At 12.35 am Oct 18, the report delivered by Xi Jinping to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China ended to the sounds of warm applause. As journalists calculated, this three-and-a-half-hour speech was "interrupted" more than 70 times by the audience's applause.[Special coverage]
Among the key points, one paragraph attracted broad attention: "China will never pursue development at the expense of others' interest, but neither will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests." How should we understand this new stance on Chinese interests and foreign policy?
Reviewing Chinese diplomacy during the past five years, there has clearly been a great transformation from "keeping a low profile" (tao guang yang hui) to "striving for achievements"(di li fen jin). In domestic affairs, as Xi asserts, "The principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the new era is that between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life." Accordingly, Chinese foreign policy should also evolve from "serving the development" to a more comprehensive and holistic target — "serving the national rejuvenation".
This transformation means that in the new era, Chinese diplomacy should not only construct a peaceful and stable external environment for development, but also shape the global and regional environment and international order more proactively. This will provide creative solutions to chronic problems which have put sand in the wheels of improving China's strategic environment, securing the core national interest.
Has China made it? Yes. The conference on diplomatic work for neighboring countries, held on Oct 24, 2013, announced regional Chinese strategy for the coming five to 10 years. China deepens relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, inclusiveness and a policy of forging friendship and partnership with its neighbors. Thus, China and its neighbors have built a series of cooperative projects, such as the "2+7 cooperation framework", the "Lancang-Mekong Cooperation(LMC)"and more.
However, China is also ready to defend its bottom line. As Xi underlined, "China never gives up its legitimate rights and interests. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests."
Reviewing China's major country diplomacy over the past five years, it's clear the path has not been smooth. However, under the leadership of a great helmsman, the grand vessel of the Chinese people has passed through violent storms and waves, one after another. At this moment, the Party and the country, with unprecedented confidence in their institutions, theory, path and culture, are standing on the threshold and embracing the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation.
Notably, China in rejuvenation is neither an evil fire-breathing dragon, as some western politicians suggested, nor the "sick man of East Asia" from a century ago. I prefer to think of it as a "Kung Fu Panda". Since China is a panda, it displays an essence of kindness, so as Xi promised "China's development does not pose a threat to any other country. No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion". Meanwhile, the "kung fu", representing Chinese wisdom, grants the panda solid determination and strength to protect its legitimate rights and interests. What is more, we are looking forward to seeing the "Kung Fu Panda" cooperate with its partners to build a community with a shared future for mankind, creating a bright tomorrow for all.
The author Wang Peng is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and the China Institute of Fudan University.