and alliance, which will lead to the pursuit of a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and on this basis, a community of shared future for mankind. These new ideas and thinking reject the old mentality of alliance and confrontation, and rise above the outmoded approach of zero-sum games. They have distinct Chinese characteristics and significant implications for the world. They are the guide to action for China’s diplomacy in the new era and will exert far-reaching influence on human development and progress. 

The second key word is initiative. As an ancient Chinese teaching goes, “All good principles should adapt to changing times to remain relevant.” Chinese diplomats are shouldering heavier tasks of safeguarding the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of Chinese businesses and people as they “go global” in a larger number. In the face of new circumstances and tasks, Chinese diplomats have worked vigorously and creatively to advance the interests of our country and people. We have established a global web of partnerships and provided an enabling environment and strategic support for domestic development. We have advanced the Belt and Road Initiative and opened a new chapter of openness and win-win cooperation. Putting people at the heart of diplomacy, we have improved consular services as a way to protect the rights and interests of Chinese citizens and businesses abroad. 

The third key word is consistency. As we Chinese often say, “Despite the storms and waves, we will sit tight in the fishing boat.” In the face of instability and conflicts in many parts of the world, China has adhered to the path of peaceful development. In the face of skepticism over the existing international order and system, China has called for maintaining it and, where necessary, improving it. In the face of growing backlashes against globalization and rising protectionism, China has upheld multilateralism, openness and inclusiveness. It is China’s responsibility as a major country to maintain consistency and continuity in its foreign policy, which can offset various uncertainties and is a demonstration of China’s confidence and firmness of purpose. 

In the second half of this year, the CPC will hold its 19th National Congress. Guided by the diplomatic thinking of General Secretary Xi Jinping, China’s diplomacy will continue to forge ahead and create a favorable environment for the meeting. China will continue to make contribution to and leave its mark on the great cause of advancing world peace and development.

Zhou Jian is Deputy Director-General of the Policy Planning Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.