Partnership: key word to China’s foreign policy



First of two parts
AS the world economy remains in the doldrums, regional turbulence intensifies and protectionism and isolationism rise against globalization, the international community has turned its eye on China, hoping for a bigger role from China for world stability and development. Some even expect China to play some kind of leadership role in the international system and global governance.

As the world’s second biggest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is willing to fulfill its due international responsibilities. China has made efforts and is becoming an anchor of world stability, an engine of global growth, a champion of peace and development and a new impetus for global governance. Yet, China never has the intention to lead the world. A globalized world, where countries are more closely interconnected than ever before, needs not a single hero but partners of cooperation who stick together in times of difficulty. This is why China has put forward the idea of building partnerships as the new direction for state-to-state relations, a proposal welcomed by most countries. By the end of 2016, China had set up partnerships with 97 countries and international organizations, which include big countries, neighboring countries as well as developing countries. Partnership has become an important feature and a highlight of China’s foreign policy.

In Chinese culture, unity means strength, while isolation means weakness. We believe an able fellow still needs the support of others and more hands make light work. These are the cultural origins of China’s pursuit of partnership.

Since the founding of the New China, we have been committed to a foreign policy of peace and we have developed friendly relations and cooperation with all countries on the basis of the five principles of peaceful coexistence. These are the historical traditions of China’s pursuit of partnership.

New way for state-to-state interaction
We now live in a world with a degree of interdependence unseen before where peace, development and win-win cooperation form an irresistible trend of the times. Old thinking such as the balance of power, zero-sum games are hard to keep up. What we need is a new way for state-to-state interaction. This is the current background of China’s pursuit of partnership.

Different from conventional theories of international relations, the partnership China advocates has the following distinctive features.

First, pursue peace and cooperation. In the age of globalization, the strength of any individual country is limited. Only through cooperation can countries effectively handle the ever-increasing regional dangers and global challenges. The type of partnership which China proposes does not target an imagined enemy or any third party. It advocates a win-win approach instead of a zero-sum game approach to state-to-state relations, and stresses the importance of seeking common interests.

Second, treat each other as equals. Countries may differ in size, strength and wealth, but all are equal members of the international community. China advocates a partnership which follows the principle of equality of nations, respects all countries’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and respects each other’s core interests and major concerns. Such a partnership values people’s independent choice of social systems and development path of their countries and rejects power politics whereby the big, strong and rich bully the small, weak and poor.

Third, advocate openness and inclusiveness. The ocean is vast, as it admits all rivers. The partnership that China proposes conforms to the global trend of interdependence and the shared aspiration of all countries for friendly relations with others. It aims to draw on each other’s strengths through exchanges and mutual learning, seeks common progress despite differences and prevents isolation and exclusion created by small group politics.

Fourth, highlight benefits for all. In the world today, the winner-takes-all approach and seeking self-interest to the neglect of others is both obsolete and counterproductive. Those who want absolute security will only find themselves less secure. Those who only care about their own development will eventually run out of steam and lose space of progress. The partnership that China strives for aims to make the pie of common interests bigger through cooperation, so that more fruits of success and common development and prosperity can be shared.

Early this year, in his speech at the UN office in Geneva, President Xi Jinping said that China remains unchanged in its commitment to foster partnerships and will build a circle of friends across the world.

We will actively build partnerships with major countries to jointly promote world peace and development. Major countries have more resources and greater capabilities, therefore play a more vital and important role in the cause of world peace and development. History shows that the world is peaceful and prosperous only when major countries live in harmony and work in partnerships.

China-US relationship
As one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world, China-US relationship is always closely watched by the international community. In recent years, some people have been worried that China and the United States could fall into a “Thucydides Trap” which refers to potential conflicts between an established power and a rising power. Lately, there is another worry, i.e. the “Kindleberger Trap”. It says if the emerging power fails or refuses to shoulder due international obligation, the global system could plunge into greater chaos.

First of all, historical comparisons shouldn’t be so simplistic. Today, the future prospects of different countries are closely intertwined. As the interests of rising powers and established ones deeply converge, there will be no winner should a conflict break out between them. Moreover, in such a complex and multi-faceted world, no country can single-handedly provide all global public goods. The only right choice is international cooperation and the only right way is improved global governance.

China is ready to strengthen strategic communication with major partners like the United States, Russia and the EU, deepen cooperation in all fields, promote sustained, stable and healthy development of relations with them, play a bigger role in upholding global peace and security and contribute more to development and progress of humankind.

We will deepen partnerships with neighboring countries to promote overall prosperity and revitalization of Asia. As a Chinese saying goes, “A distant relative may not be as helpful as a close neighbor. “ We will continue to build friendship and partnership with our neighbors, foster an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood, and uphold the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. We are committed to working with neighboring countries as a reliable partner to keep Asia on a positive trajectory, advance regional cooperation and integration and build a balanced, stable, open and inclusive regional security framework, thus enabling Asia to play a bigger role on the world stage.

(To be continued tomorrow)


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1 Comment


    Yonkers, New York
    05 April 2017

    Reading and understanding what the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China is telling the whole world in this Essay, “Partnership: Key Word to Chinese Foreign Policy,” one could only be led to the conclusion that China is a responsible, peace-loving, and law-abiding member of the United Nations, or the World Community.

    Unfortunately, however, there is what appears to be an unbridgeable chasm between the assertions, if not the protestations of the Chinese Embassy here, and its actual actions or its actual foreign relations.

    I need only cite China’s well-known hegemonic designs in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. In the former, it is reported to be grabbing or to have grabbed territories belonging to its neighbors. In the South China Sea, it has illegally grabbed territory belong to the Philippines, forcing the Philippines to lodge a territorial-dispute case against it in with the United Nations Permanent Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague under the aegis of the UNCLOS to which both China and the Philippines are signatories
    China, acting like a bully, refused to participate in the proceedings of the PCA. Subsequently, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines and against China, and, moreover ruled that China’s ballyhooed “NINE-DASH LINE” had no legal basis.

    Did China honor and obey the ruling of the PCA? It did not and up to now it has not. It is acting as if it is ABOVE INTERNATIONAL LAW. That is how an irresponsible BULLY power-drunk behaves.