Forging Sound Relations Through the Principle of Amity, Sincerity, Mutual Benefit and Inclusiveness, Add New Chapters in Neighborhood Diplomacy
Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin
In the past year of 2016, against the backdrop of changing international situation, Asia, while maintaining overall stability, also faced many instability and uncertainty. Regarding how to strike up the melody of peace, development and cooperation and maintain the stability and development momentum that do not come by easily in Asia, all parties shifted their attention to China. In the past year, under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, China’s neighborhood diplomacy has overcome many difficulties, made pioneering efforts and forged ahead, vigorously safeguarded national sovereignty, security and development interests, further tightened the bond of the community of shared future with neighboring countries, and uttered the loudest voice of unity, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win results in Asia.
Establish More Diplomatic Relations and Step up to a New Stage in Relations with Neighboring Countries.
In 2016, the Asian situation was quite complicated with recurring emergencies, which brought new challenges to the relations between China and neighboring countries. We adhered to the idea of “affinity rather than enmity, partnership rather than alliance”, kept firmly in mind the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and put it into practice. In this way, China consolidated good-neighborly friendliness and mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries.
“Neighbors become closer with frequent exchanges.” The leading role and demonstration effect of high-level exchanges become more prominent in neighborhood diplomacy. Cambodia has upheld justice and righteousness and maintained friendly relations with China regardless of the external situation. President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Cambodia, which deepened China-Cambodia traditional friendship and sent out the clear signal that China cherishes and helps old friends. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh marked the first visit to the country by a Chinese head of state in the last 3 decades. China became the first strategic cooperative partner of Bangladesh. The two countries reached important consensus on the integration of developing strategies and the joint construction of the “Belt and Road” Initiative, which set a new model for South-South cooperation. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Laos, Premier Li Keqiang visited Laos. The two sides agreed to deepen the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and signed a series of important cooperation documents, which consolidated strategic mutual trust and deepened traditional friendship.
In face of the once worsened China-Philippines relations, we pinned our hopes on the Philippine people, kept coordinating among all walks of life in the Philippines and made achievements. After President Rodrigo Duterte took office, he actively and properly dealt with the South China Sea issue, improved relations with China and chose China as the destination of his first visit outside ASEAN countries, through which the China-Philippines relationship made a “magnificent change” and returned to the right track of good-neighborly friendship and healthy development. We grasped the overall picture of China-Vietnam friendship and the development direction of socialism and promoted steady development of China-Vietnam relations after the leadership transition of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Vietnamese government. We supported Myanmar to follow a development path that is in line with its national conditions and achieve a smooth transfer of political power, and worked with Myanmar to maintain the big picture of bilateral friendly cooperation. After unremitting efforts, the new Sri Lankan government maintained the general direction of China-Sri Lanka friendship, and bilateral practical cooperation regained the momentum of smooth development. We kept strengthening relations with neighboring countries, so as to expand and deepen our “friend circle” in Asia.
Actively Make Plans to Build a Stable and Balanced Framework of Major-country Relations.
The year of 2016 saw profound changes in the balance of power in Asia. Whether major countries can get on well with each other directly affects regional peace and stability. We did our best to develop stable and healthy relations with major countries and played a stabilizing role in the regional situation.
We actively built a new type of China-US major-country relations featuring no conflicts, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, carried forward the candid exchanges and strategic communication between both heads of state, expanded common interests and managed and controlled differences and contradictions, so as to build an Asia-Pacific interactive framework centered on China-US cooperation. We strengthened strategic coordination with Russia on international and regional affairs, worked together to cope with all kinds of risks and challenges, and maintained regional peace, stability as well as strategic balance. We amplified our role in leading and shaping and maintained an overall improving momentum of China-Japan relations. Bilateral exchanges in various sectors resumed in an orderly manner. We firmly grasped the general development direction of China-India relations. Leaders of the two countries met with each other several times this year, steadily pushing forward the ever-closer partnership of development.
Manage and Control Hotspot Issues, Maintain the Two Major Interests of Peace and Development.
The year of 2016 was not a peaceful year for China’s surrounding situation as old and new hotspot issues kept emerging, posing impacts on the peace and stability in Asia. We never tolerate any action that undermines China’s sovereign rights and interests and we never hesitate in the cause of maintaining regional peace and stability.
The greatest battle for us was dealing with the South China Sea arbitration case. A handful of regional and non-regional forces used the South China Sea arbitration case as a cover to pursue their hidden agenda of infringing upon China’s interests and mounting an all-out smear campaign against China. We reacted to this issue by arguing strongly on just grounds and fighting back resolutely, during which we got the understanding and support from nearly 120 countries and about 240 political parties in different countries. We actively engaged with ASEAN countries, jointly issued the Joint Statement on the Full and Effective Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and applied the dual-track approach to guide each party to focus on dialogue and cooperation. We stepped forward to turn around the China-Philippine relations and guided the South China Sea issue back on the track of bilateral dialogue and negotiation, realizing a “soft landing” of the arbitration case. China’s stance is reasonable and legitimate, and our actions are above board. We resumed the visions of peace, stability and cooperation in the South China Sea, and we maintained, in a true sense, the order and dignity of the international law.
In light of the tense situation in the Korean Peninsula, we adhered to achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, safeguarded peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and insisted on solving the issue through dialogue and negotiation. We proposed a dual-track approach in which the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and transformation from armistice regime to state of peace proceed together, and took great efforts to pull the nuclear issue back to the negotiation table. Resolute in safeguarding our legitimate interests and strategic security environment, we opposed the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system on the Peninsula under the pretext of the nuclear issue. Cherishing the China-Myanmar “paukphaw” friendship and based on the will of Myanmar, we played a constructive role in the peace and national reconciliation of Myanmar. We actively took part in the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan by providing strong support to the domestic political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Focus on Cooperation and Promote the “Belt and Road” Construction Both in Substance and Depth.
In 2016, the world economy went through sluggish recovery. Asian countries faced mounting downward economic pressure with appearing structural contradictions. We firmly grasped the mainline of the “Belt and Road” construction when docking development strategies, advancing connectivity and deepening cooperation in production capacity with neighboring countries to inject strong impetus into Asia’s development.
We made steady headway in infrastructure connectivity. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has entered into the stage of comprehensive implementation and striving for early harvest, becoming the project proceeding most rapidly in the total factor construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative outside China. We formulated the outline for China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and initiated the intergovernmental cooperation process for the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. We held the launching ceremony of the China-Laos Railway project, signed the framework agreement of intergovernmental cooperation for China-Thailand Railway and began to build the pilot link of the Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway. China and Malaysia conducted cooperation on the Malaysia Southern Railway project. A Chinese enterprise won the bid of Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu deep water port and industrial zone project. The second phase of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka advanced orderly and the Colombo port city project resumed comprehensive construction.
Production capacity cooperation was carried out comprehensively. China signed joint declarations of production capacity cooperation successively with ASEAN countries and member countries of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, and accelerated the construction of industrial zones, cross-border economic cooperation zones and harbor industrial park projects with Southeast Asian and south Asian countries. A batch of early-harvest projects has yielded initial benefits. Innovation in the “Belt and Road” mechanism made new progress. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been put into operation and the first batch of projects has been successfully launched. The first investment projects of the Silk Road Fund were also officially initiated.
Strengthen Guidance, Consolidate and Expand Regional Cooperation Momentum.
The year of 2016 witnessed setbacks in economic globalization and regional integration. Regional cooperation in East Asia suffered from increasingly greater obstacles and difficulties. Holding high the banner of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, China played an active leading role and took active actions to lead the construction of regional cooperation architecture.
Premier Li Keqiang, together with leaders from ASEAN member states, attended the Commemorative Summit Marking the 25th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations. They all agreed to strengthen strategic communication, deepen practical cooperation and promote the implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative, the “2+7 cooperation framework” and other important initiatives. China and ASEAN member states have held a series of events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations and the China-ASEAN Year of Education Exchange. China-ASEAN relations clearly exhibit a positive momentum and are accelerating the transition from the “growth stage” of rapid development for the past 25 years into the “mature stage” of quality improvement in the upcoming 25 years. China has successfully held the first Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, formulated rules and regulations for the Lancang-Mekong cooperation, identified the “3+5 cooperation framework” and 45 early-harvest projects, actively led the Lancang-Mekong cooperation to enter a new phase of comprehensive implementation and put forward China’s proposal to benefit people of counties along the Lancang-Mekong River. The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism has become another important platform for China and neighboring countries to build a community of shared future.
We firmly seized the right direction of regional cooperation in East Asia, maintained the development momentum of China-Japan-ROK cooperation, “10+3” (ASEAN plus China, Japan and ROK) cooperation and other cooperation mechanisms and guided the East Asia Summit to eliminate disturbances and focus on the “greatest common divisor” between economic development and political security cooperation. We actively practiced the common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept for Asia and promoted practical cooperation in non-traditional security fields and discussions on constructing a new regional security framework based on regional realities. We continued to advance the negotiation process of China-Japan-ROK free trade area and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). And we made unremitting efforts to achieve the goal of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). We have successfully held the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference to spread China’s voice and carry forward opportunities for Asia, strengthening the confidence of all sides in the development prospect of China and Asia. We actively participated in the process of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), devoting ourselves to promoting pan-Asia cooperation.
In 2017, we will embrace the 19th CPC National Congress and the 13th Five-Year Plan will enter a critical year of comprehensive and in-depth implementation. The year of 2017 is also a year for the international system to experience significant transformation and profound changes. Throughout the world, the theme of peaceful development remains unchanged, yet all kinds of chaos still exist, posing greater risks and challenges to the neighborhood diplomacy. Amid the changing and chaotic international situation, all countries will pay more attention to Asia and expect more from China. We will co-ordinate the domestic and the international situation, as well as the two major interests of development and security and uphold the keynote of seeking progress in stability, so as to make greater progress in neighborhood diplomacy.
We will focus on neighboring countries to carry out high-level exchanges and strategic communication. We will also take such home-field diplomacy as the International Cooperation Summit Forum on the “Belt and Road” Initiative, the 9th BRICS Summit and the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference as opportunities to make steady headway in the “Belt and Road” construction of neighboring countries, strengthen the bonds of interests with neighboring countries, and stimulate the endogenous dynamics of regional cooperation. While safeguarding China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China will also properly handle disputes and differences through dialogues and negotiations. China will continue to promote peace and facilitate talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, the South China Sea issue, the Afghan issue and other issues, so as to maintain regional peace and stability. We should vigorously boost regional cooperation for in-depth and substantial results, and consolidate the FTAAP system with East Asia as its center. We should also carry forward the spirit of Asian civilization and reinforce people-to-people and cultural exchanges and civilization dialogues, so as to enhance regional identity and the sentiments among the people.
As a new year begins, everything will be fresh and new. In the new year, China’s neighborhood diplomacy will continue to serve the cause of national security, reform and development, so as to create a sound environment for the successful convening of the 19th CPC National Congress and the realization of the first of the “two centenary goals”. We will regard Asia’s peace, stability, prosperity and development as our own duty, help and benefit our neighboring countries, and add a new chapter to the construction of the community of shared future!