Dialectical Unity of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Diplomacy

China International Studies (English) - - Contents - Zhao Yongchen

As an important part of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Xi’s diplomatic thought, characterized by its dialectical unity of several relationships, is of essential and profound significance for the theoretical development of Chinese major-country diplomacy and the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has been exploring, innovating and providing guidance for the advance of China’s diplomacy, with an insightful grasp of the future of mankind, the trend of the times and the strategic direction of China’s relations with the rest of the world. General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forward a series of new proposals, initiatives, concepts and theories on diplomacy, and has gradually formed his innovative thought on diplomacy featuring distinctive characteristics of the time. Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy addresses new issues facing China’s diplomacy by relying on and utilizing the Marxist position, viewpoints and approaches. It answers such key questions as what major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics is and how this concept can be carried out, and defines the guiding philosophy, basic principles, primary tasks, strategies and tactics of conducting external work in a new era. Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy is a scientific theoretical system which is rich, comprehensive and profound.1 It is an important component of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and a guiding principle with a solid theoretical foundation for the development of the major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. To better understand Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy while studying and implementing the decisions made at the 19th

CPC National Congress and the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, we should start with Xi’s statements concerning foreign affairs, combine them with China’s diplomatic practices, delve deep into its rich connotations and intrinsic nature, and acquire a profound understanding of its theoretical height, depth and scope, in order to appreciate its innate dialectical unity.

Unity of Continuity and Innovation

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China’s diplomatic work has discarded outdated practices and established new models, undergoing different stages from diplomacy aimed at consolidating the newborn government, diplomacy featuring socialist alliance of “leaning to one side,” diplomacy of revolutionary anti-imperialism and anti-hegemony, all the way to the independent foreign policy of peaceful coexistence. Into the 21st century, China’s diplomatic work is keeping pace with the times and forging ahead towards a new phase of peaceful development. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, Xi Jinping has inherited the great cause of Chinese diplomacy created by previous generations of CPC central leadership, advanced with the times and been continuously exploring and innovating in accordance with changing circumstances at home and abroad. This has injected new vitality into China’s diplomacy, improved the quality of China’s diplomacy, and opened up new horizons for major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

The continuity of Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy is epitomized by the following three points. First, consistency with the fundamental guidelines, principles, and polices of China’s diplomacy established by the CPC Central Committee since the reform and opening-up. An overview of Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy reveals that his statements, concerning China’s commitment to peaceful development, democratization in international relations, multi-polarization in the world, solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries, and good-neighborly

and friendly policy, is of the same root as the relevant decisions taken at successive CPC National Congresses. It represents not only the continuity but also the stability and predictability of China’s foreign policy. Second, following the basic pattern of China’s diplomacy. Benefiting from his longterm diplomatic practices and profound understanding of patterns in foreign affairs, Xi Jinping is able to strategize, maneuver and handle complex situation with consummate ease. Third, inheritance from fine traditions of China’s diplomacy. Since the founding of New China, Chinese diplomacy has remained firm in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and has stood for the equality of all countries, big or small. China has been adhering to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and opposing hegemonism, power politics, and other antagonistic practices. These longheld principles have evolved into China’s fundamental beliefs and traditions in conducting foreign affairs.

The outstanding and grand innovations in Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy, which best reflect the uniqueness and characteristics of the new era, are the essence in his system of diplomatic ideas.

First, the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind. Xi Jinping has put forward a series of ideas and propositions such as an Asian community of shared future, responsibility and interests, and a community of nuclear security since he first proposed a community of shared future for mankind in 2013. In January 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Xi Jinping delivered a speech in which he systematically elaborated on the fundamental philosophy, principles, content, and practical paths of the initiative. By consistently enriching its meaning, he has gradually developed this concept into a vital backbone of his system of diplomatic ideas. The proposal of building a community with a shared future for mankind is not only a new diplomatic value featuring distinctive characteristics of the times, but also the theoretical foundation upon which the 19th CPC Congress set the objectives of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

Second, the Belt and Road Initiative. The initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road were first put

forward by Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 respectively, and have found resonance globally ever since. Subsequently, Xi set out the objectives of building the Belt and Road into a road for peace, prosperity, opening-up, innovation and exchanges among civilizations. Plans were laid out for future cooperation under the Belt and Road framework. A series of flagship projects were launched on the ground. A network of win-win cooperation is coming into being, centering on the Eurasian continent and reaching out to continents and oceans around the world. And an international cooperation platform has been put into place for countries to synergize development strategies, complement each other’s comparative strengths, enhance connectivity and development featuring inclusiveness and openness. By injecting new ideas into the theories of economic belt, economic corridor, foreign aid, regional development, regional cooperation, and economic globalization, the Belt and Road Initiative has evolved into an emblematic opening-up strategy and created a bigger innovative space for China to drive regional and even global economic development.2 As a milestone, the grand initiative is expected to occupy a significant chapter in diplomatic history, and become the brand of Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy.

Third, the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests. By drawing from the essence of China’s traditional culture, Xi Jinping introduced the concept of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests from Confucianism into diplomacy and occupied the moral high ground. Xi Jinping points out that China should uphold the right approach to dealing with justice and interests in international affairs: politically, uphold justice and fairness in foreign affairs, abide by international laws and the underlying principles of international relations, and advocate equality in international relations; economically, based on the whole landscape and a long-term vision, remain committed to pursuing mutual benefits and common development, and promoting China’s well-being as well as the prosperity of others; culturally, respect civilizations from different countries and nationalities, and advocate

the right attitude towards traditional and contemporary cultures. Xi Jinping believes that different countries and regions have formed interconnected and interdependent ties with each other thanks to rapid development of economic globalization and regional integration, thus requiring that the outdated zerosum thinking, namely the pursuit of winning at the expense of others, must be rejected in international affairs. Justice and interests can only be obtained when they are taken into account at the same time. A win-win situation can only be achieved when justice and interests are in balance. We should adhere to the right approach to justice and interests and uphold justice while pursuing shared interests. That means we should act in good faith, value friendship, champion justice and uphold morality. It is not only the moral requirement of traditional Chinese culture, but also a reflection of contemporary China’s code of conduct in international society. It is not only an innovation of China’s thought on international cooperation and development, but also a guiding principle of China’s diplomacy.

Forth, the statement of building a new type of relations among major countries. Xi Jinping, proceeding from the ideological guideline of seeking truth from facts and keeping abreast with the times, laid out the proposal of forging a new type of major country relations, based on China’s own strengths and the international power structure. Moreover, he has been actively promoting this initiative. Xi systematically introduced the concept of a new type of China-us bilateral relations featuring no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation when he met with President Barack Obama during his visit to the United States. This concept, despite passive response from President Obama, has won recognition from the Trump administration and has made vital contribution to the healthy and stable development of the bilateral relations.

Fifth, a holistic approach to national security. On April 15, 2014, Xi Jinping chaired the first meeting of the Central National Security Commission and delivered an important speech, in which he systematically articulated the holistic approach to national security. He pointed out the must to take a holistic approach to national security, which would put people’s security as a

top priority, political security as a fundamental task, economic security as the basis, military, cultural as well as social security as guarantee, and promoting international security as support, so as to forge a path for national security with Chinese characteristics. Giving equal weight to internal and external security, China will promote peace, win-win cooperation and a harmonious world externally while pursuing development, reform, stability and safety domestically. Attaching equal importance to homeland and people’s security, the Party and the government should put people and human in the first place, uphold national security for the people and by the people, and foster stronger public support for national security. Safeguarding both conventional and unconventional security, China needs to build a comprehensive national security system that integrates political, homeland, military, economic, cultural and social security, as well as security in science and technology, information, ecology, resource, and nuclear power. Valuing both development and security, China should always keep in mind their interdependence: development provides the foundation for security while security serves as the precondition for development. Highlighting both its own security and the world’s common security, China will strive to build a community with a shared future, and join efforts with all other parties towards the objective of mutual benefits and common security.3

Sixth, the concept of global governance. Xi Jinping has made several statements regarding global governance, the most systematic of which was delivered at the 27th group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on the current structure and system of global governance on October 12, 2015. During this session, Xi Jinping delved deep into the background of reforming the global governance system, stressed the significance of promoting the reform, explicitly laid out the fundamental principles of China’s response to it, and proposed a Chinese approach to the key points of reforming the global governance system. He stressed that we should respond to the undergoing changes in a coordinated way, promote

idea innovation of global governance and advocate a global governance philosophy of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.4 At the opening session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017, Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech entitled Jointly

Shoulder Responsibility of Our Times, Promote Global Growth. In the speech, Xi made an in-depth analysis of the outstanding problems facing the world economy, and profoundly interpreted such issues as the global governance structure, the multilateral system, opposition to trade protectionism, and strengthening win-win cooperation from the perspective of economic globalization. He proposed the rebalancing of economic globalization and stressed the need to forge a dynamic growth model, an open and mutually beneficial cooperation pattern, a fair and reasonable governance approach, as well as a balanced and inclusive development path, which indicated a new direction for global governance toward peace, development and win-win cooperation.5

Xi Jinping has also made a series of new statements and proposals on other diplomatic issues, which together with the above statements comprises a significant part of his thought on diplomacy.

Unity of Following International Trends and Leading Domestic Situation

With the overall international and domestic developments in mind, Xi Jinping has formulated scientific and comprehensive strategies for China’s all-round diplomacy by closely following the global trends and combining it with new characteristics of domestic socio-economic development. He laid out the Chinese approaches and initiatives which meet both international

and domestic demands.

Xi Jinping emphasized that understanding the mega trend of world development and keeping in pace with the times is an extremely important subject that requires continuous input and frequent accommodation. China’s development must follow the global tide. It requires us to adopt a global perspective and grasp the underlying trends of the times. An accurate, clear and insightful understanding of the fluctuating international situation is needed as well as the ability to discern the intrinsic nature, and especially long-term trends from a deceptive facade. The complexity of the fluid international arena should not be underestimated, but it is more important to recognize the irreversible momentum of global multi-polarization. The setbacks of world economic adjustment should be fully considered, but it is more important to realize the unstoppable progress of economic globalization. The acuteness of international conflicts and confrontations should be adequately expected, but it is more important to learn the unchangeable theme of peace and development in our era. The endurance of competition on the international order should be squarely anticipated, but it is more important to discern the inevitability of international system reform. The uncertainty of China’s neighboring environment should not be understated, but it is more important to appreciate the general tide of prosperity and stability in the Asia-pacific region.

First, a deep understanding of the law of global development and transformation. In his observation of international trends based on objective facts, Xi Jinping has precisely grasped the law of global development and transformation, scientifically analyzed the status quo, characteristics and underlying trends of the international situation, and unveiled the inherent law of world development. As he once indicated, “It is a world where peace, development and win-win cooperation have become the trend of the times. The old colonial system has long since disintegrated, and bloc confrontations during the Cold War have long gone. No country or group of countries can dominate world affairs single-handedly. It is a world where emerging markets and developing countries in large numbers have embarked on the track of

fast development. Billions of people are moving towards modernization at an accelerating pace. Multiple growth engines have emerged in regions across the world. And the international balance of power continues to evolve in a direction favorable for peace and development.”6 Xi Jinping has made objective and cool-headed analysis and judgment on international hotspot issues, regional turmoil, international financial crisis, global nuclear security, transnational terrorism, climate change and cyber security, which lays down the theoretic foundation for China to develop corresponding strategies.

Second, active responses to new expectations on China from the international community. As Xi Jinping stated, China has entered the critical stage of national rejuvenation. China’s relationship with the world is undergoing profound changes and it has never been so interconnected with the rest of the international community. China’s dependence on the world and engagement in international affairs are deepening, so as the world’s dependence and influence on China. The world now expects more and demands more from China. At the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, Xi Jinping reviewed China’s contribution to global development, and made solemn commitments of promoting international aid. He squarely opposed some biased criticisms of China as a “free-rider,” explicitly pointing out that “China will always be the contributor of world development and adhere to the path of common development. All countries are welcomed to board the train of China’s development.”7 China will continue to adopt a win-win strategy of opening-up, and is ready to share its development experience and opportunities with other countries.

Third, answer to people’s new aspirations for diplomacy. Through more than 170 years of hard work since the Opium War, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has promised a bright prospect. As China develops into the second largest economy, a major military power as well as a leading nation in

science and technology, it is striving to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Now, China has never been so close to the achievement of the goal. Against the backdrop of China’s booming international exchanges and expanding overseas interests, China’s diplomacy has attracted more attention and higher expectations from its people. As pointed out emotionally by Xi Jinping, “The aspirations of the people to live a better life must always be the focus of our efforts.” With such deep feelings, he identified the development of China’s overall strength, the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and the new aspirations from people both at home and abroad. He has developed various new thinking, new connotations, new policies and arrangements for the vision, mission, function and institution of the major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era. Over the past five years, China’s allround diplomacy has made notable achievements, which is highly recognized and widely praised by both Chinese people and the international community.

A thorough implementation of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics will promote the overall adjustment, transformation, institutional reform and innovation of China’s diplomacy and lead it to a new venture with new contributions to the new era.

Unity of Policy and Practice

As the lifeline of diplomacy in any country, foreign policy reflects national willpower and represents the trends and values to which the country’s fundamental policy extends externally. The diplomatic ideas of a country’s top leader, who usually plays a significant role, provides guidance for the decision-making of foreign policy. In a series of reports and speeches, Xi Jinping has reiterated various aspects of China’s foreign policy, and laid out recommendations and measures concerning specific issues. These policy interpretations have formed the foundation and framework of his thought on diplomacy. In his two key speeches at the Peripheral Diplomacy Work Conference and the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs respectively,

Xi Jinping combined the essence of foreign policy and the inherent requirement of diplomatic practice. His comprehensive elaboration on a series of foreign policies has clearly reflected high-level unity of policy and practice in his thought on diplomacy. This unity represents the latest achievements in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context. It is a combination of Marxismleninism, the Mao Zedong Thought, the Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development and the contemporary changes in global and national conditions.

While interpreting China’s development path, Xi Jinping pointed out that China would adhere to the path of peaceful development and unwaveringly safeguard world peace and security, and refrain from seeking hegemony, engaging in expansion or interfering in the internal affairs of others. Instead of being hollow slogans, these proposals must be implemented in China’s diplomatic work. In fact, China has been following a path of peaceful development, striving to uphold world peace and security, and opposing war and power politics. For example, on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, China has stayed committed to upholding decisions taken by the UN Security Council, peacefully resolving the issue through dialogue and negotiation, and maintaining peace and stability of the Peninsula.

In the elaboration of China’s neighboring diplomacy, Xi Jinping remains firm in promoting friendship and partnership with neighboring countries, putting forward the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness and announcing the policy of forging friendship and partnership as explicit proclamation for China’s relations with its neighbors. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has, with continuous innovations, kept enhancing the friendship and partnership with neighboring countries by laying out new cooperation proposals such as the China–pakistan Economic Corridor, the Bangladeshchina-india-myanmar Economic Corridor, the Lancang-mekong Cooperation mechanism, and the China-mongolia-russia Economic Corridor. By implementation and upgrading, China’s good-neighborly policy has made new progress for China’s peripheral diplomacy, significantly advanced cooperation

with neighboring countries, and promoted joint socio-economic development and prosperity in the region.

While explaining China’s relations with developing countries, Xi Jinping stresses that China should continue to promote mutually beneficial and winwin cooperation, stand together with developing countries, safeguard their interests, and uphold fairness and justice for them. The series of solutions and approaches of South-south cooperation he put forward at the UN Sustainable Development Summit is a vivid illustration, which will guide the direction of China’s cooperation with developing countries in the new era.

All in all, foreign policy is abstract, but putting it into action is pragmatic and concrete. With specific policy objectives in mind, Xi Jinping is able to provide practical strategies and approaches instead of empty statements in the elaboration and declaration of China’s foreign policy. These policy-oriented requirements and arrangements with Chinese characteristics explicitly reflect the practicality of China’s diplomacy, which makes policy interpretation highly instructive and practical.

Unity of Strategy and Tactics

In the great endeavors of advancing major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, Xi Jinping builds himself into a strategist with tremendous courage and fresh ideas. A series of his proposals, such as major-country diplomacy, peripheral diplomacy, developing-country diplomacy and global governance, form grand strategies with the penetrating power that cuts through time and space.

The Belt and Road Initiative is Xi Jinping’s grandest conception. With the Silk Road tracing back thousands of years ago, the world is expecting the revival of its glory. Connecting China and the international community, this initiative aims at achieving shared growth through wide consultation and joint contribution. To put the Belt and Road Initiative into action, a specialized institution has been set up by the Chinese government to formulate, carry out and promote relevant policies. The Asian Infrastructure Investment

Bank was established under China’s initiative and the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held. A combination of these tactical measures together with the grand conception has facilitated the realization of the Belt and Road Initiative. With a great number of cooperation projects emerging in the past few years, more and more nations have reaped tremendous development benefits.

Forging a new type of international relations is another major strategic conception in Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy. This is a magnificent vision laid out by the Communist Party of China based on changing times and the future of mankind. As the objective of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, it was written in the report of the 19th CPC National Congress. It aims at exploring a new path of international relations with mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation at its core. The establishment of this diplomatic objective has clarified the relationship between a rising power and an established power, thus alleviating the world’s suspicion concerning the peaceful rise of China. These new proposals and ideas have laid the foundation for pursuing a new type of China-us relations featuring no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and offered a clear path for China’s relations with other major countries. The deep integration of strategy and tactics has made notable achievements, including the enhancement of China-russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, the arrival of a “golden era” for Chinauk relations, and the steady development of China-eu comprehensive strategic partnership. The new type of international relations will develop and improve further as China keeps integrating the conception into its foreign policy and practice.

From the perspective of concrete operation, Xi Jinping stresses the importance and necessity of improving diplomatic capability. He asks all diplomats to grasp gaming skills and improve negotiating capabilities. With a profound understanding of the essence of diplomacy, Xi Jinping unveils the fundamental principles of diplomatic skills and approaches, and regards gaming as a basic skill in foreign practice. His thought provides guidance

for Chinese diplomats to take advantage of the game theory in dialogues, consultations and negotiations. It also sets more demanding qualifications for training diplomatic talents.

As a major country in the world, China has to cope with a multitude of hotspot issues, regional conflicts, international crisis and diplomatic disputes. It requires diplomatic strategies and tactics to appropriately formulate the Chinese position and policy on these global issues based on priority and merits. Xi Jinping has put forth a whole range of principles guiding China’s diplomatic strategies and policies. He places high importance not only on top-level designing and strategic planning, but also on practical operations and tactical moves. He is thus able to address core issues adeptly and ensure well coordination among various fronts, achieving a high degree of balance between firm commitment to principles and appropriate flexibility in policy implementation.8 Having a good command of strategy and tactics, he is able to come up with sound policies concerning complex relations including major powers, neighboring countries and multilateral relations, as well as international and regional hotspot issues, which demonstrates his courage in diplomatic decision-making, his flexibility in diplomatic gaming, and his adeptness in diplomatic art.

Unity of Idealism and Realism

Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy is rich in idealist visions. To borrow terms in diplomatic theory, it can be dubbed as a kind of neo-idealist diplomacy.

Xi’s neo-idealist diplomacy features rich and far-reaching connotations, of which the most essential part lies in the following aspects. First, it connects the Chinese Dream with the World Dream. As Xi himself pointed out, “To realize the Chinese Dream, peaceful development must be honored. We will stay on this path and continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of

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