NPC & CPPCC > Reporters' Log

The time has come for country to set its own rules in diplomacy

By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-12 07:44

I was struck by one particular remark Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made during his 90-minute-long annual news conference on China's foreign policy on Saturday.

"We have tried hard to enrich and expand diplomatic theory with Chinese characteristics," Yang told reporters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Beijing's top diplomat made the remarks when summarizing China's diplomatic achievements of the past year on the sidelines of the ongoing National People's Congress session.

The comment may sound like diplo-speak, but in my mind, it conveyed a clear message: As the country becomes stronger, China is now on the trajectory to develop its own doctrine of diplomacy.

I believe this may be one of the country's greatest achievements in diplomacy.

As a graduate who majored in international relations in university, "doctrine" is far from a new term to me.

Most people are familiar with the connotations of the "Bush doctrine", which Wikipedia says, "describes various related foreign policy principles of former US president George W Bush" - ideas and initiatives like unilateralism, the war on terror and preemptive strikes.

But the "China doctrine" is a totally new concept to the international community and in the international relations discipline. So why is China pursuing it? And what principles are at its core?

The answers are clear.

Considering what has happened in China over the past year, it is fair to say Beijing now believes it is necessary to claim its right to have its own say in the international community.

After Yang's briefing, an international relations analyst told me: "China should erect a post in the world to make clear to the international community its core interests and bottom lines," Peking University professor Lian Yuru said, referring to events after the March riot in Tibet.

What Lian calls a "post", I call "doctrine". Her point is that China - not outsiders - should set its own rules according to its core interests.

In an earlier interview, China's ambassador to Germany Ma Canrong told me many Westerners still do not understand that Tibet is China's core concern.

He pointed to this as a key source of some of the friction between China and some other countries.

The question then becomes: If China had made it clear early on that the region is part of its core interest, would there have been such unpleasantness?

Yang used the news conference as an opportunity to let the world know the autonomous region is integral to China's core interest.

He urged the international community "to not allow the Dalai Lama to visit their countries" and "to not allow him to use their territories to separate Tibet from China".

The foreign minister appeared mild and smiled for most of the briefing. But his countenance suddenly stiffened when it came to this point.

Refusing visitations by the Dalai Lama should become one of "the basic norms of international relations" of any country cultivating ties with China, he said, clenching his hand into a fist.

According to a newspaper under the Xinhua News Agency, this is a "rarely seen, harsh and aggressive remark" from China.

Clearly, the foreign minister was "erecting a post" to delineate its bottom-line on Tibet, part of its diplomatic doctrine.

And according to Lian, the Peking University professor, the remarks are "perfectly right" for this time.

I was sitting in a small caf in western Beijing while writing this log. Looking out the window, I could see the China Foreign Affairs University, known as a "cradle for Chinese diplomats", just meters away.

It should not be surprising if many of its graduates are working hard to enrich the China doctrine in the international community and the discipline of international relations in the future.

A message from the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), or the parliament, tells saving energy and protecting environment is a big government agenda.