The CPC Central Committee's Proposal for Formulating the 12th Five-Year Plan for China's Economic and Social Development adopted by the Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee has drawn the grand blueprint for China's development in the next five years. It is reiterated in the part on external relations that China stands firmly for peace, development and cooperation, pursues the independent foreign policy of peace, sticks to the path of peaceful development and the win-win strategy of opening-up, safeguards China's sovereignty, security and development interests, and is ready to work with other countries to build a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. This explains fully China's external stance, its path of development, its goal and the way to achieve the goal. Therefore, it has great relevance and far-reaching significance to China's diplomacy under the new circumstances.
1. Why has China chosen the path of peaceful development?
To stick to the path of peaceful development is not an impulsive decision. On the contrary, it is a carefully considered choice based on our analysis of the great changes that have taken place in the world, in China and in China's relations with the rest of the world. We realize that we must adapt to the changing situation and follow a path that suits the trend of world development and China's national conditions.
The world is undergoing extensive and profound changes. Economic globalization and development of information technology are gaining momentum. Science and technology are advancing fast. The world is getting smaller and has become a "global village". Countries are more closely linked and interdependent with their interests more closely integrated than ever before. They find more areas of common interests and more issues that need joint response. They want to engage in mutually beneficial cooperation more than ever before. To some extent, the world has become a community of interests. No country, even the most powerful ones, can stand alone and survive. The behavior of one country will have an impact not only on itself, but also on other countries. Those selfish practices of conquering or threatening others by force, or seeking development space and resources by non-peaceful means are losing ground. It has also become very unpopular for some countries to identify friends and foes on the basis of ideology and gang up under various pretexts in quest of dominance of world affairs. In response to increasing risks and challenges, the international community has opted for peace, development and cooperation, which is the irresistible trend of the times. Countries should consider themselves passengers in the same boat and cross the river peacefully together instead of fighting one another and trying to push one another off the boat.
China is undergoing extensive and profound transformation. More than 30 years of reform and opening -up has brought about earth-shaking changes in the country: from "taking class struggle as the key principle" to focusing on economic development and building socialist modernization on all fronts, from planned economy to socialist market economy through reform across the board, from a closed society and over emphasis on self-reliance to opening up and international cooperation, from emphasis on ideology in external relations to advocating harmonious co-existence of various social systems and development models and developing external relations in an all-round way. All this calls on us to act in light of the basic national conditions and features of development at the current stage of our country, deepen the reform and opening-up and accelerate the transformation of economic growth pattern.
China's relations with the rest of the world have also undergone historic changes. With deepening reform and opening up and sustained economic and social development, China is increasingly integrated into the international community and closely connected with the world. Its future and destiny is increasingly linked with that of the world. China cannot develop in isolation of the world. And the world cannot achieve prosperity and stability without China. If we fail to manage well our relations with the rest of the world, we might miss the development opportunities provided by the overall peace in the world, relative stability in relations between major countries and fast progress in new science and technology revolution in the first 20 years of the new century.
2. What is the path of peaceful development?
Sticking to the path of peaceful development is a brand new development path put forward by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as the General-Secretary on the basis of the features of the times, China's national conditions, domestic and international situations, and development experiences and lessons of other major countries. This is a major decision on China's development strategy and a major statement of China's external strategy.
In my view, there are five features of this path. First, the peaceful nature of development. China will not engage in invasion, plundering, war or expansion that Western powers used to practice. Our strength will be harnessed to serve world peace and integrate development with peace. Second, the independent nature of development. Independence is the fundamental feature of China's diplomacy. And self-reliance is our fine tradition. Over the past 30 years and more, in our efforts to develop the country, we have mainly relied on reform and opening-up, our own wisdom and hard work, expanding domestic demand and transforming economic growth pattern. Third, the scientific nature of development. According to the requirement of the Scientific Outlook on Development that puts people first and pursues comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development, we have intensified efforts to promote sound and fast economic development and the building of a harmonious society with a view to securing a sound domestic environment for peaceful development. Fourth, the cooperative nature of development. China is a member of the international community. It best serves our own and others' interests to cooperate with others, and share interests and responsibilities. In external relations, we advocate friendship instead of animosity, cooperation instead of confrontation, trust instead of suspicion, and treating each other as equals instead of imposing one's will on others. Fifth, common development. China's national interests are consistent with the common interests of mankind. In developing itself, China aims to achieve common development with other countries and never does anything at the expense of others. We know full well that if a country wants to develop itself, it must let others develop too. If a country wants to have security, it must make others feel safe too. And if a country wants a better life, it must let others have it too.
3. What is China's direction and strategic intention?
After over 30 years of reform and opening up, especially after China successfully hosted the Beijing Olympic Games and withstood the test of the international financial crisis, the world has shown a stronger interest in China's strategic direction. Let me point out that China's strategic intention is not as complex or unfathomable as some people may think. Nor is there any hidden agenda or ambition. In fact, China's strategic intention can be defined in two words: peaceful development, i.e. harmony and development at home and peace and cooperation abroad. This is what we must focus on and achieve - not just this generation but for generations to come. This is the policy that will not change in 100 years or 1,000 years. To be specific, we need to achieve the goal by peaceful means, by continued reform and improvement of our own system, and through hard work, creativity and ingenuity of the Chinese people, and long-term friendly co-existence, equality and mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries.
This way, the Chinese people, accounting for one-fifth of the world's total population, will rid themselves of poverty and lead a better life. This way, China will develop into a country where people are contented, society is harmonious, and political, material, cultural and environmental development proceeds in a balanced way. This way, China will become a most responsible and law-abiding member of the international community. In this process, we will develop socialist democracy and political system in light of China's national conditions. In a word, the Chinese people have suffered long enough from poverty. Our greatest and only strategic intention is to live a better life, where every day is better than the previous one. We wish the same for all the people in the world. The CPC has termed this process "peaceful development" and the ways and means to achieve peaceful development "the path of peaceful development". As one may notice, this path has been solemnly incorporated into the Report at the 17th Party Congress and reiterated in the proposal for the 12th Five-Year Plan at the latest plenary session. This speaks volumes about CPC's sincerity and resolve to stick to the path of peaceful development.
4. How to see China's development?
After over 30 years of reform and opening-up, China has achieved remarkable progress in its economic and social development. In recent years, in particular, China's development has attracted even more international attention. Many think that China is already a developed country, on a par with the United States. This view indicates that the path of peaceful development can lead a nation to development and we have made the right choice. However, it also shows a lack of comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the level of China's development. The reality is that China's GDP, however big it may grow, must be shared among the 1.3 billion people. China's per capita GDP is only $3,800, ranking about 104th in the world, even lower than many African countries. By the United Nations standard of one US dollar a day, 150 million Chinese are still living below the poverty line. Even by the standard of 1,200 yuan per capita income, over 40 million Chinese are still in poverty. Today in China, 10 million people have no access to electricity and each year, employment must be provided for 24 million Chinese. China has a huge population and a weak economic foundation. The urban-rural gaps, imbalances in industrial structure and underdevelopment of productivity are issues yet to be fundamentally addressed. In whatever sense, China is big in terms of population but small in terms of economy. It is a developing country in every sense of the term. The economic and social problems we face are the biggest and most difficult in the world. We have no reason whatsoever to be conceited or arrogant. Our road to real development and better life for our people will be long and hard. This will require the unremitting efforts of several generations or even more. Even if one day China comes close to Western countries, like the United States, Europe and Japan, in per capita GDP, the quality of our economy and life will still lag far behind.
I must point out in particular that even if China becomes stronger, it will remain a member of the developing world and will continue to stand by the developing countries and work in unity with them for common development. That is because we share similar historical experiences with developing countries, we were comrades-in-arms with them, and we have common development tasks and strategic interests. Our position will never change even when China's economy has grown or its international status has changed. Now and forever, China is, and will remain the most sincere and trustworthy friend, brother and partner of the developing countries. Although there is room for improvement in our relations with the developing countries, China's cooperation with them is open and honest and based on equality, mutual benefit and sincere friendship. The hat of the so-called "neocolonialism" does not fit China.
5. Will China seek hegemony when it becomes more developed?
This concern is unfounded. To oppose hegemony has been written into China's Constitution and the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. Probably, no other big country or political party in the world has ever done that.
In terms of history, China has no culture or tradition of seeking expansion or hegemony. Throughout our history of thousands of years, benevolence and harmony are at the heart of our political and cultural tradition, which values harmony, good-neighborliness and friendship with all. China never sought expansion or hegemony even in its heyday centuries ago, when it accounted for 30 percent of the world's GDP. Zheng He, a great Chinese navigator, led the world's strongest fleet to the Western Seas on seven voyages, taking with him not bloodshed or war, pillage or colonization but porcelain, silk and tea. In the height of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618 - 907), what Japan got from China was not threat but prosperity. China's territory has basically been what it is today since the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD).
In terms of world development, revitalization of a country in the era of economic globalization can be well achieved through equal and orderly international competition and mutually beneficial cooperation. It's no longer necessary or possible to take the old path of challenging either the existing international order or other countries. The rise and fall of some big powers in the world tells us: Expansionism leads to nowhere; arms race leads to nowhere; seeking world domination leads to nowhere; and peaceful development is the only right path. The more developed China is, the more it needs to strengthen cooperation with the rest of the world, and the more it needs a peaceful and stable international environment. Mutual benefit and common development is what we have learned most profoundly from over 30 years of experiences in foreign relations since reform and opening-up. That is also a key to our success. We must hold on to the key and never give it up.
In terms of our basic policy, never seeking leadership, never competing for supremacy and never seeking hegemony is our basic national policy and strategic choice. Whether a country is a threat to the world or not is a matter of what policies it pursues. China always adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, respects the right of the people in all countries to choose their own development paths, never seeks hegemony or leadership and never tries to dominate the world. As Comrade Deng Xiaoping once said, if one day China tries to seek hegemony in the world, people of the world should expose, oppose and overthrow it. The international community can hold us to account.
Some say China wants to replace the US and dominate the world. That is simply a myth. Politically, what we practice is socialism with Chinese characteristics. We do not export our social system or development model and we respect the choice of the people of other countries. Economically, we focus all our efforts on development. We are happy to see lasting prosperity and development in all other countries and we pursue common progress. Militarily, we reject any arms race. Our top priority is to enable the 1.3 billion Chinese people to have better clothes, better food, better housing and more convenient transportation. We cannot and will not spend heaps of money on weaponry.
We do not seek hegemony and will never compete with other countries for leadership in our region, seek so-called joint hegemony or follow so-called Monroe Doctrine. What we pursue is a policy of friendship, security and prosperity with our neighbors. The purpose of our Asia-Pacific strategy is to create a good, stable neighboring environment for our own development and achieve common progress with all countries. We want to be a good friend, good neighbor and good partner of ASEAN and all countries in Asia. The bilateral and multilateral agreements we have signed with Asian countries do not have a single article that is exclusive. We are open to regional cooperation and our intentions are transparent and good. We hope that what other countries do in Asia is not aimed to keep off, contain or harm China. We hope that what they say and do at our gate or in this region where the Chinese people have lived for thousands of years is also well intentioned and transparent. Take China's development as an opportunity and seize it, and one stands to benefit.Doubt China's regional and international strategic intentions and focus on finding fault and making trouble, and one will lose the good opportunity to cooperate with China. The attempts to team up to counter or contain China and the practices of sowing discords between countries in the region and conducting joint military exercises in China's adjacent waters are a clear demonstration of the Cold War mentality. It is out of date and cannot stop China's advances. It can only lead to the loss of the historical opportunity of developing cooperation with China. It is doomed to failure.
Some people misinterpret the Chinese idiom "keep a low profile and make due contributions". They take China's announcement of a peaceful development path as a smokescreen for its real intention before it gets strong enough. This is groundless suspicion. That Chinese idiom was quoted from Comrade Deng Xiaoping's remarks from late 1980s to early 1990s, saying that China should keep modest and prudent, not serve as others' leader or a standard bearer and not seek expansion or hegemony. This is consistent with the idea of the path of peaceful development.
In short, the Chinese is a good-will and responsible nation. We respect others, but do not allow others to bully us. We are developing socialist democracy based on our national conditions. We value, respect and protect human rights. We may encounter many difficulties on our way forward, but we will never waver in reform and opening-up. We will always keep an open mind and learn from others. In our relations with other countries, we will seek equality, harmonious co-existence, mutual benefit and common development. Ours is a country that follows the path of peaceful development and treats others with candor and sincerity. The world may feel reassured and confident in dealing with such a country as China.
The international community should welcome China's peaceful development rather than fear it, help rather than hinder it and support rather than constrain its effort. The international community should understand and respect China's legitimate interests and concerns in the course of its peaceful development.
6. How will a fast developing China handle its relations with other countries?
As a Chinese saying goes, "Scooping rice from the same pot, the ladles may inevitably knock against each other". As we live in a global village, frictions and clashes of various kinds are inevitable. It is nothing alarming. What matters is the principles that one follows in trying to tackle the problems: A tit-for-tat tactic or making a fuss of a minor problem, or rather, a totally different approach? We have our basic principles in our external relations, which have proven effective over the past decades. First, we follow the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. To be specific, we reject interference in others' internal affairs and the use or threat of use of force and we do not enter into alliance with any country. Second, we follow the win-win strategy of opening-up and never adopt the beggar-thy-neighbor policy. We value, develop and protect common interests and strive to make the pie of common interests bigger and better. Third, we stand for settlement of disputes and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation and by seeking common ground while shelving differences. That is what we have been doing over the past years. We have set up strategic dialogue and consultation mechanisms with the United States, Europe, Japan and some emerging countries and have been engaged in in-depth exchange of views with them on important overarching and long-term issues concerning the world situation and bilateral relations. Those discussions have helped to enhance mutual understanding and trust, seek strategic consensus, expand common interests and reduce troubles and setbacks. For knotty problems, we have proposed that they be put aside until conditions are ripe for solution. Some issues can even be left to future generations.
Some people argue that since the Chinese government has never renounced the use of force for the settlement of the Taiwan question and China's military spending is growing continuously, it is contradictory to China's statement about its path of peaceful development. In my view, no development path should be chosen at the expense of major national interests, core interests in particular. What are China's core interests? My personal understanding is: First, China's form of government and political system and stability, namely the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the socialist system and socialism with Chinese characteristics. Second, China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity. Third, the basic guarantee for sustainable economic and social development of China. These interests brook no violation.
The Taiwan question constitutes China's core interest concerning its unification and territorial integrity, dear to the heart of the 1.3 billion Chinese citizens and the whole Chinese nation. On this question, we pursue the basic principle of "peaceful unification and one country, two systems". We will never allow Taiwan to split from China, nor will we ever commit ourselves to the renunciation of force. This is not targeted at our Taiwan compatriots but a handful of Taiwan separatists. In recent years, the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations has made positive and significant progress as evidenced by the signing of Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between the two sides, which opens up greater prospects for the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. However, there are those who, out of Cold War mentality and geo-political needs, have continued to sell weapons to Taiwan in disregard of China's firm opposition. Such failure to keep one's word should be corrected at once as it is not conducive to the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and runs counter to the trend of peace, cooperation and development in the Asia-Pacific region.
China pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature. Its military building is aimed at upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity, safeguarding its more than 22,000 km-long land boundary and 18,000 km-long sea boundary and ensuring development in a peaceful environment. It is neither driven by arms race nor the desire to seek hegemony or expansion. Some people in the world have the unnecessary worry that China will turn its growing economic power into military might. Compared with quite a number of countries such as the United States and Japan, China's military spending is minimal both in aggregate and per capita terms and cannot pose a threat to other countries. As for transparency, there is no country that is absolutely transparent in the military field. China's military transparency has been rising over the past decades. Its strategic intent, in particular, is more transparent than many other countries, especially some major powers. For example, we have openly declared to the world that we will never seek hegemony and openly committed to no first use of nuclear weapons and no use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. If other countries follow suit, it will no doubt be a great contribution to world peace, stability and development.
7. How will China use its growing power and influence?
The objective of China's development boils down to one sentence: to build a harmonious society at home and help build a harmonious world abroad. This means China will first of all be responsible to its 1.3 billion people and also responsible to people across the world and world peace and development so that the fruits of China's development can benefit both its own people and the international community. There is misunderstanding about "giving top priority to China's development". Some people take it as a sign of ducking China's international obligations. In fact, since the beginning of the reform and opening-up, the Communist Party of China has made it one of its three historical tasks to uphold world peace and promote common development. In recent years, the Party has further introduced the idea of building a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity. We are paying greater attention to and giving more input in international and regional affairs. First, China has taken an active part in the joint response to global issues such as energy, food, climate change, terrorism, natural disasters, infectious diseases and financial crisis as well as the settlement of regional hotspot issues such as the Korean nuclear issue, the Iranian nuclear issue, Palestine-Israel conflict and the Darfur issue in Sudan. Second, China is active in the building of the international system. China has been a responsible player in the international system. It is a beneficiary as well as a builder and contributor. The current international system is not perfect and should be reformed and improved to keep pace with the changing time so as to be fairer and more rational. China is ready to play a more active role in this process, including the making and improvement of international rules and will continue to assume international responsibilities and obligations commensurate with its national strength. Third, China has actively promoted the development agenda. We have focused on our own development. As China's development is an integral part of the world development, the further it develops, the better for the world. Over the years, China's economy has contributed over 10 percent to world economic growth and over 12 percent to international trade growth, creating millions of job opportunities for relevant countries and regions. At the same time, we are not only an important participant in but also a major promoter of global development. We are ready to work with other countries to push forward the UN Millennium Development Goals in the interest of world prosperity and progress.
8. How is the path of peaceful development related to socialism with Chinese characteristics?
These are the two sides of the same coin. On one side, the path of peaceful development is intrinsic to socialism with Chinese characteristics. At the end of the day, a country's choice of development path is determined by the nature of its system. The innate greed of capitalist society and capital determined that the rise of Western powers was accompanied by aggression and expansion, full of blood and violence. China, a socialist country, is committed to the goal of prosperity, social justice, national development and world peace. China will remain in the primary stage of socialism for a long time to come, and the mismatch between the people's increasing material and cultural need and the backward production is still our major problem. This fact dictates that we must constantly put development on top of the agenda in the Party's effort to rule and revitalize the country, and create a stable international environment of lasting peace; it also determines that "in pursuing socialism, we should constantly raise productivity and advocate peace." (Deng Xiaoping). On the other side, the path of peaceful development is an integral part of socialism with Chinese characteristics, which manifests itself in many respects, such as in the economic, political, cultural, social, ecological and other fields. And its manifestation in external relations is the path of peaceful development. In other words, peaceful development represents the basic nature, features, content of and means to achieve socialism with Chinese characteristics in external relations. To hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics means we should hold high the banner of peace, development and cooperation and never waiver in taking the path of peaceful development. This is a basic conclusion our Party has reached after analyzing the world situation and summarizing the experiences and lessons of development history of both China and other countries. It is an important result we have achieved in suiting Marxism to Chinese realities and the time; it is also a fundamental guarantee for China to realize scientific development in the complex and volatile international situation.
9. What is the relationship between the path of peaceful development and the building of a harmonious world?
To stick to the path of peaceful development is to make known to the world how China is to realize development and revitalize itself. It represents essentially a choice of the development path and strategy our Party has made. To promote the building of a harmonious world tells what kind of world and international order China is committed to build. It represents essentially the international order and code of conduct our Party advocates. A commitment to the path of peaceful development is the basis and prerequisite of building a harmonious world while the latter is the inevitable need of the former. China upholds the unity of the two and advocates both patriotism and internationalism. By taking the path of peaceful development, the Chinese people, accounting for one-fifth of the world population, can lead a better life, which will be a tremendous contribution to mankind and make the world a more harmonious place. China has made clear to the world and repeatedly stressed its commitment to the path of peaceful development, because we want to demonstrate our sincerity in pursuing peaceful development and also to inspire more countries to join us on the path of peaceful development. If more countries do so, a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity won't be far away. And if the world we live in becomes more harmonious, China's path of peaceful development will also become more smooth and stable. Taken in this sense, the commitment to the path of peaceful development and the building of a harmonious world serve as each other's condition and are mutually-reinforcing and they cannot be separated artificially.
10. Will China's path of peaceful development lead to its desired outcome?
It will. The world may notice that in the past 30 years, we have broken the precedents of emerging powers engaging in plunder, aggression and rivalry for hegemony by opening a whole new path in the time of globalization, the path of peaceful development through hard work, wisdom and win-win cooperation. China's progress in the five years of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) has proved once again that the path of peaceful development will lead to a bright future. In the past five years, China's aggregate national strength has kept growing; it has taken part in international cooperation in a wide range of areas; its international standing and influence have risen remarkably; its relations with other countries have deepened and its diplomatic work has achieved great success.
In these five years, under the wise leadership of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, we have worked to serve the overall interests of development, bearing in mind our central task, seized opportunities and coped with various challenges. We have hosted grand events, overcome crisis, promoted development and built a good image. We have furthered China's interests and made new strides in our diplomatic work. The CPC Central Committee has successfully convened the meeting on foreign affairs work. In the meeting, on the basis of a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the developments and changes in the domestic and international environment, the central leadership has stressed that China's relations with the rest of the world have gone through historic changes. And a host of major strategic thoughts on foreign affairs, such as the overall consideration of domestic and external situation, the commitment to the path of peaceful development and an opening strategy of mutual benefit and win-win progress, and building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity have been put forward, which will guide our diplomatic work along the path of scientific development.
During the past five years, we have taken into account domestic and international situations, conducted diplomatic work in all fields and endeavored to create a peaceful international environment and favorable external conditions for China's modernization drive. We have steadily promoted China's relations with major countries, neighboring countries and developing countries and further pushed forward our friendship and cooperation with other countries in a comprehensive manner. We have actively conducted multilateral diplomacy and summit diplomacy, Party and State leaders have stated our major policies and positions on many occasions and we have taken an active part in the cooperation to tackle the international financial crisis and efforts to push forward reform of the international economic system. We have played a unique constructive role in dealing with climate change and other global issues. We have integrated the "bring-in" and "going global" strategies and energetically carried out economic and trade cooperation with other countries, and rendered good service to the domestic efforts to fight the crisis, maintain stability, promote development and transform economic development pattern. We have made good use of the hosting of the Beijing Olympic Games, the 60th anniversary of the founding of new China, the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, the Guangzhou Asian Games and other major events to strengthen public diplomacy and people-to-people and cultural exchanges and build up China's image as a culturally-advanced, democratic, open, progressive and responsible major country, make more friends among countries in the world and deepen our friendship with them, actively guide international public opinion and help deepen the building of state soft power. We have firmly safeguarded our country's sovereignty and security, resolutely countered separatist and sabotaging activities and actively engaged in international cooperation in non-traditional security. We have put people first, made diplomacy serve the people, safeguarded the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses and citizens abroad and carried out a lot of international rescue and peacekeeping activities. We have expanded our shared interests with other countries through extensive cooperation and promoted common development with mutual benefit and win-win progress. We have also worked energetically to diffuse frictions, differences, misgivings and misunderstandings through various forms of strategic dialogues and policy consultations.
It has been proven by practice that as we pursue reform and opening-up to stay in line with the trend of economic globalization, build friendly partnership with other countries through peaceful development and international cooperation, properly handle various problems and frictions, play a constructive role in international affairs, move the international order in a fair and rational direction, we will be able to open a path of peaceful development in line with the trend of the time and this road will lead to a bright future.
The author is Chinese State Councilor.