The changing international environment shapes and influences Chinese diplomatic practices. Zhao Kejin, Director of Tsinghua University’s Center for China’s Statecraft and Public Diplomacy and Deputy Director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, hosted the opening ceremony of the 10th annual National Foreign Affairs Study Conference. The opening ceremony featured Xie Weihe,Vice President of Tsinghua University; Yan Xuetong, Dean of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Modern International Relations; Zhu Liqun, Vice President of China Foreign Affairs University; Paul Haenle, Director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy; and Shi Zhiqin, Dean of Tsinghua University’s Department of International Relations and Carnegie-Tsinghua’s Resident Scholar. Each emphasized the importance of providing a platform to discuss the ideas surrounding China’s diplomatic transition.
Shi then hosted a series of keynote speeches following the opening ceremony that dove into the underlying issues of the future of the study of Foreign Affairs in China. These speeches featured Le Yucheng, Assistant Minister and Director of Policy Planning in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Shen Guofang, Former Assistant Minister for the MFA and Chief Editor of World Affairs Press; Robert D. Kaplan, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security; and Wang Yizhou, Vice Dean for Peking University’s School of International Studies
The Changing Global Landscape
- Prevalence of Crisis: The past few years have seen massive change, argued Le . Major global disasters, both economic and social, have become more prominent. Despite these major setbacks, Le added that China’s development allowed it to remain strong even during the financial crises in 2008 and 2009, when China saw 9.2 percent growth while other nations experienced negative growth.
- China’s Test: Wang explained that China is currently being tested by three major global issues—unrest in the Islamic world, the global financial crises, and the effects of China’s own economic growth. These issues present not only challenges, but opportunities for China to further engage in global affairs, Wang said. China’s diplomacy must be able to creatively adapt to the new international environment in order to face these challenges.
- New Era of Chinese Diplomacy: China’s diplomacy has gone through three phases: the Mao Zedong era, the Deng Xiaoping era, and now the current transforming diplomacy, Wang added. In the first phase, the main foreign policy goal was to spread communist ideals throughout the world. The second phase focused on developing overseas commercial enterprises within China in order to foster growth and development. In the current phase, China’s diplomacy is undergoing transformation that may last for several decades, Wang concluded.
- China’s Growing Role in Global Affairs: China has been increasing its role in international affairs, and expanding its diplomatic strategies to include public and cultural influence as well as high-level government exchanges, Le said. China’s strategies demonstrate the country’s goal for peaceful development that preserves regional and global stability and maintains Beijing’s position and role in international affairs, he added.
- Future Global Role for China: Shen suggested that China has two pressing concerns as it looks toward its future as a global power. First, Beijing must find the best way to participate and play an active role in regional affairs. Second, China must calculate how to protect its overseas enterprises that have been affected by the global and regional financial crises.
- A Challenge to Core Interests: Shen suggested that Beijing must engage in bilateral and multilateral cooperation, so that other nations may have a better understanding of China and its core interests. By increasing global understanding of Beijing’s position, China can relieve any fear and pressure.
- Importance of Forecasting: Diplomacy must also include forecasting in order to predict potential issues and conflicts, Shen added, giving China the chance to act preemptively to avoid conflict. In order to have predictive diplomatic strategies, policies must become more detailed and transparent to avoid misperception.
- Being Proactive: China must take a proactive role in global affairs, and cannot be a free-rider, Wang argued. However, China cannot follow the same path as the West; it must have its own unique characteristics and ideas which are reflect the country’s unique interests and history.
- Eurasia’s Strategic Importance: Eurasia’s geography will be extremely influential to Sino-U.S. relations in the future, explained Kaplan . In the past, Eurasia was separated into different regions, like the Middle East, East Asia, and South Asia, but recent developments have brought these regions together into what Kaplan called a “fluid maritime organic continuum.” Maritime affairs are increasingly critical to the region, given that 90 percent of commercial goods travel by sea, and China and other Asian countries have been strengthening their naval power.
- China’s Military Development: China’s military development has been increasing, as China acquires fighter jets, missiles and submarines, Kaplan added. However, he emphasized that military development should be understood as an act of economic growth and development, rather than preparations for war. China’s interests in the Middle East and Indian Ocean are for commercial gains, not military, he stated.
- Pivot to the Pacific: The U.S. attempt to pivot its attention toward the Asia-Pacific and to maintain its presence in the region is a natural reaction to China’s growth, but at this point it is unclear whether this policy is feasible due to unrest in the Middle East, Kaplan added.