Explainer: China's foreign relations law to take effect, its significance explained

(Xinhua) 14:36, June 30, 2023

BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) -- China's milestone Law on Foreign Relations, adopted by the country's top legislature on Wednesday, will take effect on Saturday.

An official of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee answered key questions about the law in an interview with Xinhua.

The following is an excerpt from the interview.

-- Why did China formulate the law?

Of the 297 laws currently in effect in China, there are 52 foreign-affairs laws and more than 150 laws containing foreign-affairs clauses.

But the legal system concerning foreign affairs still has some shortcomings. In particular, gaps exist in laws concerning safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Speeding up the building of the legal system concerning foreign affairs will help China more effectively deal with risks and challenges.

The law expounds China's stance in international exchanges, improves the institutions related to the country's foreign relations, and presents China's image as a responsible major country that champions peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit via a law-based approach.

The law will help the rest of the world further know about, learn about, understand and trust China. It will provide a better legal instrument to guide China's efforts in developing foreign relations and facilitating international cooperation.

-- What are the main features?

The mainstay of the law is facilitating friendly exchanges and enhancing communication and cooperation. This is embodied in many stipulations of the law.

For example, it says China calls for putting into action the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative.

It says China plays an active part in global environmental and climate governance, providing foreign aid, and carrying out international humanitarian cooperation and assistance.

Adhering to the policy of opening up is an important principle of the law. In its general principles, the law stipulates that China adheres to the fundamental policy of opening to the outside world and a strategy of opening up for mutual benefit.

Also, in terms of the goals and mission of conducting foreign relations, the law emphasizes that China is committed to advancing high-standard opening-up.

According to the law, China develops foreign trade, actively promotes and protects, in accordance with the law, inbound foreign investment, encourages external economic cooperation including outbound investment, and promotes high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is also mentioned that China is committed to upholding the multilateral trading system, opposes unilateralism and protectionism, and works to build an open global economy.

The law also focuses on safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests. It stipulates that China has the right to take, as called for, measures to counter or take restrictive measures against acts that endanger its sovereignty, national security and development interests in violation of international law or fundamental norms governing international relations.

It also stipulates that the state shall take measures as necessary in accordance with the law to protect the safety, security, and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and organizations overseas and safeguard China's overseas interests against any threat or infringement.

-- How does the law embody the spirit of the Constitution?

In areas such as the basic principles of foreign relations, functions and powers and the state's respect for and protection of human rights, the law further enriches and develops the institutional substance of the Constitution's provisions on foreign relations.

By stipulating that "treaties and agreements that the State concludes or accedes to shall not contravene the Constitution," it sets clear the relationship between treaties and the Constitution with a legislative approach for the first time, which is of vital importance for upholding the authority, advancing the enforcement and enhancing the oversight of the Constitution.

The law also sets "building China into a great modern socialist country, realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, promoting world peace and development and building a community with a shared future for humanity" as a significant part of the purpose of the legislation.

As for human rights, the law makes it clear that China will unremittingly stick to its human rights path and make Chinese contributions and provide a Chinese approach to advancing the international cause of human rights.

-- What does it say about laws and regulations in foreign-related fields?

The law says the implementation of the laws and regulations in foreign-related fields should be strengthened, but it is completely different from certain countries' "long-arm jurisdiction" of their domestic laws.

Such "long-arm jurisdiction" is a showcase of hegemony, which China is a victim of and strongly opposes.

To resolutely fight against such practices, China has thus enacted laws and regulations such as the Law on Countering Foreign Sanctions, rules on counteracting unjustified extraterritorial application of foreign legislation, and regulations on unreliable entity list, and has taken countermeasures against entities or individuals from certain countries in accordance with the law.

-- How was the law formulated?

A draft of the law went through the first reading at the top legislature in October 2022.

After that, the top legislature solicited opinions on the draft law from regional authorities, relevant departments of the central government, legislative outreach offices at primary levels, as well as certain higher education institutions and institutes of legislative affairs studies.

From Dec. 30, 2022 to Jan. 28, 2023, the full text of the draft law was made public online to solicit public opinion.

In addition, relevant legislative departments held meetings to collect suggestions from members of central government departments, experts and scholars. The results showed that all parties approved the draft law and called for its early formulation.

On May 26, 2023, the Constitution and Law Committee of the NPC deliberated each and every article of the draft law.

On June 28, 2023, the law was adopted at a meeting of the NPC Standing Committee.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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