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Commentary: China's diplomacy serves development
( 2003-09-12 07:13) (China Daily)

The primary goal for Chinese diplomacy is to retain the country's strategic opportunities and maintain economic development to the year 2020. This will be a crucial period, not only for building a well-off society at home, but also for establishing a favourable position internationally.

The rest of the world is becoming more and more polarized. The European Union, with France and Germany at its core, is seeking independence by building both a defence system and diplomatic policy. Russia's economy is recovering, which increases its diplomatic manoeuvering space. And China's diplomatic efforts towards a new world order have helped thwart unilateral hegemony.

In the meantime, economic globalization has reinforced the interdependence of all nations, reducing the prospect of regional wars expanding into world wars, thus creating room for peace and growth globally.

The September 11 incident in 2001 caused a strategic shift in the policy of the world's only superpower when it moved from targetting a new international rival to international terrorism. The challenge of and urgency in fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation have exhausted the US diplomatic and military resources and have increased its dependence on some regional powers. Detente between the United States and Russia and the United States and China occurred within this landscape.

The continuance of this situation should ease international pressures China might otherwise face. The strengthening of China's muscle since the 1980s, its improving relations with neighbouring countries and the establishment of a new security system have all facilitated a peaceful environment and long-term stability.

The emergence of strategic opportunities is also rooted in China's policy of economic reform and opening up over the past 20 years. Over that period, the country has moved from a planned to a market economy, restructured traditional industries and boosted science and technology. China was the world's fifth biggest trader in 2002, with a trade volume of US$620.8 billion. The inflow of international capital and technologies, including foreign direct investment of US$53 billion in 2002, has fuelled China's economic engine and resulted in its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

The last two decades of the 20th century paved the way for the first 20 years of the new century in terms of talent, technology and system preparedness.

Unipolarity will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future as far as the international power structure and power disparity are concerned.

And this will be the background for China's international growth. On the other hand, opposition to hegemonism is necessary for China to preserve global stability, take on international responsibility and find a place on the world stage.

Avoidance of major direct conflict with unilateral hegemony should be the bottom line.

The power of unilateral hegemony will change with the evolving "power centres'' around the world, rather than with diplomacy and policy manipulation.

The fact that the international community failed to prevent the United States from withdrawing from the "Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty'' or from launching the war in Iraq fully illustrates this point.

From a long-term perspective, Focusing on the build-up of national strength should allow China to promote a new international order and make greater contributions to global affairs.

In the 1980s, the tug of war between the Soviet Union and the United States became the source of international upheaval, while China focused on opening up its economy. Now, as then, the primary strategic goal for the new era's diplomatic efforts is not the opposition of hegemonism. But defence of international justice and opposition to unilateralism remains a responsibility we cannot shirk.

China's more active participation in international organizations and mechanisms has taken on a new strategic meaning. If previous policies were geared towards involvement for our own purposes, our new priority will be the active promotion of reform of the current international rules and mechanisms, so that they will reflect more of the interests of China and the vast developing world. This will not only help us obtain our inalienable rights, but also allow us to take the initiative and set up a multilateral defence system against security and economic concerns.

Specifically, China, as a major power in the developing world, should seek membership in the G8 and guarantee the balance of rights and responsibilities after acceptance. The same principle of bringing about balance also applies to other international organizations, either those that exist today or will appear in the future.

A more comprehensive industrial development strategy for the medium and long term should be developed so that our diplomacy can better serve the purpose of accessing the international market. Research into the current world economy and high-tech growth should help us pinpoint potential boom areas to secure a place in the international market in the next five to 10 years for China's State-owned or private businesses, especially for high-tech products.

Securing land routes for importing energy is another key issue for the future. As China is projected to import a third of its oil by 2005 and 40 per cent by 2010, clearing the transportation bottleneck in the Malacca Strait will affect both our energy security and the sustainable growth of our economy. In the north, we should also push for the construction of the pipeline running through Russia and Kazakhstan to China.

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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