More Proactive Great Power Diplomacy: Neither Seeking Hegemony nor Tolerating Abuse

In the past five years, China’s diplomatic strategy has developed from “keeping a low profile” to “being more proactive”. However, no matter what stage of development China reaches, it will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.

By Wang Peng

In the past five years, China’s diplomatic strategy has developed from “keeping a low profile” to “being more proactive”. However, no matter what stage of development China reaches, it will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.

In the field of diplomacy, president Xi Jinping said in his report to the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress that “China will never pursue development at the expense of others’ interests, but nor will China ever give up its own legitimate rights and interests. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests”. The expression caused an animated discussion among domestic and foreign media.

The context of the expression is that China’s diplomatic strategy has changed from “keeping a low profile” of Deng Xiaoping era to “being more proactive”. This is a historic turning point.

With regard to China’s domestic affairs, Xi said“the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What we now face is the contradiction   between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing need for a better life.”

Correspondingly, China’s foreign policy has changed from formerly “serving for development” to “serving for national rejuvenation”. In order to achieve the goal, diplomacy should continue to maintain a peaceful and stable international environment for economic development. At the same time, it should take the initiative to shape the international order and build the surrounding environment, and provide creative solutions to the problems which have troubled the country for a long time and created issues of security around China’s frontiers. Looking back the achievements made over the past five years, China is on the right road.

Great-power Diplomacy: New Type of Great Power Relations

Concerning great power diplomacy, China has put forward a “New Type of Great Power Relations”, designed to ensure the country does not fall into what is known as the “Thucydides Trap”.

Politicians and academics in the West , on the basis of their own experience and the conflict between competing powers in modern history, have described a common phenomenon: when a new emerging power is becoming frustrated and angry at its inability to achieve the higher international status that matches its growing strength, war is often inevitable. This is what is known as the “Thucydides Trap”. According to this theory, conflict can be expected between China and the United States. However, proponents of the theory will be disappointed, as China is using its wisdom and follow a completely different path.

China has stood by the “New Type of Great Power Relations” proposed by President Xi five years ago, and is winning extensive recognition and approval. Xi has repeatedly advocated that great powers should set aside their differences over ideology or social system, respect each other’s political traditions, social culture, economic models and core interests, and promote sincere cooperation in various fields.

On March 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited China and confirmed clearly that mutual respect and win-win cooperation are the way to deal with the relationship between major powers, not conflict and confrontation. A month later, President Xi visited his US counterpart in the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Through this meeting, the world could see that China and the United States have begun to seek consensus and manage their differences. China’s special great power diplomacy is establishing a larger network of friends including the United States, Russia, the countries of Europe, the BRICS, and G20, to construct a world of peaceful development together.

Neighborhood diplomacy: the principle of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness” is a worthwhile means to worthwhile ends

China has 14 land neighbors and six maritime neighbors. Therefore, managing neighborhood diplomacy well and creating a positive neighborhood security environment is of great importance to China’s rise and national rejuvenation. Since he took office, Xi Jinping has paid great attention to neighborhood diplomacy.

On Oct. 24, 2013, a conference on diplomacy with neighbouring countries was held in Beijing. At the conference, General Secretary Xi pointed more clearly that doing well in the diplomatic work with neighboring countries is out of the need to realize the two “centenary goals” and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. China needs to work hard to advance the diplomacy with neighboring countries, strive to win a sound surrounding environment for China’s development, and enable neighboring countries to benefit more from China’ development for the purpose of common development.

The conference provided a top-level design and a comprehensive outline to China’s neighborhood diplomacy.

China has long pursued a healthy and friendly foreign policy towards neighbors. China has proposed a “2+7” framework for its cooperation with ASEAN, established a Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism, and steered its relations with ASEAN toward greater maturity. This kind of cooperation is exactly in accordance with the words of General Secretary Xi: “China has always advocated that all countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community”.

Meanwhile, China has the determination and ability to maintain its own sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests. General Secretary repeatedly stressed that the Chinese people will not put up with abuse, nor will we give in to coercion. No country should expect China to trade its core interests away or tolerate any infringement upon its sovereignty, security and development interests.

In terms of the East China Sea, China has held its ground and defended its territorial sovereignty with regard to the Diaoyu Islands. With respect to the South China Sea, General Secretary Xi stated in the report on the opening of the 19th National Congress of CPC that China has presented its case with sound reasoning and solid evidence against the so-called arbitration case on the South China Sea that undermines China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and adhered to the approach of settling disputes through dialogue and negotiation between parties directly concerned, which has helped to promote general stability in the South China Sea.

China has firmly grasped the initiative and asserted its rights in the South China Sea by normalizing its construction on islands and reefs. China’s neighbors have adjusted their expectations accordingly.

China’s stance has proved both correct and effective. A year after the arbitration case, relations between China and the Philippines relations have taken a turn for the better.

On July 25, 2017, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano of the Philippines met the press jointly in Manila. Alan Peter Cayetano stated that in order to achieve the development of Philippines-China relations, both sides must maintain the peaceful and stable situation, create a sound environment and benefit the two peoples through seeking the joint exploitation of natural resources. He said, “It is believed that our generation, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping, has the wisdom to find out appropriate ways to jointly exploit natural resources, so as to benefit the two peoples”. Wang Yi expressed his agreement and reiterated the concept of Joint Exploitation created by Deng Xiaoping. According to the concept, the two countries should create a set of standards and arrangements accepted by both sides through bilateral negotiation so as to steadily improve China-Philippines relations and benefit the two peoples.

China’s President Xi expressed several times that China pursues a national defense policy that is in nature defensive. China’s development does not pose a threat to any other country. No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion. China will never pursue development at the expense of others’ interests, but nor will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.

In the future, China will play a more important role in the international stage. Xi emphasized that China endeavors to uphold international fairness and justice, and opposes acts that impose one’s will on others or interfere in the internal affairs of others as well as the practice of the strong abusing the weak. China is willing to work together with others to make the world a better place.


 (Written by Wang Peng, assistant researcher of China Institute of Fu Dan University, researcher of Chahar institute)

Opinion articles refiect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China Matters.