Speech at the Opening of Symposium on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations in 2018
H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Beijing, 11 December 2018
It gives me great pleasure to join you again at this annual symposium on the international situation and China’s foreign relations. Thanks to your active participation and strong support, the symposium has become increasingly effective in contributing many valuable suggestions to China’s foreign policy, for which I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to you all.
The world in the outgoing 2018 has been marked by uncertainty, a defining feature of the international landscape. The shift in the balance of power accelerated, unilateralism and protectionism further developed, and the international system came under serious strain. Major-country competition intensified. Even as traditional hotspots remain unresolved, non-traditional security issues such as climate change and refugees cropped up. With his keen understanding of the evolution of history and firm grasp of the trend of the times, General Secretary Xi Jinping made this key judgment about the current international situation: “Our world is experiencing profound changes unseen in a century.”
Amid these once-in-a-century changes, China has naturally encountered new challenges and risks. Yet the Chinese diplomacy, like a giant vessel navigating the sea, has neither lost direction in the mist, nor been deterred by winds and storms. Instead, it has kept cleaving waves and forging ahead, resolute and steadfast, toward its intended destination.
This steadfastness and confidence comes from the strong leadership of the Communist Party.
In June this year, the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs was successfully convened. The most important outcome of this milestone conference is the establishment of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy as the fundamental guideline for China’s foreign relations. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy charts the way forward for our major-country diplomacy in the new era and provides us with powerful inspiration for tackling challenges in this fast-changing world.
Over the past year, following the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core and under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, we in the foreign service have worked proactively with a clear focus and a cool head to fully implement the guiding principles and strategic decisions of the 19th Party Congress. We opened new prospects, broke new grounds and achieved new progress. I would like to recapitulate China’s foreign policy in 2018 with the following words and phrases:
The first keyword is openness. Contributing to China’s wider opening-up has been an overarching theme of China’s diplomacy in 2018. This year marks the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. China is determined to further open up while deepening reforms.
Facing the headwinds of protectionism, unilateralism and acts of bullyism, China has remained a staunch supporter for globalization, for multilateralism, and for the free trade system. From hosting multilateral events to attending international conferences in 2018, China conveyed a clear, consistent message of its commitment to wider opening-up by outlining new policies and concrete measures, thus standing firm on the right side of history.
The Boao Forum for Asia held early this year sounded the clarion call for China’s new round of opening-up. In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the annual conference, President Xi Jinping stated loud and clear that China’s door of opening-up will not close but open even wider. He went on to announce a series of major steps of opening-up, including significantly widening market access, fostering a more attractive investment environment, strengthening the protection of intellectual property and proactively expanding imports. The resounding message in President Xi’s speech, consistent with what he laid out in Davos and Geneva last year, speaks to China’s determination to deepen reform and expand opening-up in the new era.
In November, China successfully hosted the first China International Import Expo (CIIE). As the world’s first national-level expo devoted to imports, the CIIE is no less than a pioneering undertaking in the history of global trade. As many as 172 countries, regions and international organizations participated, including the 3,600-strong overseas companies setting up booths and the over 400,000 buyers from home and abroad. In just a few days’ time, various deals worth nearly US$60 billion were sealed. At the opening of the CIIE, President Xi Jinping further announced major steps of opening-up in five respects, including stimulating the potential for increased imports, broadening market access, fostering a world-class business environment, exploring new horizons of opening-up, and promoting international cooperation at multilateral and bilateral levels. The CIIE is another concrete action by China to demonstrate its firm support for an open world economy and its sincere desire to open its market for shared development opportunities.
The second keyword is cooperation. Win-win cooperation is the brightest highlight of China’s foreign policy in 2018. The joint undertaking of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) entered a new phase this year. The symposium marking the fifth anniversary of the BRI was held. General Secretary Xi Jinping, the chief architect of the BRI, attended and addressed the symposium. He pointed out that after five years of efforts in laying the groundwork and establishing the comprehensive framework, the BRI was entering the phase of solid progress and sustained growth poised to achieve higher quality development. The General Secretary set the bar higher for the BRI development and pointed the way forward. Following the guiding principles in his remarks, we have worked to deepen and enrich the cooperation under the BRI. Over the past year, more friends have joined in the initiative: another 50-plus countries and international organizations signed the cooperation documents, raising the total number of such documents to over 140. The BRI spirit was incorporated into the outcome documents of important international institutions including the United Nations, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asia-Europe Meeting, and is increasingly becoming a consensus for international cooperation. Notable progress has been made on a large number of priority projects covering connectivity building and industrial park cooperation, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, China-Laos Railway, China-Europe Railway Express, the Piraeus Port and the Hambantota Port. Third-party cooperation under the BRI framework is also well underway in Europe, Asia and Africa.
In a word, the BRI proposed by President Xi Jinping has become the most popular public good and the biggest cooperation platform in today’s world. To date, trade between China and the BRI partner countries has exceeded US$6 trillion. The more than US$80 billion of Chinese investment in these countries has created 240,000 local jobs.
Why has the BRI been so popular and won so much support? It is because we have followed the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits rather than dominance by a single party. It is because we have kept the BRI open, transparent and inclusive rather than building an exclusive circle. It is because we believe the BRI must be green, environment friendly and sustainable in pursuit of high quality. And it is because we have worked to see that BRI-related undertakings follow the rules, international law and the laws of all countries concerned.
Facts have shown that the BRI has brought tangible benefits to the people of all participating countries and made important contributions to global cooperation and common development. The BRI is bound to gain greater support from the international community and embrace even brighter and broader prospects.
South-South cooperation was elevated to a new level. 2018 could be called the year of South-South cooperation in China’s foreign relations. Under the China-CELAC Forum, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), we held collective dialogues with almost all other developing countries across the different continents.
The successful FOCAC Beijing Summit last September is a historic gathering of the big family of China and African countries. Attended by 40 Presidents, 10 Prime Ministers, one Vice President and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the event set a new record in FOCAC history, and indeed, in all the diplomatic activities China ever hosted.
At this summit, China and Africa introduced over 100 cooperation measures under eight major initiatives, and sent a strong message of China-Africa solidarity and collaboration for a shared future. President Xi outlined China’s “five-no” principle in developing relations with Africa: “no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries’ internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa.” This principle embodies the self-imposed discipline by China in its cooperation with Africa. It also represents the ethical norms that should guide international development cooperation.
During the summit, many African leaders spoke up against the suspicions and accusations about China-Africa cooperation. The view they share is that China is the most trustworthy partner for the African continent in its pursuit of progress and prosperity.
The Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum issued the Special Declaration under the Belt and Road Initiative and the China and CELAC Joint Plan of Action for Cooperation on Priority Areas (2019-2021). The Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum issued the Declaration of Action on China-Arab States Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and reached more than 100 cooperation agreements in nearly 20 areas across the economic, trade, industrial, energy and cultural fields.
Moreover, in his first overseas trip this year, President Xi Jinping visited the UAE, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and Mauritius to strengthen China’s unity and cooperation with countries in the Middle East and Africa. His trip to Argentina and Panama at the end of the year led the way for China’s relations with Latin American countries in the new era. President Xi also attended the BRICS Johannesburg Summit where he joined the leaders from other BRICS countries in planning the future of BRICS cooperation. In Papua New Guinea, President Xi met with the leaders of the Pacific island states having diplomatic ties with China and opened a new chapter in the history of the relations between the two sides.
All these actions in the past year have given a strong boost to China’s unity and cooperation with other developing countries and fostered a sound momentum toward common progress and shared prosperity.
The third key phrase is steady progress, which is the goal of China’s foreign policy in 2018. With a cool head and a proactive approach amid regional and global complexities, we have maintained overall stability of our relations with the major countries, and achieved all-round improvement and growth of our relations with neighboring countries.
On relations with major countries, the China-US relationship, in particular, captures global attention as it concerns the interests of all. Facing the negative moves from the US side, including the trade frictions it provoked, China has worked firmly and resolutely to defend its national interests, dignity and right to development, safeguard the rules-based multilateral trading system and seek solutions through dialogues based on mutual respect, equality and good faith. In their recent meeting during the G20 Summit, President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump had an in-depth strategic discussion. They agreed to pursue a China-US relationship defined by coordination, cooperation and stability, and charted the way for addressing the existing issues between the two countries and promoting the healthy growth of China-US relations. The two sides had constructive talks on trade and economic issues, which prevented the further escalation of their trade frictions and put these disputes back on the track of resolution through dialogue and consultation. The two sides expressed commitment to the common goal of win-win cooperation and thus anchored expectations around the world.
Having said that, as two big countries different in social system, history, culture and stage of development, China and the United States do have some disagreements, which is only natural. And the existing problems between the two countries cannot be resolved overnight. However, their interwoven ties and intertwined interests also determine that China and the United States cannot be decoupled or completely isolated from each other. As we mark the 40th anniversary of the joint communiqué on establishing China-US diplomatic relations and the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up, we recognize that both historical events have impacted our world today in a profound way: China achieved far more progress via reform and opening-up than the world had expected, and China-US relations achieved far more growth than erstwhile predictions.
Ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius observed that “when reaching the age of forty, one should have no more doubts.” If the past four momentous decades of China-US engagement were any guide, it boils down to the conclusion that our two countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation benefits both sides and the whole world, while confrontation makes no one a winner and will only negatively impact the whole world.
Today, people of vision from both sides must see through the mist and reconfirm this valuable consensus, expel various disturbances and show the wisdom of “having no more doubts”. China intends to stay on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, keep to peaceful development, and pursue win-win cooperation with all countries. We hope the United States will abandon the zero-sum mentality, see China’s development in a more positive light, and broaden the room for mutual benefit. There is no need to create rivals, and still less, to effectuate a self-fulfilling prophecy.
China-Russia relations continued to grow at a high level. The two Presidents met several times and exchanged visits. President Xi Jinping visited Russia for the East Economic Forum and President Vladimir Putin paid a state visit to China. The deep trust between the two Presidents and their strategic guidance have made China-Russia relations rock solid and provided a strong driving force for the growing cooperation and deepening international strategic coordination between the two countries. This serves the interests of both peoples, and provides an anchor of stability for the strategic balance in the world.
China and Europe forged closer ties. President Xi Jinping visited Spain and Portugal; Premier Li Keqiang attended the China-EU Summit and the China-CEEC Heads of Government Summit; leaders of major European countries including the UK, France and Germany visited China. Keeping to the overall direction of all-round cooperation, China and Europe sent a joint message of supporting multilateralism and free trade and tackling global challenges together, and brought the negotiation of the China-EU investment treaty into a new stage. The growth of the China-Europe relationship shows that major countries can enjoy harmony in diversity, expand their common ground while properly managing their differences, and gain from each other’s comparative strengths.
Encouraging progress was made in China’s neighborhood diplomacy, and there emerged an overall sound momentum in our neighborhood. In South Asia, China and India are each other’s important neighbors and they are the world’s two largest developing countries. China-India relations were beset by the boundary question and other historical baggage in recent years. Last April, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a significant political decision: holding an informal summit in Wuhan for deep strategic communication. As a new form of China-India high-level engagement, the summit increased the trust and understanding between the two countries, and led China-India relations onto a track of healthy and steady growth. The landmark Wuhan summit will leave a deep imprint in China-India relations. Friendly exchanges and win-win cooperation between China and India will positively affect the evolution of the global landscape and the human society. President Xi Jinping emphasized that the Chinese “dragon” and the Indian “elephant” should join each other in a duet, not a duel. And Prime Minister Modi responded by saying that when India and China work together, 1+1 is not two, but 11. China will continue to work with India to explore a path for two big neighbors to live side by side for win-win outcomes and contribute our due share to the progress and prosperity of Asia and the world beyond.
In Northeast Asia, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship this year, China responded positively to the desire of the Japanese side for improved relations with China. The two countries conducted a series of high-level exchanges and brought their relationship back to the right track. We hope the Japanese side will fully implement the consensus that China and Japan are each other’s partners, not threats, so that China-Japan relationship can shift from competition to coordination, and make fresh progress. This year, General Secretary Xi Jinping and Chairman Kim Jong Un met three times. They reached important consensus on developing China-DPRK relations in the new era, revitalizing the traditional friendship between the two countries. China-ROK relations continued to grow steadily and China-Japan-ROK cooperation was rebooted. In a word, new prospects were opened in Northeast Asian cooperation.
In Southeast Asia, President Xi Jinping paid successful visits to Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines, and Premier Li Keqiang attended the summits on East Asian cooperation and visited Singapore. The China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership is maturing, and consultation on a code of conduct in the South China Sea has entered a fast track. As China and ASEAN member states work together to maintain stability and conduct maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, our mutual trust has increased notably, leading to more positive mutual perceptions and outlooks on our relations. Under these circumstances, whatever risks that may exist in the South China Sea have been caused by the show of force and provocation by certain non-regional countries under the pretext of “freedom of navigation”. However, these moves will by no means upend the overall stability in the South China Sea or erode mutual trust between regional countries.
The fourth key phrase is standing at the forefront of our times. This reflects China’s concern for the common good of humanity in 2018. The international system has reached a crucial moment of transformation, and the world economy has arrived at a crossroads. In the face of disagreement, disillusionment and disquiet among countries, China, following the trend of the times, is working actively to forge a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind and endeavoring to make the global governance system more just and equitable. In a highly uncertain world, China has become an important source of stability.
We have looked beyond the changing landscape and made active efforts to foster a community with a shared future for mankind. This vision put forth by President Xi Jinping has won broad support from the international community. Over the past year, this vision has guided our cooperation with the rest of the world on building the Belt and Road, backed by concrete projects. The vision has been incorporated in the outcome documents of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, the SCO Qingdao Summit, the Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum as well as a number of high-level bilateral and multilateral engagements, pooling great strengths toward making this envisioned community a reality.
We have remained steady in a volatile world and taken solid steps toward building a new type of international relations. Over the past year, we have enhanced friendship and interactions with other countries on the basis of mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and worked to develop a new path of state-to-state relations featuring dialogue instead of confrontation, partnership instead of alliance. We have also encouraged the development of major-country relations based on no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. These efforts have made a positive contribution in a world fraught with uncertainties.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a good example of the new type of international relations advocated by China. The SCO’s “Shanghai Spirit” represents a new model of state-to-state relations emphasizing partnership rather than alliance. The Qingdao Summit held last June, the first since the SCO had admitted new members, set a new record in terms of scale, outcome and level of participation since the Organization’s founding in China. In Qingdao, President Xi Jinping set forth China’s approach to development, security, cooperation, civilizational exchange and global governance, and elaborated on the new type of international relations proposed by China, thus bringing the “Shanghai Spirit” fully up to date. At the Summit, China worked closely with other member states to speak with one voice on the major international and regional issues of the day and to make the SCO an anchor of stability in the world and an indispensable and positive force for global governance.
We have remained clear-eyed and made proactive efforts to shape the course of global governance reform. At the G20 Summit, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and the BRICS Summit, President Xi Jinping sent a clear message against protectionism and unilateralism. He reiterated China’s firm support for the international order and system centered around the purposes of the UN Charter, the rules-based multilateral system of free trade, and the Paris Agreement and international climate action. He also encouraged more inclusiveness and win-win results in multilateral discussions. On WTO reform, one of the focal issues of global governance, China supports necessary improvement and reform to the WTO. At the same time, we believe its core values and basic principles must be upheld, and the developmental rights and interests and policy space of the developing countries must be protected.
The fifth keyword is mission. A strong sense of mission is the driving force of China’s foreign policy in 2018. This year has seen a major turnaround of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, as the US-DPRK summit in Singapore broke the impasse of the nuclear issue and three DPRK-ROK summits brought a thaw to the inter-Korea relations. The turnaround, which is the result of the concerted efforts of the relevant parties, is what China has been calling for. For decades, China has played an irreplaceable, constructive role in advancing the denuclearization process and safeguarding peace and stability on the Peninsula. Under the new circumstances, we, committed to preserving the hard-won momentum of de-escalation, encourage the North and the South to seize the current opportunity to improve relations, and support the US and the DPRK in working together to kick off the process of settling the issue. After careful thinking, we crafted a fundamental solution to the nuclear issue that can help ensure the long-term stability and security of the Peninsula and address the legitimate concerns of all the parties. This is the dual-track approach that we proposed and encouraged, which seeks to promote synchronized progress of both denuclearizing the Peninsula and establishing a peace mechanism. Only if progress is made on both tracks at the same time, can the issue be fully resolved and there be any hope of lasting peace.
On the Iranian nuclear issue, China stands firmly by international law and the greater good. We believe the multi-party agreement reached through consensus and endorsed by the UN Security Council should be honored. We will work with the parties to uphold the effectiveness of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and send a clear, united message of preserving the JCPOA and opposing unilateral sanctions.
The issue of Myanmar both concerns China’s vital interests and affects regional peace and stability. As a major and responsible country, China has suggested a three-phase process to resolve the Rakhine situation, held two informal trilateral meetings with Myanmar and Bangladesh, and facilitated a general agreement between them on the return of displaced persons. We hope Myanmar and Bangladesh will start the return of the first group of displaced persons as soon as possible, and make a good start in settling this complex issue left from history.
Chinese diplomats have engaged in shuttle diplomacy to advance the political settlement of such issues as Afghanistan, northern Myanmar, Syria and Palestine. Recently, China’s 8,000-member peacekeeping standby force has passed the performance assessment conducted by the UN and is ready to deploy wherever needed. In a word, China will continue to work with all interested parties and meet its responsibility for world peace and international justice.
The sixth keyword is steadfastness. Safeguarding national interests in a steadfast way is the abiding mission of China’s foreign policy in 2018. We are resolved to uphold our country’s sovereignty and security which are China’s core interests. This year, China established or restored diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador on the basis of equality and voluntarism, bringing the total number of countries having diplomatic relations with China to 178 and cementing the international support for the one-China principle. We firmly opposed foreign intervention in Hong Kong and Macao affairs, vigorously engaged in diplomacy on issues relating to Tibet and Xinjiang, strengthened international counter-terrorism, law enforcement and security cooperation, and properly handled the violent terrorist attack on China’s consulate general in Karachi. With these efforts, we firmly safeguarded our country’s national security.
In order to fulfill our central task of serving national economic and social development and to meet the new requirements of high-quality development, we have fully leveraged our diplomatic and consular assets across the globe to facilitate more sub-national cooperation and the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. This year, events were held at the Foreign Ministry to present Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Shandong and Heilongjiang provinces and the Xiongan New Area of Hebei Province. Through such thematic events, 16 Chinese provinces have shown the world what they have to offer. The Foreign Ministry has also stepped up support for Jinping and Malipo, two counties in Yunnan Province paired up with the Foreign Ministry in their poverty reduction efforts. The diplomatic service must be firmly in play in the nationwide battle against poverty.
Serving the interests of the people is our bounden duty in the foreign service. We must strive to meet the people’s aspiration for a better life. The people’s contentment and satisfaction is all that matters in measuring whether we have done a good job. That’s why we are putting procedures in place to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens traveling overseas. We are also working on legislation concerning consular protection and assistance, and stepping up preventive consular protection for the most vulnerable Chinese abroad, including tourists, students and employees of overseas companies. By launching the “Foreign Ministry 12308” smartphone app and significantly lowering the fees of consular legalization of documents for Chinese citizens, we have made consular services more accessible to our people. These practical steps have been welcomed by the Chinese public and media.
The safety and well-being of every fellow countryman and woman abroad is foremost on our mind. We will never sit idle when our citizens’ rights and interests are infringed upon and subjected to bullying. We will do everything we can to defend their lawful rights and to ensure that the world is a fair and just place for all.