Acting on the Principle of Amity, Sincerity, Mutual Benefit and Inclusiveness and Embarking on a New Journey of Neighborhood Diplomacy

Sun Weidong

The neighborhood is critical to China’s security, development and prosperity. China gives top priority to its relations with the neighboring countries in overall diplomacy and regards the promotion of peace, stability and development of neighboring areas as its own duty.
At a meeting on neighborhood diplomacy held in October 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed the strategic significance of the neighborhood to China from the perspective of geographical location, natural environment and external relations. The strategic goal of China’s neighborhood diplomacy is to serve the realization of the Two Centenary Goals and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, develop relations with neighboring countries in an all-round manner, cement good-neighborliness, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, and work for more friendly political relations, stronger economic bonds, deeper security cooperation and closer people-to-people exchanges with neighboring countries. At the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs in June 2018, General Secretary Xi again underscored the importance of neighborhood diplomacy and a more friendly and favorable neighborhood environment. The report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) notes that acting on the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendships and partnerships with its neighbors, China strives to enhance friendly ties, mutual trust and converging interests with its neighboring countries.
Since entering the new era, China’s diplomatic service have resolutely implemented the decisions and instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CPC Central Committee on neighborhood diplomacy. We have promoted sincerity and friendship in China’s relations with neighboring countries, acted on the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, deepened mutually beneficial cooperation, made sustained progress in building a community with a shared future, and opened new prospects in China’s neighborhood diplomacy. In the past three years, China not only withstood the test of the COVID-19 pandemic itself, creating a miracle in human history by successfully emerging from a major pandemic in a highly populous country. At the same time, China stood in solidarity with neighboring countries in the fight against the pandemic and worked together to promote economic recovery and development. With the COVID situation turning for the better both in China and around the world, we have pressed the “acceleration button” for exchanges with neighboring countries, heralding a new chapter of neighborhood diplomacy.
I.Putting into practice the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in the neighborhood has yielded fruitful outcomes
The head-of-state diplomacy has played a guiding role, high-level exchanges produced many highlights, and strategic mutual trust further solidified. In 2022, President Xi Jinping attended the 17th G20 Summit in Indonesia and the 29th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Thailand alongside his visit to Thailand. He had 18 meetings and six phone calls with leaders of 12 neighboring Asian countries. He also attended and made a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022 via video link, and delivered written remarks at the third Foreign Ministers’ Meeting among the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan. This year, President Xi has already held talks or meetings with Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, drawing up the blueprint for China’s relations with neighboring countries.
After the 20th CPC National Congress and this year’s NPC and CPPCC sessions, heads of state or government from 23 neighboring countries sent congratulatory letters or messages on the success of the meetings and on the unanimous reelection of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, President of the PRC and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Foreign dignitaries from Singapore, Pakistan, Mongolia, Cambodia, ROK, Thailand and other neighboring countries came to China for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, and their presence in celebration of the Games broke the so-called “diplomatic boycott” of the US. Visits by leaders of several neighboring countries to China have injected fresh impetus into bilateral relations. Since last year, Comrade Wang Yi has visited 15 Asian countries, and interacted with almost all of China’s neighbors by hosting visits, receiving phone calls and having virtual meetings. After taking office, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang has engaged with leaders of 17 neighboring countries and the new Secretary-General of ASEAN through intensive two-way visits, phone calls and multilateral conferences.
In 2022, China reached consensus on building bilateral communities with a shared future with Indonesia, Thailand and Mongolia, following similar agreement with Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Lancang-Mekong countries. In March, President Xi Jinping met with visiting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, during which the two sides agreed on building a China-Malaysia community with a shared future. The Global Development Initiative (GDI), Global Security Initiative (GSI) and Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) proposed by President Xi have received wide support and warm response among Asian countries.
Mutually beneficial cooperation has deepened, trade ties advanced steadily, and interests between China and its neighbors become more integrated. In 2022, the total volume of import and export between China and 23 Asian countries in its neighborhood reached US$1.9 trillion, accounting for 30.2 percent of China’s total foreign trade. ASEAN has been China’s largest trading partner for three years in a row since 2020. China’s trade volumes with the ROK and Japan stayed above US$350 billion respectively in 2021 and 2022. Its trade figure with Vietnam has topped US$230 billion for two consecutive years and that with Malaysia surpassed US$200 billion for the first time in 2022.
High-quality Belt and Road cooperation with neighboring countries has made encouraging progress. A number of cooperation projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were put into commercial operation. The volume of passenger and freight transport of the China-Laos railway far exceeded expectations. The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway completed its trial run successfully. Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project has made smooth progress, and the construction of the China-Thailand railway is in steady advance. Railway cooperation between China and Nepal has been put on the agenda and that with Mongolia and other countries has played a vital role in supporting local people’s livelihood. The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor saw 2,900 services of rail-sea intermodal trains in 2022, an increase of 35 percent over the previous year, reaching 393 ports in 119 countries and regions around the world. A large number of “small yet smart” projects have been launched in China’s neighboring countries, bringing benefits to the local people. The “air corridor of pine nuts” between China and Afghanistan runs smoothly. In 2022, more than 5,000 tons of Afghan pine nuts were exported to China. China has signed an agreement to facilitate Pakistan’s agricultural exports to China. As corn silage from Myanmar, fresh pineapple from Indonesia, fresh durian from the Philippines and jackfruit from Malaysia officially gained access to China, more high-quality agricultural products from neighboring countries find their way to the tables of Chinese households.
We have upheld open regionalism, advocated openness, inclusiveness and mutual benefit, and made steady progress in regional cooperation. Open regionalism is a vision widely recognized by Asian countries, and has been a source of impetus and an important safeguard for the advancement of regional cooperation. Together with its neighboring countries, China has been acting out this vision by advancing regional economic integration through free trade, promoting regional and sub-regional cooperation through equal-footed consultations, and building platforms for cooperation and networks of friends in an open and inclusive spirit.
At the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022, President Xi Jinping stressed the importance to cement ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture, and uphold a regional order that balances the aspirations and accommodates the interests of all parties. China and ASEAN have sped up the delivery of the outcomes of the Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, approved the Plan of Action to Implement the China-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (2022-2025), and issued joint statements on common and sustainable development and on food security cooperation. The negotiations on a new round of upgrade of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area were officially launched, adding new impetus to economic and trade cooperation between the two sides. The implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has yielded positive results. The combined trade volume between China and 12 neighboring RCEP members reached US$1.7 trillion in 2022, accounting for around 27 percent of China’s total foreign trade, up by 5.6 percent from 2021 (US$1.61 trillion) before the RCEP came into effect.
We have safeguarded national interests and pursued dialogue and consultation to resolve differences. China is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development. It respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, opposes interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and rejects all forms of hegemonism and power politics. China firmly upholds national sovereignty, security and development interests. On major matters of principle concerning China’s core interests such as the Taiwan question and issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, there is no room for compromise or concession. No one should ever expect China to accept any damage to its core interests. On the Taiwan question, we adhere to the one-China principle, and unequivocally oppose “Taiwan independence” separatist activities, oppose provocations that undermine stability in the Taiwan Strait, and oppose interference in China’s internal affairs by any external forces.  
China will resolutely uphold its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. At the same time, we are sincere about properly resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation, and preserving regional peace and stability. The year 2022 marked the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). China and ASEAN countries issued a joint statement stressing the importance of making the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. The situation in the China-India border area has remained generally stable. The two sides have maintained unimpeded communications on border-related issues through diplomatic and military channels.

We have promoted talks for peace and provided much-needed support in the spirit of solidarity. China has proactively shouldered its responsibility on regional hotspot issues, put forward China’s proposals and actively explored and applied solutions with Chinese characteristics to hotspot issues, demonstrating its sense of responsibility as a major country. It successfully mediated the historic reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, leading to a wave of reconciliations in the Middle East. This is a good example of putting into practice the GSI and a community with a shared future for mankind. On the Korean Peninsula, China consistently follows the “dual-track approach”, and is committed to maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and promoting a political settlement through dialogue and consultation. On Myanmar, China put forward its “three expectations” for the settlement of the issue, and has played an active and constructive mediating role. In March 2022, China hosted the third Foreign Ministers’ Meeting among the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan, and put forward the Tunxi Initiative. Recently, China released its Position on the Afghan Issue, underlining its firm commitment to a political settlement and its support to peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
When countries in the region face difficulties, China stands with them and extends a helping hand. Last year, when Pakistan was hit by a rare flood, China immediately mobilized the whole government and society to provide all-round assistance to its “iron-clad” friend, sending more support than any other country. When Afghanistan was hit by an earthquake, China’s assistance was among the largest, most needed and fastest. China has worked in solidarity with neighboring countries in combating COVID-19, food crisis and economic, financial and debt problems, solidifying its time-honored friendship with these countries.
II.Neighborhood diplomacy in the new era faces new circumstances  

Today, our world, our times, and history are changing in ways like never before. Asia is standing at a new historical starting point and faces unprecedented development opportunities.
First, the overall situation in Asia remains generally stable. In a world of profound changes, transformation and turbulence, Asia has remained generally stable without major turmoil or war, and has served as an anchor for global stability. Peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit are the common aspirations of Asian countries and the prevailing trend in the region. Resolving tensions and differences through dialogue and consultation is the mainstream policy preference of regional countries. Overall, regional hotspot issues have been effectively managed and kept on the track of political settlement. Extremism, separatism and terrorism have been effectively contained. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the Bandung Spirit of solidarity, friendship and cooperation, jointly put forward by Asian countries in the 1950s, have contributed Eastern wisdom to handling state-to-state relations. For decades, peace and stability has made possible the Asian Miracle. Looking ahead, peace and stability is and will certainly enable the rise of Asia and the advent of an Asian century.
Second, governance in Asia has made notable progress. At present, global governance is in disarray and development is unbalanced across the world and lacks momentum. The model of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits followed by Asian countries has made the region a pacesetter for global governance. Regional countries enjoy generally stable political and economic development. Regional cooperation mechanisms and platforms such as the East Asian cooperation architecture, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) have become more mature. Last year, Asia hosted a number of multilateral gatherings. China successfully hosted the BRICS Leaders’ Meeting, Cambodia hosted the East Asian leaders’ meetings, Indonesia hosted the G20 Summit, and Thailand the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. These events helped pool consensus for solidarity and cooperation, and marked the “Asian moment” of global governance. Regional countries are becoming more confident and capable in jointly confronting risks and challenges and improving regional governance.
Third, Asia enjoys a good momentum of development. Accounting for a third of the world’s land mass and two-thirds of the world’s population, Asia is the most dynamic and promising region in the world. In 2022, the average GDP growth of Asian economies registered around 4.2 percent, a bright spot against the backdrop of a sluggish global economy. A number of international institutions revised up their growth forecasts for Asia. Emerging and developing economies in Asia are expected to grow by 5.3 percent and 5.2 percent respectively in 2023 and 2024, and will continue to serve as a major engine of world economy by contributing 75 percent to global growth. The 20th CPC National Congress has drawn up a blueprint for the future development of China and put forth the vision of Chinese modernization. Other Asian countries have also put forward their own visions for development. This means broader space for more effective cooperation and greater synergy to jointly promote development and prosperity in the region.
That said, going through changes unseen in a century, the world is not a tranquil place, with resurgent Cold War mentality, rampant hegemonism and unilateralism, rising competition between major countries, escalating camp-based confrontation, and intertwined traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Here in Asia, risks and challenges are on the rise, with more destabilizing and unpredictable factors. Regional economic recovery and development encounter challenges including the once-in-a-century pandemic, the spillover risks of the Ukraine crisis and the ripple effect of international economic and financial volatilities. Regional cooperation faces rising uncertainties amid the headwinds of anti-globalization and protectionism. Tension continues on the Korean Peninsula, political reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan run into difficulties, the issue of Myanmar remains complex and entangled, and territorial and maritime disputes between countries persist and would flare up from time to time.
In particular, to maintain its own hegemony, the US has been suppressing and containing China with no regard to regional development needs and people’s well-being. It has kept ramping up military and security cooperation with regional countries, resurrected the Cold War mentality, promoted decoupling and severing of supply chains, stoked division and confrontation in the region, and undermined regional cooperation agenda. Its purpose is to drag Asia into geopolitical rivalry and camp-based confrontation, and onto a stray path of turmoil, conflicts and wars. What it does has brought utmost instability and uncertainty to the region. Regional countries need to see through the US agenda, stay vigilant and resolutely push back these attempts.
III. We will embark on a new journey for neighborhood diplomacy guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era
This year marks the first year for fully implementing the guiding principles set forth at the 20th CPC National Congress. A theoretical study program to study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has been launched for all Party members. China, brimming with confidence, is forging ahead toward the goal of building a great modern socialist country in all respects and advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. We will follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, fully implement the decisions and strategic plans made at the 20th CPC National Congress, further deepen the friendly cooperation and converging interests with neighboring countries, work for a closer community with a shared future in China’s neighborhood, and inject great certainty and positive energy into peace, tranquility, development and prosperity in the region.
We will stay the path of peaceful development and join hands with neighboring countries to build a peaceful and stable Asian home. The starting point and ultimate goal of China’s development is to deliver better and happier lives for the Chinese people, and bring benefits to the region and the rest of the world through China’s development. In China’s development philosophy, there is no such thing as colonization, plunder, aggression and expansion, and it has no intention to replace or drive away anyone.  
What China advocates is that all countries respect and treat each other as equals, respect regional countries’ independent choice of development paths and each other’s core interests and major concerns, and adopt an objective and rational view of other countries’ development and policies. China is firmly opposed to interference in other countries’ internal affairs, arbitrary decoupling and cutting off supply chains contrary to market laws, applying the NATO approach to regional security by forging military alliances, and destabilizing the region to serve one’s selfish gains and hegemony. We are ready to work with regional countries to carry forward the Bandung Spirit, respect each other, seek common ground while reserving differences, narrow differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through cooperation. Together, we can blaze a path of common security for Asia featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and preserve the hard-won peace and stability in the region.
We will further expand opening-up and join hands with neighboring countries on the path of modernization. Isolation would lead us nowhere, while openness would offer us infinite possibilities. China is advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. Chinese modernization debunks the myth that modernization is westernization, blazing a new path to modernization for developing countries. It is a broad path that benefits not only China but also the rest of the world.
Keeping in mind the new development stage, China is fully implementing the new development philosophy featuring innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other, and pursuing high-quality development of the national economy. We will continue to promote a higher level of opening-up, seek mutually beneficial development through openness and inclusiveness, and provide new opportunities for the region and the rest of the world with China’s new development. We are ready to work with neighboring countries to further enhance cooperation in areas including infrastructure, economy, trade, finance, health care, new energy, digital economy and artificial intelligence, fully unleash the potential of cooperation, and foster new highlights of cooperation and new drivers of growth, to jointly open up a new horizon of modernization of human society featuring common prosperity. This year, China will host the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. We look forward to and welcome insights and ideas from leaders of neighboring countries on high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, which will inject strong impetus into the promotion of openness, inclusiveness and common development.
We will maintain the global vision and join hands with neighboring countries in building a community with a shared future. The tide of development and human progress keeps forging ahead. Openness and integration is the trend of the times. As a Chinese saying goes, “A just cause should be pursued for the common good.” In this process, all countries are interdependent and share a common stake, the only right choice is to enhance cooperation, tackle challenges together and share opportunities. General Secretary Xi stressed that we must interpret the Chinese dream from the perspective of our neighbors and their aspirations for a better life and regional prosperity, and let a sense of shared future take root. Under the strategic guidance of its leaders, China has reached important consensus with many neighboring countries on jointly building a community with a shared future. The six Lancang-Mekong countries all agreed to build a Community of Shared Future of Peace and Prosperity among Lancang-Mekong Countries. We will make robust efforts to implement the consensus reached, strengthen interconnected development and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with neighboring countries, so as to achieve solid progress in building a community with a shared future in the neighborhood.
We will further promote inter-civilization exchanges and mutual learning and join hands with neighboring countries to promote cultural advancement in the region. Amity between the people holds the key to good relations between countries. People are the best bridge for exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. Asian countries boast time-honored histories and splendid cultures. Guided by the GCI, China advocates the diversity of civilizations and the common values of humanity, promotes mutual understanding and friendship between the people of regional countries, and works for a new prospect of cultural integration and people-to-people affinity in Asia. We are ready to work with neighboring countries to build more platforms for diverse Asian cultures to learn from each other and make progress together through a variety of activities such as Asian civilization exhibitions, cultural carnivals, tourism festivals, art festivals and food festivals, to jointly raise the global profile of Asian civilizations.

With the easing of the COVID situation, two-way visits between China and neighboring countries are rebounding. This year, China will host the Asian Games and the Summer World University Games. We welcome and look forward to having guests and athletes from Asia and the rest of the world in joining the Chinese people at these grand events.
A close neighbor can be more helpful than a distant relative. On the new journey facing new circumstances, China will continue to act on the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in its neighborhood diplomacy, forge friendship and partnership with its neighbors with all sincerity and a focus on common development, and strive to open up new prospects in China’s neighborhood diplomacy.

Sun Weidong is Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.