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Challenges and opportunities of Chinese foreign and security policy
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10:45, May 12, 2009

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With the changing domestic and international situations, China's foreign policy which had been very successful over the past 30 years is facing new challenges and opportunities. What are the current and future directions of the Chinese foreign and security policy? This was discussed at an expert seminar held by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute or SIPRI in Stockholm on last Friday. Also at the seminar, SIPRI announced its new Program on China and Global Security.

Dr. Bates Gill, director of SIPRI said that with the obvious increasing importance of China for Sweden, Europe and the world, the event gathered experts on China to take a look at China's dynamic foreign and security policy and think through its impacts for Sweden, Europe and the world.
Gill also announced the launching of SIPRI's new Program on China and Global Security. Linda Jakobson will be posted in Beijing as the major staff of the new program. Gill himself will be the director of the program.

"SIPRI is establishing its China and Global Security Program to advance contemporary China studies with a particular emphasis on China's role and impact in global, non-traditional and transnational security. The program will also concern climate change, China's role in peace-keeping efforts and China's presence in other parts of the world such as in Africa," said Gill. "SIPRI aims to be one of the largest and most internationally competent China programs of any think tank in Europe-and one with a unique, well-established presence in China."

Professor Jin Canrong,Associate Dean of School of International Relations, Renmin University of China talked about the principles of China's foreign policy, components of global strategy and new forces emerging in China behind the policy at the seminar.

Professor Jin said that the principles of China's foreign policy, to be concise, is independent and peaceful diplomacy. It has three features: first is inward-looking which is comparable to the US situation in the 1920s when rural population was larger than urban residents and always putting domestic challenges first. This will be an important feature of Chinese foreign policy in the near future.

He said that there is a gap in perception on China's capability between Chinese and people outside China. Within China, a majority of people still consider China a poor country, a developing country and a regional power while outside China, many people think now China is strong enough and should take more responsibility.

Second feature in China's foreign policy is still economy first and the third is that official stand of China is still Deng Xiaoping's policy of Tao Guang Yang Hui, meaning to keep a low profile and exert power in a humble way.

The components of the Chinese diplomacy include big power diplomacy dealing with relations with big powers such as the US and European countries; neighborhood diplomacy dealing with relations in the neighboring countries; developing country diplomacy dealing with relations with Asian, African and Latin American countries; multilateral forum diplomacy dealing with global and regional cooperation and the soft power building diplomacy. China is fully aware of its gap between its hard and soft power. China wants to improve its image abroad and promote its soft power, a typical step is that China has established 500 Confucius schools around the world.

Professor Jin said that three new forces emerging in China will affect China's foreign policy in the future. First, netizens and stockholders. China now has 300 million netizens which are much more than that in the US and 150 million stockholders. Chinese leaders pay much attention to netizens' voices. One example is that Premier Wen Jiabao talked with netizens over the internet for one and half hours this year.
Netizens and stockholders constitute a large proportion of the Chinese population and they have changed China's political ecology, said Professor Jin.

The second force is the companies. Now many Chinese companies have gone beyond the Chinese borders and establish their business abroad. Their voice is much louder in China's decision-making process. Foreign policies have to be adjusted to follow the new trend.

The third force is that the Chinese army becomes much more confident after a decade effort of military modernization. They become much more powerful now, said professor Jin.

On the question of emerging nationalism in China, Professor Jin said that it is part of the society with an emerging middle class. He thinks that the most significant change in Chinese politics over the past decades is that now China has a new state-society relationship.

‘We start with a very strong state with a weak society, now we stop at strong state with a rather strong society'. Professor Jin said that among China's 400 million workers which are more than the whole population of Europe, only 36 million work for state-owned enterprises, which is less than 5%.

Because of this change to market economy, China has a rather autonomous society and with this society, ‘nationalism will become part of our ideology'. According to Jin, last year, 49 million Chinese traveled outside the mainland, compared with 18 million Japanese who traveled abroad. This means China does have a middle class which relates to nationalism. There is some problem in nationalism because there is too much emotions in it. Personally he thinks the government keeps a distance from nationalism.

On whether the Chinese companies who invested abroad, for example in Africa have a code of conduct in labor and environment, Professor Jin commented that Chinese investors abroad are still beginners. They will be taught by events and will learn soon about these issues.

On China-EU relations, Professor Jin said China and the EU are strategic players. The EU is China's strategic trade partner, source of Foreign Direct Investment and source of technology transfer.

He said for Chinese elites, the EU represents an approach of modernization different from the Anglo-Saxon model. In the short run, China learns from Anglo-Saxon model, but on the long run, the European approach might suit China.

In the next part of the Chinese foreign policy series, how China is challenged by the North Korea, Iran and Africa issues will be discussed.

By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm



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