Diplomacy with Chinese characteristics
Seeking win-win relations as against zero-sum competition
Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, gave an address at the Symposium on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations, delivered in Beijing on December 25, 2022. The address provides a clear and comprehensive presentation of China’s foreign policy. It can be found on the Website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
Wang began by observing that worldwide trends are evolving toward both unity and division. On the one hand, developing countries are moving with greater resolve toward standing together in solidarity and seeking mutually-beneficial cooperation. But on the other hand, some countries are fomenting conflict and confrontation. These efforts at conflict are doomed to failure, he maintained, because peace, development, and win-win cooperation is the will of the peoples of the world.
China, Wang noted, has launched two major international initiatives. The Global Development Initiative (GDI) was proposed by President Xi Jinping at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2021. The proposal emphasizes people-centered development, with special attention to the needs of the developing countries (see “Xi Jinping proposes Global Development Initiative: The President of China seeks win-win cooperation,” October 19, 2021). More than 100 countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, have committed to the Global Development Initiative; and nearly 70 countries have joined the Group of Friends of the GDI.
In April 2022, in the aftermath of the breakout of the military conflict in Ukraine, at the Boao Forum for Asia, China unveiled the Global Security Initiative, which is based on the concept that the security of each nation depends on the security of all. This vision of common security has been endorsed by more than seventy countries (see “China’s Xi Jinping has a better plan,” April 26, 2022).
China, Wang maintains, seeks to lead by example, and it therefore seeks to maintain strategic stability in its relations with other major countries. It rejects confrontation among blocs, as well as the notion of zero-sum competition. China seeks peaceful coexistence with the other major countries, looking for global stability and balanced development.
Accordingly, China firmly rejects “the erroneous China policy” of the United States. China has been “exploring the right way for the two countries to get along with each other.” Wang declared:
“As the United States has stubbornly continued to see China as its primary competitor and engage in blatant blockade, suppression and provocation against China, China-US relations were plunged into serious difficulties. In response, China has taken resolute actions to counter such power politics and bullying while pointing the right way forward through open and candid communication.”
Wang noted that in two recent phone calls with President Joe Biden, requested by Biden, and in a face-to-face meeting in Bali, Xi Jinping
“stressed the need to abandon the zero-sum mentality where one’s gain and rise mean the other’s loss and decline, to define China-US interactions by dialogue and win-win cooperation, not confrontation and zero-sum competition, and to bring China-US relations back on the right track of healthy and stable development under the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.”
Wang observed that the conversations between the two presidents were constructive. Both leaders believe that establishing guiding principles for returning to stable relations is important, because of their extensive economic ties, and because they have many common interests. For his part, Biden affirmed that the USA does not support the policy of “two Chinas,” and that the USA has no intention of pressuring countries to sever relations with China as a means to halt China’s economic development.
Wang declared the need to put Biden’s positive statements into practice. The USA must stop it efforts to contain China; it must respect the sovereignty of China and respect China’s security and development interests. “We call on the US side to change its course, establish an objective and sensible perception of China, follow a positive and pragmatic China policy, and work with us to put in place the pillars and a solid foundation for the healthy and stable growth of China-US relations.”
Wang stressed the relations of friendship and cooperation that China maintains with Russia. The two nations firmly support one another’s core interests; and increasing bilateral trade proceeds at a rapid pace. Both Russia and China, Wang noted, reject the fabrication of the false narrative of democracy versus authoritarianism. “China and Russia have stood in solidarity with other countries to steadfastly push for multipolarity and greater democracy in international relations, and steadfastly oppose hegemony and reject a new Cold War.”
China also pursues friendship and cooperation with Europe. Wang declared that “China and Europe are each other’s partners, not rivals, and we are each other’s opportunities, not threats.”
Wang also affirmed that China supports Asian regional integration, solidarity, and cooperation, in the face of efforts by one country to create confrontation among blocs. The cooperation and strategic partnership between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is at the forefront of this effort. (See the section “Regionalization of Asia,” as reported in the Turkish media, in “Türkiye looks toward a new world order,” December 6, 2022).
Wang further observes that China has “promoted solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries based on sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and pooled synergy in seeking strength through unity. China has stood in solidarity with other developing countries amid an evolving international environment, global volatility, and multiple crises, and worked together to uphold international justice and promote common interests.”
In this regard, Wang stressed the leadership role of China in BRICS. In the past year, serving as BRICS Chair, China hosted 160 high-level events in various areas; and China held the first BRICS Plus foreign ministers’ meeting, in which more than 70 countries participated. A dozen countries, Wang noted, have expressed a desire to become a part of BRICS. He observed that “BRICS cooperation has become a most influential platform for South-South cooperation. A host of emerging markets are taking great strides to catch up in terms of global governance, turning from followers to forerunners.”
Wang further observed that “China-Arab relations have taken historic strides forward.” He stressed in this regard the participation of President Xi Jinping in the first China-Arab States Summit and the first China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (See “China and the Arab world: The land of the Prophet embraces the wisdom of the East,” December 13, 2022). Wang commented that “as two significant forces and major civilizations, China and the Arab world have joined hands and supported each other in advancing our respective national rejuvenation endeavors and promoting regional peace and development.”
Wang also mentioned relations of cooperation that China is developing with the Central Asian countries, Japan, India, African countries and the African Union, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (with particular reference to a joint endeavor launched with Cuba), and the Pacific Island countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative, Wang notes, continues to develop as high-quality cooperation. The Belt and Road family now includes 150 countries and 32 international organizations. It “serves as a new engine driving the development of all countries.”
Wang further observed that China resolutely protects its core interests and national dignity, and it is not intimidated by the bullying of any hegemonic power. China has debunked concocted stories and false narratives with respect to Xinjiang by presenting the facts, winning support for its justified position from over 100 countries, which has been viewed by developing countries as a victory for all developing countries and for international fairness and justice. In addition,
“We have also exposed the false narrative of ‘democracy versus authoritarianism,’ making clear their real intention is to stoke confrontation between countries, divide the international community, and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs in the name of so-called ‘democracy.’ We have explained to the world how and why our whole-process people’s democracy works in China, upheld the true democratic spirit, promoted a right perception of democracy in a bid to distinguish right from wrong and truth from falsehood. The world does not accept any monopoly on the definition of democracy, and the calls against drawing ideological fault lines are getting stronger.”
“We will stay committed to a Chinese path to modernization, not only creating a new form of human advancement, but also providing new choices for developing countries. We will firmly support developing countries in exploring development paths suited to their national conditions and embarking on a fast track toward modernization at an early date.
“We will stay committed to peaceful development, never seek hegemony or expansion, oppose hegemonism and power politics of all forms and manifestations, defend the legitimate rights of our people and people of all countries to pursue peace and development.
“We will stay committed to dialogue between civilizations, respect the diversity and equality of civilizations, and advocate exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. We will promote the common values of humanity, and turn democracy and freedom from the political tools manipulated by a few people into the values shared by all mankind.”
As I maintained in my commentary of October 1, 2021, “China and the Third World: The construction of an alternative, more just world-system,” Chinese international diplomacy has been developing in parallel with the Third World project for a New International Economic Order and a more just, democratic and sustainable world system. The Chinese and Third World projects coincide in fundamental principles, such as: the right of all nations to sovereignty and to control over their natural resources; and the right of all nations to develop the productivity of their economies in accordance with their political cultures and their socioeconomic conditions. The Chinese and Third World projects had occasional points of contact in the second half of the twentieth century. And in the last ten years, there has emerged an open declaration of their common goals and interests; and they have developed—thanks to China’s political will and economic resources—significant levels of cooperation. Indeed, the rise of China with its win-win philosophy of international diplomacy has empowered the Third World project, moving it from the terrain of political demands by the powerless to the terrain of practice and implementation, expressing itself against the political will of imperialism, which increasingly is falling into decadence and is less and less capable of controlling the states of the world-system.
As I review in my above-mentioned October 1 commentary, the Third World project was announced in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, when leaders of twenty-nine newly independent nations of Africa and Asia met. It took organizational form in 1961, with the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Tito, Sukarno, Nehru, and Nasser were among its principal leaders. Its high point during this early period was the approval in 1974 by the UN General Assembly of its proposal for a New International Economic Order, which the organization had been developing for a period of ten years.
During the worldwide implementation of neoliberal economic policies, the Non-Aligned Movement was highjacked by representatives of the “Asian tigers” with an accommodationist posture toward the Western imperialist powers. Many commentators pronounced the Third World project dead. However, the announcement of its death was premature. Third World hopes remained alive in the breast of the peoples, and Fidel’s persistent international discourses were a constant reminder of the unfulfilled demand for justice of the Third World peoples. When the negative consequence of neoliberal policies became evident to the peoples, a new wave of social movements emerged.
In this context, Cuba assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement for a second time, and it was able to guide the organization to a retaking of its classic principles. The 2006 Declaration of Havana, approved unanimously by the 218 member states, affirmed the principles of the equality and sovereignty of nations, non-intervention in the affairs of other states, and “the free determination of peoples in their struggle against foreign intervention.” In the debate on the Declaration, one head of state or high government official after another took the podium—in a process lasting all through the night, ignoring pleas by chair Raúl Castro to limit their comments—to denounce the structures and policies of the established world-order as negating the fundamental human needs of their peoples. The anti-imperialist perspective has been maintained to the present in the Non-Aligned Movement, during a period that has included the presidencies of Iran, Venezuela, and Azerbaijan.
The return of the Non-Aligned Movement to its classic principles has been reinforced by the emergence of progressive and socialist governments in Latin America, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, and Argentina, albeit with contradictions and interruptions. These governments have led the creation of regional organizations that are dedicated to the development of cooperative, mutually-beneficial relations. They include ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America), established in 2004; UNASUR (South American Union of Nations), created in 2008; and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), established in 2010. The 2016 Declaration of Havana, issued by CELAC’s Second Summit, affirms the commitment of the 33 governments to expand commerce within the region and to develop a form of integration based on complementariness, solidarity, and cooperation.
The 2014 visit of President Xi Jinping to Latin America to meet with the heads of state of CELAC was a historic moment of contact between the Chinese and Third World projects. The China-CELAC Forum was established, and Xi subsequently visited Venezuela and Cuba. During his trip, Xi declared that China is seeking economic development through trade based on mutually-beneficial cooperation and win-win relations. He defended South-South cooperation as the engine that can drive the autonomous and sustainable development of the developing nations; and he observed that the expanding economic and social relation between China and CELAC is an example of South-South cooperation. He affirmed the commitment of China to an alternative, more just and reasonable international economic and political order. Cuban journalists were moved to write, “Our region, historically plundered and beaten by foreign powers, now receives respectful treatment and gratitude from the Asian giant.”
Any correct reading of these developments would indicate, first, that the cooperation being forged in theory and practice by China and the Third World is the best hope for a world-system in sustained structural crisis. And secondly, that the USA has no viable alternative to casting its lot with the global project of the Third World plus China; and to developing its economy in a form that would enable it to participate in the development of mutually-beneficial trade with other nations. In fact, the United States is strategically positioned to do so: it continues to have a large economy that is especially strong in some sectors; and such a turn by the United States toward East-West and North-South cooperation would be enthusiastically welcomed by the governments and the peoples of the world.
The U.S. corporate elite and political establishment has demonstrated its moral and intellectual incapacity to take this necessary turn. Therefore, the duty falls upon the peoples of the United States. Leaders must come to the fore, with the capacity to discern the necessary steps and to lead the nation to an anti-imperialist foreign policy, taking political power on the basis of a discourse that its consistent with the political culture of the United States and the founding principles of the American Republic (see “Socialism with US characteristics: Based in the founding principles of the American Republic,” January 3, 2023).
China seeks to leave behind antiquated structures in which the development of some nations is built on the foundation of the conquest, peripheralization, and superexploitation of other nations and societies. China offers to humanity a vision of cooperative relations among nations, a vision of an alternative world-system that is not based on competing imperialisms. China seeks to change the rules of the world-system, not with the intention that China and its allies can rise and those in power will fall; rather, with the intention of establishing a world-system that promotes the common development of all.
China is a threat only to those politicians who have not prepared their nations for cooperation, whose mode of operation is divide and conquer in order to take advantage. China exposes them as traitors of their nations and as betrayers of the common good of humanity.
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