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What drives Xi's foreign policy?

(China Daily)    19:03, January 08, 2016
What drives Xi's foreign policy?
President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a welcome banquet jointly hosted by Washington State government and friendly communities in Seattle, the US, Sept 22, 2015. (Photo Source: Xinhua)

It's a question I'm often asked: What drives President Xi Jinping's robust foreign policy? The assumption is that Xi has upped China's global game, making the country's international relations more proactive and engaging, some say more muscular and aggressive. All recognize that China is now involved with every important issue in world affairs. Moreover, China is starting to shape the agenda of international discourse, not just react to the ideas and actions of others.

Examples of China's vigorous foreign policy under President Xi are well known: the Belt and Road Initiative reaching out to some 60 countries, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, new kind of major power relations with the US, strategic partnership with Russia, "golden era" in relations with the UK, high-profile state visits to Germany and France, support for African development, climate change, the list goes on. In less than three years as China's president, Xi has visited more than three dozen countries.

What motivates China's diplomatic transformation? There is no secret answer, no master plan hatched behind the guarded walls of Zhongnanhai, where China's leaders work in central Beijing. Rather, a confluence of factors comes together, enhancing China's role on the world's stage.

China recognizes that to be a major power, with its political influence approaching its economic strength, as well as to protect its own vital interests, the country must mount a pro-active diplomacy. Following are eight drivers, or underlying motivations, of China's new kind of foreign policy.

One, China has debilitating overcapacity in heavy industries, like steel, cement, aluminum, plate glass, chemicals, and if these can be transported and utilized by less developed countries, all benefit.

Two, China is embarking on its comprehensive 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), with the ambitious goal of becoming a moderately prosperous society by 2020. Foreign trade of higher value-added products, plus access to advanced foreign technologies, are an integral part of the Plan-and these can be facilitated by China's diplomacy and good image.

Three, China has three categories of sacrosanct "core interests"-its political system, continuing economic development, and national sovereignty (territorial integrity)-and China's foreign policy is designed to protect each of them.

Four, crises can be more disruptive than ever before political instability, sectarian violence, terrorism, pandemics, financial contagion, natural disasters, trade disputes-and some can erupt suddenly. China's pro-active diplomacy enhances mechanisms for managing crises, which can avert or temper such global crises.

Five, China like all nations has interests that conflict with those of other nations (e.g., South China Sea, cybersecurity, currency, balance of trade). Should incidents of one kind or another occur-which, given the complexity of the world, seems inevitable-the more China interacts actively with other countries the better it will be able to contain such incidents.

Six, as the world's second largest economy, China is a new global leader and therefore shoulders new global responsibilities. World peace and prosperity do not happen by chance, and there are forces, accidental and deliberate, that can be disruptive. The world needs bulwarks of stability and China is taking on more of these burdens.

Seven, China does not seek to export its political system and it promulgates the virtue that each country should determine its own system of governance and style of development. Nonetheless, China's remarkable economic success can be an example that other developing countries can study and apply. To lead by example is a high-minded strategy that enhances China's credibility.

Eight, China is rightly proud of its 5,000-year civilization as well as its recent economic miracle, and it is natural that China would be pleased for other nations and peoples to appreciate the country's accomplishments. Considered in light of China's 150 years of oppression and degradation, China's pride in its increasing diplomatic respect is understandable.

There is nothing short-term about the drivers of President Xi's foreign policy. As China continues to progress, these drivers continue to develop.

The author is a public intellectual, political/economics commentator, and international corporate strategist.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Editor:Yao Xinyu,Bianji)

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