Xi Jinping’s Thought on Diplomacy and China’s Position in the New Era

By WANG LEI    2018-07-10 23:09:21

China strives to promote world peace and development through building a new type of international relations.

GENERAL Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy is the compass guiding China at a critical stage in history in which it is moving to the center stage of the world and striving to achieve national rejuvenation. It is the theoretical basis for China’s endeavors to build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind, and to implement major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. In response to the heated discussions on China’s future development and the world’s concerns about the country, this thinking expounds China’s views on the current world order, it’s positioning in the world in the new era, and therefore makes historic contributions to the development of international relations theories.

Moving to the Center Stage 

In his report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC, Xi defined the new era we are now in as “an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” It should be noted that the country is “moving closer” instead of standing at the center stage, an insightful observation of the reality that evolution of the international situation has accelerated and China’s international status is rising swiftly. This is the precondition for our diplomatic work today.

Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy is the most important guideline for China to maintain strong growth momentum, and consolidate and increase its international influence, ability to inspire, and power to shape up in a well planned, phased, and step-by-step manner. Under this thinking, China set the years 2035, by which socialist modernization is expected to be basically achieved, and 2050, by which a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful modern socialist country will take shape, as two key nodes in the phased process of building itself into a great, modern socialist country. This reflects China’s strategic and historical vision and its commitment to world peace and development.  

In this dynamic process we can only achieve our goals by following the guidance of Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy and through practices of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. The current complex international situation has imposed high demands on our diplomacy in the years to come. We must be free of arrogance and rashness to be able to make solid progress, and meanwhile, be fully confident in ourselves and keep aspiring. We must be wary of conservatism and fear for difficulties, meanwhile guard against conceit and arrogance. We must be alert to both straightforward hostility and deceptive adulation, and maintain firm strategic resolve and self-confidence.  

China’s International Status 

The overarching goal of China’s diplomatic work is to safeguard world peace and promote common development. In “an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” one goal and also the desired outcome of China’s majorcountry diplomacy is to reach the center stage. But for now, China is yet to reach this position, which is an assessment based on objective and sober thinking.

In his report to the 19th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi articulated: “We must recognize that the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society does not change our assessment of the present stage of socialism in China. The basic dimension of the Chinese context — that our country is still and will long remain in the primary stage of socialism — has not changed. China’s international status as the world’s largest developing country has not changed.”

China intends to arrive at the center stage but not the center of the world, according to Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy. While striving to build itself into a great modern socialist country, China, as a responsible big country, is committed to building a multipolar world through its major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. China aims at harmonious coexistence with all other countries, instead of becoming the center of the world. Based on its fine traditions and the CPC’s foreign policy, Chinese diplomacy opposes unilateralism, hegemony, and power politics. Majorcountry diplomacy with Chinese characteristics does not aim to topple the existing international system to establish a new hegemonic power. Instead China works with all other countries to build a community with a shared future for mankind by preserving diversity and promoting common development. This is a historical breakthrough compared with traditional Western theories on international relations. A Polish reader browses through Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, which has been published in 23 languages in over 160 countries and regions, at a book store in Warsaw on October 16, 2017. Surpassing Traditional Western Theories on Foreign Relations 

Mainstream traditional Western theories on foreign relations primarily consist of two sects – realism and liberalism – and their variants and subsets. Their core concepts, including nation-state, sovereignty, power, security, interest, and balance of power, laid the groundwork for international relations of Western countries since the end of the Thirty Years’ War in the mid-17th century, and still hold sway over today’s global status quo and operation of international politics. Traditional Western theories on foreign relations reflect the duality view of Western philosophy, which tends to cause injustice in international relations where the strong prey on the weak and generate the thinking that when one wins, others lose. These theories motivate countries to form political and military alliances, and consequently entrench ideological divisions and confrontation between different camps. The result is instability in international systems.

The need for peace and stability has haunted mankind throughout its history. Today the world faces glaring instability, uncertainty, and insecurity as well as mounting deficits in peace, development, and gov-ernance, which pose grim threats to world peace and common development of mankind. Now it is time for the world to make up its mind to “cross the Rubicon.”More than 40 international students comment on Xi Jinping: The Governance of China II at a session held by the Jiangsu University Overseas Education College on April 15, 2018.Xi Jinping’s thinking on diplomatic work outshines traditional Western theories on foreign relations, because first, it advocates a completely new type of interstate relations, with the aim of blazing a new trail in state-to-state relations. Departing from the old pattern under traditional Western theories on foreign relations in which countries seek power and security by forming political or military alliances, it intends to demolish the division between the dominant and subordinate countries and the barriers between different camps, calls for countries around the world to form partnerships instead of alliances, and advocates the establishment of a global network of partnerships.

Second, Xi Jinping’s thinking on diplomatic work strives to establish a new type of international relations centered on win-win cooperation, which, in the essence, aims to substitute the duality mindset. It helps countries out of the impasse where they have only two options – absolute or relative returns, shatters the theoretical bottleneck that winner takes all, and that justice and interests are in a skewed, contradictory relationship. Featuring a broader, prescient vision and a higher perspective, the thinking offers the world a new perspective on mutually beneficial common development.

Third, with its proposal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, Xi Jinping’s thinking on diplomacy reshapes the fundamental perception of international systems, and debunks the hypothesis of traditional Western theories on international relations that the international community is in perpetual anarchy. An innovative theory of the international system, it offers an appropriate approach to solving tough issues concerning world security, development, peace and stability, and promoting healthy development of international relations.

Forging a new type of international relations and building a community with a shared future for mankind are the central idea in Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy. Being closely related, they comprise a dialectical unity that gives answers to such questions as “what kind of world are we going to build?” “What kind of diplomacy does China need?” “How to handle relations with other countries?” And “how to explore the future development of mankind?”

Forging a new type of international relations paves the path and creates the conditions for building a community with a shared future for mankind, which in turn offers guidance and sets the ultimate goal for forging a new type of international relations. Without a new type of international relations, the international community cannot escape the restrictive grip of realpolitik and hegemony; without the guidance of building a community with a shared future for mankind, international relations cannot discard the rule of the jungle or mend divisions and estrangement.

Xi Jinping’s thinking on diplomacy is based on an indepth analysis of the evolving international situation, domestic conditions, and China’s international status as well as precise understanding of their trends, and laws of their development. It is the top-level design for China’s diplomatic work, and guides China’s diplomatic work to follow the trends of economic globalization and democratization of international relations. Guided by Xi Jinping’s thought on diplomacy, China’s majorcountry diplomacy in the new era will focus on forging a new type of international relations and building a community with a shared future for mankind, strive for national rejuvenation, make fresh contributions to peace and development of mankind, and work to realize the cherished hope of Chinese people and all man kind for common development. C

WANG LEI is associate professor with the School of Government and director of the BRICS Cooperation Center, both under Beijing Normal University.

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