The current domestic and foreign policies of China boil down to: Sticking to the road of peaceful development.
The country's foreign policy is geared to the promotion of peace, opening up to the rest of the world, safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, helping create an international climate favorable to China's economic development, and bringing about a harmonious world that benefits all members of the global family.
Some principles of the foreign policy were put in place shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Some were formulated after the reform and opening up policies were started in the late 1970s. Still others have been introduced in recent years, dictated by changes in the international arena, and domestic needs.
The new developments in China's foreign policy in recent years find expression in a number of ways.
First, it is emphasized that domestic and foreign affairs enjoy equal priority so that they can be integrated more closely.
What are China's overriding domestic tasks in the upcoming 10 years?
The first is to realize harmonious development of the country in order to eventually bring about a well-off society by 2020. The second is to continually improve relations between the mainland and Taiwan for the purpose of introducing a framework of peaceful development across the Taiwan Straits on the premise of the one-China principle, which serves as the vehicle for creating the necessary conditions for the peaceful reunification of the motherland.
Diplomacy should serve these two overriding tasks. At the same time, domestic policies will lend support.
As a matter of fact, the boundaries between diplomacy and domestic affairs are becoming increasingly blurred in the new international and domestic context. And their interactions with one another are getting stronger and stronger. For example, we are faced with energy, financial, environment, global warming and food safety issues. These are new challenges facing China's diplomacy. But to resolve these issues on the diplomatic front, they must also be settled on home turf first or simultaneously.
Second, a new security outlook is being advocated, which is based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, and cooperation.
Guided by the new security outlook, China has in recent years made important progress in settling territorial disputes with its neighbors, implementing economy-oriented diplomacy, pushing for regional security dialogue mechanisms, strengthening its cooperation with the international community in non-traditional security fields such as anti-terror campaigns and non-proliferation undertakings.
It is expected that non-conventional security considerations will play an increasingly bigger part in China's foreign and security policies while continuing to pay attention to conventional security. As a result, China's international cooperation activities will continue in a big way.
Third, working hard to ensure the development of China's relations with major developed countries, neighboring countries and the developing world.
Among these different relations, that with neighboring countries is the most important, and concerns major powers as well as developing countries. "Reassuring, benefiting and befriending our neighbors" is the most fundamental policy that China's handling of its relations with neighboring countries is based on.
In its relations with big powers, China puts expanding common interests before everything else, and spares no effort to ensure the steady development of its relations with all big powers for the sake of regional and global strategic stability. One recent example is China-Japan ties, which lagged miserably behind other bilateral relations for a while, have now improved significantly since last year. This encouraging situation bodes well for achieving stability, cooperation and relatively balanced trilateral ties between China, the United States, and Japan in East Asia.
With respect to its relations with developing countries, China emphasizes that the developing world constitutes the very foundation upon which China's total diplomacy is based. Good political relations with developing countries should be increasingly integrated with economic cooperation, while China's aid to developing nations should contribute to the long-term development of their economies and security.
Fourth, China is playing an active part in international affairs with emphasis on gaining "soft strength" and acting as a responsible big country as it should be.
China is currently transforming from a developing country to a developed one, from a regional power to a global one. The process has just started and the country has a long way to go.
The transition is largely reflected in China getting more and more involved in multilateral diplomacy and its assigning increasing importance to the formulation and implementation of international rules. In recent years, China has been making great efforts to uphold the United Nations' authority, advocating multilateralism, encouraging dialogue between different civilizations and cultures, participating in and promoting international and regional cooperation, getting proactive about peace-keeping and peace-building missions and extending the reach of its foreign aid.
All this indicates that the process of China's integration into the international community has entered a new phase. Playing the role of a responsible big country on the world stage will be a new starting point for the country's foreign policy.
Fifth, China is determined to seize the favorable strategic opportunities to make itself more prosperous and powerful and also help promote world peace and development.
It is believed that the next 10 to 15 years constitutes a period of strategic opportunities. Why? I believe the following four factors answer this question.
Number one, the world economy, the Chinese and Asia-Pacific economies in particular, are expected to develop in a sustainable way during this period. As China nears its goal of becoming a well-off society, its comprehensive national strength will rise to a new level.
Number two, conditions favorable to the reunification of the motherland will largely increase, against the backdrop that the mainland is becoming increasingly powerful and prosperous.
Number three, China will possibly establish mature, stable and constructive cooperative relations with major powers, in the course of its deepening reform and rapid development.
Number four, nations of the world will hopefully find ways and mechanisms to cope with non-traditional security threats and negative impacts from globalization, after a period of exploration and cooperation.
China is striving to seize this period of strategic opportunities because the country hopes to facilitate progress in those four areas.
Based on the new developments in China's foreign policy, the trend is quite clear. China is resolved to advancing world peace, development and cooperation.
Before I wrap up this observation, let us spend some time on the assessment of China's military strength.
First, the military strength of a country necessarily grows with the development of its economy, science and technology. Now that China's economy, science and technology is accelerating, it is only natural for the modernization of its military forces to pick up pace as well.
Second, the ominous expansion of "Taiwan independence" forces since the mid-1990s has contributed significantly to the fast development of the mainland's military strength. Caught in this situation, the mainland has no choice but to increase military spending in an effort to contain "Taiwan independence" elements and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In response to the two factors mentioned above, China adjusted its relevant strategy from keeping national defense buildup behind economic growth to advancing the two in sync.
Third, in order to take on more international obligations, make greater contributions to world and regional peace and stability and protect its overseas interests, China needs to strengthen its military capabilities, including an indispensable long-distance delivery capability.
Finally, as a nuclear power whose space technology is also developing at a fast pace, the country's policies have always been clear and precise: maintaining a nuclear defensive with limited but reliable deterrence capabilities and a pledge to never use or threaten to use of nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear country or region and remain dedicated to total nuclear disarmament and the scrapping of nuclear arms in the world.
China supports peaceful use of outer space as well as a total ban on militarization and the weaponization of outer space. And the modernization of China's nuclear arms and development of its space technology are strong safeguards for realizing the above-mentioned policies.
Looking at the future, as China-US and China-Japan ties continue to move toward stability and cooperation, the situation across the Taiwan Straits will ease and the East Asian multilateral security mechanism will take shape and grow. The country's military transparency and its mutual confidence with nations such as the US and Japan will surely be able to improve. Also, no matter how the international situation will change and how China's strength will develop, it will never entertain the ambition of becoming a military superpower.
In a word, the development of China's military forces will be synchronized with that of its politics, economy, culture, science and technology so that the nation will be a positive force behind regional and world peace, stability and prosperity.
The author is a researcher with China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies
(China Daily 10/17/2007 page9)