China's Policy towards the Asia-Pacific

It is a great honor for me to come and speak today at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. It would be an understatement to say that this is one of the best universities in the world. Over the years, Harvard has produced eight American presidents and more than 40 Nobel laureates.

Harvard also has long-standing ties with China. Among the first group of Chinese students officially sent to America by the Chinese government more than 100 years ago, one boy studied at Harvard. Now Chinese students are the largest group of foreign students here. The John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies is among the world’s leading institutions for China study. Your school of Government, in cooperation with the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University of China, is also providing trainings for Chinese central and local government officials in recent years, strengthening its bonds with China and, more significantly, helping build up the human resources for China’s modernization.

Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Harvard University for its great contributions to mutual understanding and friendship between our two countries.

Your excellence and leadership in China study make it really challenging for anyone to come here and speak about China. At the same time, it is truly rewarding to do so, because the audience is most critical and appreciative, and the responses would be most thought provoking and stimulating. It is indeed a great opportunity for me, as Ambassador of China to the United States, to come and share my views with you today.

The subject I am given is China’s policy toward the Asia-Pacific. This is one of the most talked about foreign policy issues in the world now. There are naturally very different perceptions and analyses. But what is really happening there? What are China’s policy goals toward the region?

In order to have a clear understanding of the issue, let me first of all put forward some basic facts. China is situated in the center of the Asian continent. It borders Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Central Asia which further connects it with West Asia and the Arab countries. China has land boundaries with 14 countries, totaling over 22,000 kilometers. China is also a Pacific country. It has a continental coastal line of 18,000 kilometers and numerous islands. It faces 6 other countries across the seas。

China has close and age-old ties with its neighbors, starting long before the concept of nation state came into being. For centuries, cultural, commercial and people-to-people exchanges between China and its neighbors have enriched regional civilization and benefited every nation involved. Confucius is highly respected throughout the region. Buddhism came to China, took roots here and spread on to China’s neighbors. Chinese characters have played an instrumental role in many Asian languages. And chopsticks are widely used in the region.

All this may sound like elementary geography and history. But it is important to keep these basic facts in mind in order to have a good understanding of what shapes relations between China and its neighbors and what conditions China’s policy in the region.

It is not surprising, therefore, that on the basis of past history and present realities, and fully recognizing the affinity and complexities in the region, China’s foreign policy gives the highest priority to its relations with the neighbors. This has been the case all along, but particularly so since China started reform and opening-up 35 years ago. The policy goals have been consistent.

First and foremost, China is firmly committed to peace and stability in the region. The Asia-Pacific region has seen too many wars and conflicts in history. The largest casualties in World War II were here in our region. Even during the years of the Cold War in the world, Asia had two costly hot wars. Such history should never be allowed to repeat itself. The last thing we want to see in our neighborhood today is instability, be it in the form of armed conflicts, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or rise of terrorism.

With the same vigor and resolve, China works for common prosperity of the region. Many regional countries, including China, are undertaking major reform and restructuring efforts. A stronger, more balanced and sustainable development is a shared priority for us.

China also stands for open and inclusive regiona1 integration. Dividing the region into mutually exclusive blocs and opposing alliances is counterproductive and anachronistic. We support an evolving regional architecture that is open to all and will benefit all.

Likewise, China advocates community building in the region. Asia-Pacific is well known for its diversity. Differences are bound to occur. But our common interests far outweigh any possible difference. We should focus on what brings us together as a community and handle what may drive us apart in a spirit of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation.

Last October, President Xi Jinping of China gave the keynote address at China’s first ever national conference on its diplomacy with the neighboring countries. He summarized China’s policy principles into four basic concepts: amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness (亲、诚、惠、容). The message is clear and straightforward. China remains committed to peace and stability in the region, to good neighborliness with others, to common prosperity and a stronger community, and to peaceful dialogue and negotiations on disputes.

These principles are determined by China’s long-term and fundamental national interests.

During his recent trip to Europe, President Xi Jinping pointed out that since modern times, the great renewal of the Chinese nation has been the biggest dream cherished by the people in China. He emphasized that the Chinese dream is about the pursuit of peace, about the quest for happiness and about contributing to the common good of the world. To realize the Chinese dream, we have set out two centennial goals, namely, to double the 2010 GDP and people’s income and finish the building of a society of initial prosperity in all respects by2020, and to turn China into a modem socialist country that is strong, prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious and realize the great renewal of the Chinese nation by mid-21st century.

These are China’s national goals. They represent our fundamental national interests. And in today’s world, no path other than peaceful development could lead us to these goals. No task is more important for China’s diplomacy than to bring about a favorable and supportive international environment for the attainment of the nation’s peaceful development. This determines our policy choice towards the world in general and the Asia-Pacific region in particular.

It has to be pointed out here that peaceful development also requires safeguarding such core national interests as sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity. Without such a determination and capability, there could be no peace nor development. Obstacles have to be removed, but our goal remains unchanged. Let there be no underestimating of China’s readiness to defend its core interests. Let there be no illusion that anyone could easily derail China’s pursuit of peaceful development.

The principles for our regional policy are also based on a firm belief that the long-term interests of China and those of the region as a whole converge.

Thanks to the joint efforts of China and other regional countries, and contrary to the impression created by some media stories, overall situation in the region is stable. Economically, this is the most dynamic region in the world and has shown remarkable resilience when hit by international financial crises. Regional integration is also making headway, despite all the diversity and complexities. These are solid reasons for confidence in the future of the region.

At the same time, the region is also faced with tremendous challenges. Our collective response to these challenges will shape our common future. Here lies the convergence of interests and all regional countries are stakeholders.

Asia-Pacific needs common security. The region still has some Cold War legacies and potentially explosive situations. The tendency in some quarters to deny past war atrocities is truly disturbing. Possible proliferations of weapons of mass destruction and threats by terrorist and extremist forces undermined security in many parts of the region. In a broader context, natural disasters, diseases, climate change and other non-traditional threats affect security of the region in many ways. Disputes left over from history also have to be handled carefully and constructively. In a word, today’s security threats are complex and widespread. To manage them is clearly beyond the scope and capability of any military alliances. What is needed is a common, comprehensive and cooperative approach。

Asia-Pacific needs an economic upgrading. Eradication of poverty is an unfinished task in the region. Economic development is uneven both between and within countries. Regional economy still has structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Unless these problems are adequately addressed, growth and prosperity will remain fragile and hard to sustain.

Asia-Pacific needs closer integration. We have made remarkable progress in regional integration. But much more has to be done in building open and inclusive mechanisms if we want to be more prosperous regionally, more competitive globally and better able to overcome rising protectionism.

Asia-Pacific needs smooth transition. Many countries in the region are undergoing important domestic transition, economically, socially, politically, and even generationally. In fact, the region as a whole is being transformed in a profound way. Individual countries need a supportive regional environment. Regional transformation depends on the success of national efforts. No single model can provide answers to such complicated and diversified situations. We need better mutual understanding and country-specific approaches to accomplish this challenging task so that the region and all its members will enter a new and more advanced stage of development.

These challenges are before the entire Asia-Pacific region. China and other countries of the region feel the pressures together. We have to search for solutions together. No country can do it all by itself. There is no alternative to genuine partnership. China’s success has to be part of the success story of the region, while the region benefits from China’s development, as has been shown by history of the past few decades. Such convergence of interests makes the region a community of common destiny. We believe in rising tide lifting all boats. And we are indeed in the same boat. These bonds are stronger, longer lasting and more resilient than those of old-fashioned alliances. In this sense, there is no need for us to pivot or rebalance in Asia-Pacific, because this is our homeland, our roots are here and our priority never shifts.

My presentation would be incomplete without some observations on how China and the United States should interact with each other in Asia-Pacific.

China and the United States are the two biggest countries in the region. We are both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. We have shared interests in stability and prosperity in the region. And we have shared responsibility to bring all this about.

China recognizes American presence and interests in the region. We welcome a constructive role by the United States in regional affairs. We hope that the United States will join the regional quest for 21st century solutions to the challenges before us so that Asia-Pacific will enjoy lasting peace and widespread prosperity.

China seeks win-win interaction with the United States in the region. The Pacific is wide enough for both countries to develop and prosper. Cooperation will give both of us a much better chance to succeed and make the region a much better place for all. In order to achieve this, both countries need a mindset that is as broad, and as open, as the Pacific.

China takes a constructive approach to the differences it has with the United States on some regional issues. We believe that the two countries should do their best to narrow their disagreements where possible, and manage skillfully those differences that cannot be resolved for the time being, so that they will not disrupt the overall bilateral relationship or the regional situation.

Nevertheless, on matters of principle, China’s positions are always firm and clear-cut. Such consistency and clarity help reduce the possibility of miscalculations by others. Nothing, whether direct coercion or implied threat, whether unilateral statements or joint statements like the one just issued in Tokyo, could intimidate China or compromise our principles.

China and the United States are now working together to build a new model of relationship between us. This new model rejects the old zero-sum game among major powers that resulted in so many conflicts and confrontations in the past. This new model aims at win-win cooperation on the basis of mutual respect. The Asia-Pacific region, with its great promises and high stakes for both of our countries, is a good starting point and testing ground for this new model. Clearly it is not a favor given by one side to the other. It is an endeavor that requires positive energy from both sides. It is not about playing with words. Serious commitments have to be made and honored. We in China remain fully committed to the goal. Will such positive political will be reciprocated so that the long-term common interests of the two countries are served? We shall wait and see.

Thank you very much.


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