China’s Role in International Affairs

Published on 25th September 2018

We are living in a time of rapid changes. Amid evolving international landscape, peace and development remain the theme of our times. At the same time, anti-globalisation is rising, and protectionism, unilateralism and populism are surging. The International community is standing at a historical crossroads. Should we stay open and move forward, or shut ourselves in and turn back? Should we uphold multilateralism and win-win cooperation, or choose unilateralism and "zero-sum game"?

These questions are not reserved for the leaders of our countries only. They are also tests for us, the diplomats. They test our vision, courage and wisdom. The fast changing time brings unprecedented challenges as well as opportunities. As diplomats, it is our duty to follow the overarching trend of the times, seize the opportunities and address the challenges.

Henry Kissinger once said, the current international system is experiencing "the biggest change in 400 years,"  and China is the largest variable in the new international order. Others have referred to the rise of China as the greatest miracle in the 21st century. So what would you say? Is the rise of China an opportunity, a challenge, or a threat? What does China's development mean to the world?

The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China gave a clear answer to this question:  China will stay committed to peaceful development. It will work with other countries to build a new type of international relations, and a community with a shared future for mankind.

The Communist Party of China regards as its mission to make new and greater contribution to mankind. This means that China's development will make the world a more peaceful and better place. Let me elaborate on this from the following five aspects:

First, China has promoted peace through its own development. Peace is the ever-lasting pursuit of mankind. By keeping to the path of peaceful development, we have carried on the peace-loving tradition of the Chinese nation.

In its more than 5,000 years of history, China has always valued peace, good-neighborliness and harmony. This pursuit of peace runs deep in the DNA of the Chinese nation. Historically, China had been one of the most powerful nations in the world for a long time, but it had never colonised or invaded other countries.

The Chinese people experienced intense sufferings in modern times, and therefore value deeply the peace and tranquility we now enjoy. Peace, stability and development are the biggest aspirations of the Chinese people. Peaceful development meets the inherent need of China in its pursuit of own growth. Without peace, there could be no development, and without development, peace could not last.

Despite being the second largest economy, China is still the world's largest developing country. Our per capita GDP ranks only the 71st in the world; There are still 30 million people living in poverty and more than 80 million who are disabled; And every year, 15 million people need to find a job.

As a big country with a population of over 1.3 billion, China has a clear idea of the kind of challenges and difficulties awaiting it down the road. I was Assistant Governor of Gansu Province, one of the poorest provinces in China. I know from personal experience how arduous the task is and how severe the challenges are for China to achieve development. To concentrate on development at home, China needs a harmonious and stable domestic environment, and China also needs a peaceful and tranquil international environment.

In its relations with other countries, China seeks dialogue and partnership rather than confrontation and alliance. China will never seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence even when it grows strong. Staying committed to peaceful development is a strategic choice of China that is in accordance with the trend of the times and serves China's fundamental interests. It is China's solemn commitment to the world. China will always be a contributor to world peace. We maintain world peace in order to achieve development. We also promote world peace through our development.

Second, China has upheld peace through inclusive cooperation. This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. Forty years of success taught us that reform and opening up are the only way to development. It also taught us that inclusive and win-win cooperation is the only way for countries of the world to share the benefits of development and enjoy lasting peace.

In the past 40 years, China has worked vigorously to build partnership around the globe. We have expanded common interests with other countries.  We have never imposed unfair deals on others or taken advantage of others. We do not agree with the old logic of "you lose, I win" or "the winner takes it all." While we want China to become richer and stronger, we are also ready to help other countries board our fast train of development and benefit from China's growth.

In September 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. This is an important measure of China to open up its market further and engage in broader external cooperation. It is also the important public goods that China contributes to the international community.

In the past five years, the BRI has been translated from a concept into actions, from aspirations into reality. To borrow the terms of traditional Chinese painting, we have completed the sketch of the BRI with "freehand brushwork". It is now time to attend to the details with "fine brushwork."

The BRI will enable China to expand the scope of its opening up from regions along the coast and rivers to the hinterland and border areas. Through the BRI, China will open up on all fronts through links running eastward and westward, across land and over sea.

As of today, 103 countries and international organisations have signed 118 cooperation agreements with China on the BRI, including many Commonwealth countries.

In the past five years, China's trade in goods with countries along the routes has exceeded $5 trillion;   China has invested over $60 billion in these countries; China has also built 82 economic and trade cooperation zones along the routes. These zones have contributed $2.2 billion in tax and fees to the host countries, and created over 200,000 jobs locally.

 I attended the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Out of 22 CPEC projects, 9 have been completed and 13 are under construction. These projects will boost Pakistan's growth by 1 to 2 percentage points.

BRI projects in other countries have also delivered tangible benefits. Here are some examples: The Hambantota Port jointly built and operated by China and Sri Lanka handled 76,600 tons of freight in the first half of this year alone. It is expected to become an important world-class port in the Indian Ocean. The Colombo International Container Terminal has completely converted from diesel to electricity, cutting CO2 emissions by 95%. It has become the largest "green port" in South Asia. The Abuja-Kaduna railway has provided services to nearly one million passengers since its launch two years ago. China also helped build many schools, roads and health care facilities along the railway.   The National ICT Fiber Backbone network in Tanzania covers 21 administrative regions in the country and connects six neighbouring countries. The road expansion project in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, will be completed next year. This project will effectively alleviate the traffic congestion in the city.

Like all things new, BRI has met with its share of misunderstandings and even doubts. It takes some time for people to fully appreciate this initiative. Although the BRI was proposed by China, it creates opportunities and produces outcomes for the world. In this Initiative, China has no geopolitical calculations. China is not building an exclusive bloc. And China is not strong-arming anybody to do deals on our terms. Instead, the principles of BRI cooperation are extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. This means that contrary to allegations of "debt trap" or "plundering resources", the BRI is a platform for countries to achieve common development, address challenges together, and share prosperity.

China will take solid steps to deepen reform and open its door wider to the world. China will host the first-ever International Import Expo in Shanghai this coming November. This will be the world's first-ever import fair. Companies of all countries, including the Commonwealth countries, are welcome at the Import Expo to introduce their products and services to the Chinese 1.3 billion-strong market.

Third, China has supported peace through adhering to international rules. In international relations, it is natural that countries may disagree with each other. What's important is to manage and bridge disagreements in a practical and constructive manner according to universally-accepted international rules and on the basis of mutual respect.

China has always upheld the international order and the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral system with the UN as its core. China opposes the practice of cherry-picking international rules to suit one's own selfish interests.

Some country, however, is bent on "putting itself first," advocating unilateralism and protectionism, wielding the "tariffs baton" and threatening other countries with "trade wars." This has posed severe challenges to the world economic order and the multilateral trade regime.

Despite the opposition at home and abroad, the US government announced that it would impose 10% of additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods and that it was preparing for further tariff escalations. China is now forced to take counter-measures in order to safeguard its lawful rights and interests and uphold free trade in the world.

What China has achieved since the introduction of reform and opening up policies are attributable to the hard work of the Chinese people. The fundamental reason for China's success is that we have found the right path for development. The "China miracle" is created by the Chinese people. It is not a result of "stealing" others' wealth or technology. Nor is it a result of being bullied. We would not have come so far had we feared threats. We do not create trouble, but we are not afraid of it. The so-called "maximum pressure" will never intimidate the Chinese people into submission.

The US actions are deeply rooted in the belief of "zero-sum game" and "beggar-thy-neighbour" which are completely outdated. They are a far cry from China's world view, how China sees international cooperation and development, and how China defines winning and losing.

I have published six articles in British media on the trade disputes between China and the US. In these articles, I have stressed the importance of upholding the rule-based international order; I have illustrated why win-win cooperation is the only right path toward a better future.

China believes that in the global governance, all countries should follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. China has taken an active part in the reform and development of the global governance system. China works to contribute its wisdom and efforts to the improvement of this system.

China is ready to work with other countries  to build a new type of international relations; to build a community with a share future for mankind; and to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.

Regardless of the changing international landscape, China will remain a firm defender of globalisation and free trade; advocate open, inter-connected and mutually-beneficial cooperation;  uphold WTO rules; support the multilateral trade regime; endorse a fair and reasonable international governance system; and contribute to building an open world economy.

Fourth, China has maintained peace through pursuing the greater good and shared interests. In Chinese culture we believe that a gentleman should value the greater good and that a country should never sacrifice the greater good for material interests. In the international cooperation, pursuing the greater good and shared interests will lead to win-win results.

China's foreign policies fully reflect this spirit. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the largest developing country, China always keeps in mind its unique responsibilities and important mission.

China has spoken for developing countries on the international stage and has engaged in strategic cooperation and close coordination with them in the UN and the G20. China's goal is to work with partners of the developing world to explore more effective ways to modernisation; to improve the global governance system and make it fair, reasonable and balanced; and to safeguard the common interests and aspirations of developing countries.

Let me take China's relations with African countries as an example. China and Africa are close partners. Our friendship and brotherhood were forged and deepened in our common pursuit for national independence, development and revitalization. We supported and helped each other, and shared weal and woe.

I have been posted to Africa twice, and so I have deep emotional bonds with this continent. While working in Zambia in the 1970s, I had the honour to attend the handover ceremony of Tazara, a railway linking Tanzania and Zambia that was built by China. I witnessed the dedication of this historic monument of China-Africa friendship. While working in Egypt at the beginning of the new millennium, I saw with my own eyes a thriving China-Egypt relationship in the new century.

Over the past 40 years, despite changing international landscape, China-Africa friendship has remained stronger than ever. On 3 to 4 September this year, the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was a great success. China and Africa agreed to build a closer community with a shared future. A number of important outcomes were reached. Nearly 150 cooperation agreements were signed. In particular, 28 countries and the African Union Commission signed cooperation documents with China on jointly building the BRI.

The African side highly appreciated the "eight major initiatives" China proposed for China-Africa cooperation in the next stage. It is an upgraded version of the existing "ten cooperation plans."It draws a detailed roadmap for China and Africa to achieve common development.

According to the "eight major initiatives": China and Africa will enhance cooperation on industrial capacity, infrastructure development and trade. The two sides will tap cooperation potential in areas such as green development, capacity building, health care, cultural and people-to-people exchange, peace and security. The two sides will also match the BRI with Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and national development strategies of African countries. These initiatives will facilitate fast-growing and better cooperation between China and Africa and deliver more benefits to the African people.

The big family of China and Africa includes 55 parties and 2.6 billion people. The historic gathering in Beijing of this big family strengthened our consensus on further cooperation. It was a new historic monument to the common development of China and Africa.

In his speech at the Summit, President Xi Jinping said that China will take a "five-no" approach in its relations with Africa, namely:  No interference in African countries' pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; No interference in African countries' internal affairs; No imposition of our will on African countries; No political strings attached to assistance to Africa; And no selfish political interests in investment and financing cooperation in Africa.

This "five-no" approach is the fundamental reason why China-Africa relations have been able to withstand the test of time and hardship. It is the secret to the thriving China-Africa cooperation. No one could reverse the trend of China-Africa cooperation and Africa's development.

Fifth, China has safeguarded peace through holding the bottom line. China will stay committed to peaceful development. Other countries should do the same. World peace could be ensured only if everyone adheres to peaceful development. China will never seek development at the expense of others. At the same time, China will never allow its core interests be undermined, or give up its legitimate rights and interests.

Our bottom line is the core interests of our country. We will stay firm in safeguarding our national sovereignty, unity, security and development interests. This in itself maintains and safeguards peace.

Take the South China Sea as an example. Despite all the recent hyping-up, the facts speak for themselves: Thanks to the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is improving; relevant parties have returned to the right track of addressing disputes through negotiation and consultation; the relations between China and relevant countries have been sound and stable.

China and ASEAN countries are working on the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We are actively advancing the consultation on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). Agreement was reached between China and ASEAN countries recently on a single draft negotiating text of the COC. This has fully demonstrated that countries in the region have the confidence, capability and wisdom to deal with the South China Sea issue properly and achieve enduring stability, development and prosperity.

Yet to everyone's confusion, some big countries outside the region did not seem to appreciate the peace and tranquility in the South China Sea. They sent warships and aircraft all the way to the South China Sea to create trouble. Under the excuse of so-called "freedom of navigation", they ignored the vast sea lane and chose to sail into the adjacent waters of China's islands and reefs to show off their military might. This was a serious infringement upon China's sovereignty. It threatened China's security and put regional peace and stability in jeopardy.

The truth is the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been a problem. Every year, hundreds of thousands of merchant vessels pass through the South China Sea safely and unimpeded. Never has there been a single case of navigation freedom being affected. With over 60% of its foreign trade and transport of energy passing through the South China Sea, China, more than any other countries, cherishes the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea.

China has all-along respected and upheld the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But the precondition for such freedom is respect for the sovereignty and security of the littoral states. Freedom of navigation is not a license to do whatever one wishes. Freedom of navigation is not freedom to invade in other country's territorial waters and infringe upon other country's sovereignty. Such "freedom" must be stopped. Otherwise the South China Sea will never be tranquil.

No one should underestimate China's will to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests. No one should underestimate China's determination to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The majority of the 53 Commonwealth countries have diplomatic relationship with China. China stands ready to develop mutually-beneficial cooperation with all the countries on the basis of the one-China principle. We want stronger mutual trust. We want deeper friendship. We want broader cooperation, particularly on poverty alleviation, health care, climate change, sustainable development and global governance. I am sure that by working together and pursuing win-win results, we will become good friends and good partners.

As President Xi Jinping said, "A prosperous and stable world provides China with opportunities, and China's development also offers an opportunity for the world as a whole. Whether we will succeed in our pursuit of peaceful development to a large extent hinges on whether we can turn opportunities in the rest of the world into China's opportunities and China's opportunities into those for the rest of the world."

Let us join hands to share opportunities and turn opportunities into success. Let us join hands to promote peace and achieve development. Together we will contribute to the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind!

By H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming

Chinese Ambassador to the UK.

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