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Kozhirova S.B. The evolution of the foreign policy doctrine of modern China: continuity and innovation

Deng Xiaoping’s concept of modernization, including the idea of “independent and autonomous foreign policy” has been the core of Chinese foreign policy doctrine for a long time. The main goal is the rapid economic growth of China. The strategic principle of “taoguan yanhui” (to keep a cool head and maintain a low profile. Never take the lead – but aim to do something big.) announced by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1990s determined the foreign policy of the PRC during the period of reforms and openness.

China’s next leaders postulated their own concept, which effectively deepened and developed the basic principles of Deng Xiaoping. In particular, the third generation of Chinese leaders led by Jiang Zemin determined “new security concept” as the heart of its policies. It found continuation in the political line of Chinese fourth generation leaders. Hu Jintao offered to consider the security of China in direct proportion to the principles of “peaceful development”.

At the same time, the principle of “taoguan yanhui” in foreign policy gradually begun to cause the rejection among military and expert community. According to several Chinese experts, China may “quietly out of the shadows” offer the world its initiatives and claim world leadership, pushing back the USA. Many Chinese military experts started talking about the “obsolescence” of a course on conflict avoidance and maneuvering. They offer “not to fear conflict”, not to avoid them, but rather to take a strong offensive position, because China is now able to “confront any enemy”.


Features of the foreign policy of Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping was elected as President of the People’s Republic of China on 14 March 2013 in a confirmation vote by the 12th National People’s Congress. There were important changes in the Chinese internal and foreign policy.

In particular, “Chinese dream” determined the foreign policy of China. Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” is a foreign policy, which not only would enhance the authority of China in the world, but would give an opportunity to significantly improve Chinese people’s living standards.

A new development strategy in China is distinguished by higher pragmatism, rejection of the imperial and internationalist slogans. The Charter of the CPC and the PRC Constitution proclaim rejection of the country’s superpower and hegemony even when it becomes highly developed country.

A significant factor in the development of China in the last decade was progressive inclusion of the country into the world economy, processes of globalization and regionalization. Chinese trans-regional structures – Silk Road Economic Belt, Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank attest to the growing and deepening interdependence between China and the outside world.

According to the “new policy”, China has embarked on the alignment partnerships with other countries based on equality and mutual respect. According to Xi Jinping, the principle of sovereignty should not only eliminate aggression and interference in the internal affairs of another state, but also support the right of any state to choose its social system, and external partners should respect practice of socio-economic development.

On March 23, 2013, visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech entitled “Keeping up with the Trend of the Times and Promoting World Peace and Development” at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.  Xi Jinping called on the international community to build a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at the core.

Also he stressed that China unswervingly follows the path of peaceful development and steadfastly develop its comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination with Russia: “All countries should jointly promote establishment of a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at the core, and their peoples should protect of world peace and promote universal development” [1].

Xi Jinping delivered an important address at the Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs on 28-29 November 2014. He noted that the basic world trends have remained the same as in 1980s: multipolarity, economic globalization, peace and development, a need to reform the international system, prosperity and stability in the Asia Pacific region. In so doing the Chinese leader emphasized that China “is at a critical stage of achieving the great rejuvenation of the nation”, in which the interdependence between China and other countries will be especially strong, in his opinion, the growing power of China need to make an integral part of a new foreign policy. [2].

According to Xi Jinping, the strengthening and development of relations with developing countries are a starting and ending point of the foreign policy of China [3]. In particular, in his speech at the headquarters of UN in New York (September 26, 2015) Head of China stated that the cooperation “South-South” is a cooperation model characterized by cohesion, mutual support. And he announced that in the near future, China will provide developing countries support project “Six hundred”[4]. This project included 100 projects on poverty reduction, 100 projects in the field of agricultural cooperation, 100 assistance projects in trade, 100 projects on environmental protection and responses to climate change, 100 projects for the construction and equipping hospitals and clinics, 100 projects for the construction and equipping of schools and professional educational institutions.

The Chinese leader emphasized the need for consistent promotion of the role of UN and UNSC to ensure peace; hence he offered to reinforce power components of the organization along with strengthening the politico-diplomatic dimension of its activities. In this regard, Xi Jinping announced China’s decision for the decade to establish “the Fund of peace and development of China – UN” by providing US$1 billion for UN.  Furthermore, China decided to join “the new mechanism of the UN force for the protection of peace” and to create a special military unit in the amount of 8 thousand people to be drawn upon, as necessary in peacekeeping purposes under UN auspices [5].

Speaking for the first time at the annual session of the UN GA (28 September 2015), Xi Jinping called for a new model of international relations, which is based on win-win cooperation. Noting that the statutory purpose of the UN had not yet been reached, Xi Jinping urged greater efforts to promote peace and development in the XXI century: “We should affirm our commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, establish a new type of international relations based on win-win cooperation, and create “a community with a common destiny” for all mankind” [6].

For this purpose, the Chinese President put forward a five-point proposal:

First, the international community should establish a partnership based on equality, start mutual consultations and understanding: “We have to create a global partnership at the international and regional levels, adopt a new approach to interstate relations characterized by dialogue rather than confrontation, promoting partnership, not an Alliance” [7].

Second, Xi Jinping called for the creation of an equitable and fair security structure involving all countries: “We should foster a new vision for a common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable security, fully demonstrate the leading role of the UN and its Security Council in ending wars and maintaining peace” [8].

Third, Xi Jinping called for an open, innovative and inclusive view of development as a win-win outcome.

Fourth, Xi Jinping called for greater international exchanges to promote harmony, inclusion and respect for differences: “Different civilizations should conduct dialogues and exchanges instead of trying to exclude or replace each other. We should respect all civilizations and to treat each other as equals”.

Fifth, Xi Jinping called for the creation of an ecosystem, that places above all else the nature and “green” development, and requires the international community to work together towards a global eco-civilization. China assumes its share of responsibility, while developed countries should fulfill their obligations in the area of emissions and assist developing countries adapt to climate change.


China as the new leader of economic globalization

On January 17, 2017 Xi Jinping attended the Opening Session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (WEF) in Davos and delivered a keynote speech titled “Jointly Shoulder Responsibility of Our Times, Promote Global Growth”.

First, Xi Jinping stressed that economic globalization has provided a powerful impetus to the global economy. Just blaming economic globalization for the world’s problems is inconsistent with reality, and it will not help solve the problems. According to Xi Jinping, we should adapt to and guide economic globalization, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations [9]. Xi Jinping encouraged the world leaders not to draw back from globalization, but rather to reformat it, because there is not enough equality between countries in this process [10].

Second, the head of China said that China has become the world’s second largest economy thanks to 38 years of reform and opening-up. Moreover, Xi Jinping said that China’s development is a chance for peace. China not only gains benefit from economic globalization, but also makes an outstanding contribution to this process.

Third, Xi noted that since the announcement of “Belt and Road” initiative more than 100 countries and international organizations supported it. More than 40 countries and international organizations have signed the agreement on cooperation with China. The amount of Chinese investment in countries along the “Belt and Road” exceeded $50 billion. Thus, the “Belt and Road” initiative comes from China, but the results benefit all over the world.

Fourth, XI Jinping noted that the large states should follow the principle of non-contentious, non-confrontation, mutual respect and mutual benefit, while the large countries should treat small countries as equal and put justice above the interests.

In addition, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said these same ideas in his speech at the 53rd Munich Security Conference.

First, Wang said that the world is facing many conflicts due to departure from the main purposes of the UN Charter. If all countries would comply with the basic objectives and principles of the UN Charter, it is quite possible the peaceful settlement of disputes, avoidance of conflict and confrontation, realization of cooperation and mutual benefit on the basis of peaceful coexistence. Multilateralism is an effective tool for maintaining peace, promoting development and resolving global problems.

Second, Wang stressed that States are not grouped into big and small, they are all equal. At the same time, the large States possess great resources and opportunities. They are responsible for and duty to play a greater role in ensuring international peace and security and make greater contribution to the development and progress of mankind [11]. Thus, China has already become the second economy in the world, the first global producer and the largest trading country in the world and the country’s leadership believes that the best of their ability. China will assume more international responsibilities and obligations.

These ideas were developed by a member of the state Council of China Yang Jiechi, who published article on the topic of “Active implementation of international responsibility and commitment” in “Renmin Ribao”. The article noted that in the active execution of international responsibility and compliance is the meaning of the diplomacy of China, a big country with Chinese characteristics. Following a further search and promotion of Chinese diplomacy, the role of China as a responsible large state will be more prominent [12].


Сonclusions and generalizations

First, all of China’s actions in foreign policy are determined by the only criterion – the creation of favorable external conditions for economic development and growth of the absolute power of China. From international events that are not directly related to this goal, Beijing is trying to distance itself.

Second, the basic national interests of China in foreign policy remain:

  • an active foreign policy of China, corresponding to the increasing national power of the country;
  • the conquest of the leading position in the world through active economic policies.
  • China’s commitment to the principles of multilateralism;
  • support the international system, the center of which is the UN;
  • support China extended the representation and voting power of developing countries in international governance;
  • China’s commitment to peaceful coexistence and cooperation with all countries of the world.

Third, in the new geopolitical situation of the XXI century, China’s foreign policy enriched with new ideas. In particular, XI Jinping referred to the following characteristics and innovations of the foreign policy doctrine:

  • the formation of the concept of a new type of international relations, including a new type of relations between China and the United States;
  • the willingness of China’s growing responsibility for the state of international affairs and world economy;
  • China’s readiness to assume the role of a new leader of economic globalization (in terms of when the United States gradually returned to the principles of protectionism and moving away from the idea of free trade);
  • dramatically increased Chinese investment in foreign countries;
  • the “Belt and Road” initiative, which includes “Economic way of the silk road and Maritime silk road of the XXI century”;
  • increased activity of China in the Asia-Pacific region (APR), the deepening of relations with countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, actively defending the interests of China in the Arctic;
  • the growing ability of China to projecting its military power outside its national territory.


[1] Си Цзиньпин в выступлении в МГИМО подчеркнул необходимость построить международные отношения нового типа на основе взаимовыгодного сотрудничества //http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/rus/zxxx/t1027329.shtml.

[2] Коростиков М.Ю. Динамика внешней политики КНР через призму национальных интересов. Comparative politics. Russia.  2016 Vol.7   No.4    URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.18611/2221-3279-2016-7-4(25)-108-126

[3] Си Цзиньпин о государственном управлении // Издательство литературы на иностранных языках, 2014, с.512.

[4] Си Цзиньпин подчеркнул важность сотрудничества Юг-Юг. 27.09.2015. URL: http://russian.people.com.cn/n/2015/0927/c31520-8956033.html

[5] Китай неуклонно поддерживает миротворческие операции ООН и защищает мир во всем мире. 13.09.2015. URL: http://russian.people.com.cn/n/2015/0930/c31521-8957217.html

[6] Председатель КНР предложил новую модель международных отношений //http://russian.news.cn/2015-09/29/c_134671129.htm.

[7] Там же.

[8] Там же.

[9] Си Цзиньпин принял участие в открытии ежегодной сессии ВЭФ в Давосе и выступил с основным докладом //http://russian.people.com.cn/n3/2017/0118/c31520-9168307.html.

[10] Си Цзиньпин защитил в Давосе свободную торговлю. 20.01.2017. URL: https://artpodgotovka.news/si-czinpin-zashhitil-v-davose-svobodnu/

[11] Глава МИД КНР принял участие в Мюнхенской конференции по безопасности. 18.02.2017. URL: http://russian.people.com.cn/n3/2017/0218/c31520-9179614.html

[12] Глава МИД КНР: «ответственность» стран важнее, чем их «руководство». 10.03.2017.URL: http://russian.people.com.cn/n3/2017/0310/c95181-9188506.html

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