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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

China's foreign policy not a matter of tough vs. soft

By Wu Gang  (Global Times)

14:31, December 19, 2011

At a foreign policy seminar in Beijing yesterday, Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng pointed out that the international community, especially certain Western countries, has been complaining about China being "increasingly assertive." At the same time within the country, public opinion has been labeling Chinese foreign policy as "too soft."

As China's economy booms, the outside world has been particularly focusing on the growth of its military strength. The submarines and warships cruising to the Pacific for training and the renovation of an aircraft carrier especially sparked a measure of nervous attention from some countries.

When China demanded an apology and compensation from Japan even after it released a Chinese fishing boat captain, the international media thought China had become too "arrogant" and unforgiving.

In the south, China has been described by international media as a bully with its neighbors.

Within the country, the comments are the other way around. The foreign ministry is considered weak, and has been losing further ground in the international stage. "Even small countries like Vietnam and the Philippines can create troubles for China," some claimed.

Calls were heard in the media or online that when necessary, China needs the courage to engage in certain military conflicts, so as to prevent larger-scale wars. But foreign policy cannot simply follow popular will and foreign relations are not simply a matter of being tough or soft.

The Chinese government, the people and the military itself have a consensus that the military power is built for defensive and deterrent purposes, not for expansion or invasion. Even the most active military strategist agrees that the best way to win is to do it without using force.

To win the respect and hearts of people in neighboring countries is much more complicated than just showing a tough or gentle face. China has to be first of all a responsible and reasonable player on the world stage. Either through dialogue, through economic, cultural and even military exchanges, or resorting to international bodies when disputes arise, the ultimate goal is to fix problems and create a better environment for China and other countries.

Dealing with tough issues often requires sophisticated skills. But there is a bottom line. Pursuing a peaceful rise does not mean China will always be tolerant and passive. When its core interests are at stake, China will not be reluctant to stand up to the challenge.

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