The first year of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been one of the most active periods for China's foreign policy. By championing a proactive foreign policy, Xi has injected enormous energy into China's diplomacy, though he also must ensure that it does not result in unnecessary conflicts with neighboring countries, for he would not like his foreign policy to disrupt his two main goals of economic reforms and eliminating corruption.
While Xi's proactive domestic policies show that he is a leader with a missionary zeal, he has emerged equally powerful on the international scene. In the past year, he has visited 14 countries and attended half-a-dozen of multilateral forums that include several bilateral meetings on the sidelines. His first year in office as president shows a pattern in his foreign visits-they are aimed at evolving a new type of major power relationship.
On a broader level, Xi seeks to project the foreign policy as the locomotive of his Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, improvement of people's livelihoods, overall prosperity, building a better society and strengthening the military.
Xi's first state visit to Russia within a week of taking over as president in March last year had evoked speculation, not least because Beijing and Moscow have been cooperating more closely in many fields and often form the bulwark against the liberal political juggernaut of Western powers. In view of the United States having announced its "pivot to Asia" policy in 2011, China and Russia agreed to "resolutely support each other in efforts to protect national sovereignty, security and development interests". In doing so, China made it clear that it can build on its own sources of support to counterbalance the US' increasing engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.
Xi's visit to Russia just eight days after taking over as China's president prompted observers to ask when he would visit the US. But even his visit to Russia was not a standalone affair. His visits to Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and South Africa, where Xi attended the fifth BRICS summit, were part of his first foreign trip as president. But then Xi didn't choose the US even for his next foreign trip; instead he visited Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico.
Xi and US President Barack Obama ultimately met at a "shirt-sleeve" summit at Sunnylands in California in June. At the meeting, Xi refuted Washington's cyber-terrorism allegations, which was followed by revelations of the US global surveillance program by former National Security Agency operative Edward Snowden. Most media commentaries saw this as a game-changing development for China's new leader.
But in the long term, the Xi-Obama meeting laid the foundation for the development of a "new type of power relationship" in which Washington endorses Beijing's proactive role as it fits into Washington's burden-sharing strategies. An example of this new type of relationship is China's help in shipping out Syria's chemical weapons for destruction.