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A Segment from an Interview about China’s Foreign Policy

[Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with a senior Chinese diplomat about Beijing’s foreign diplomacy, published on Xinhua’s International Herald Leader. Interviewee Lu Shiwei is the News Division counselor of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1989 and used to work in the policy research office of the policy research department (now called the policy planning department) at the Chinese Embassy in Thailand and was the Special Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Regional Government office in Hong Kong.] [1]

Lu Shiwei: Since the establishment of the new China, we have pursued an independent and peaceful foreign policy. In foreign diplomacy, we adhere to the principles but allow for flexibility at the same time. The basic principles have not changed, and will not change. When we talk about principles, we sometimes have left an impression of playing “hard”; when we talk about flexibility, we sometimes have left an impression of being “soft.”

Q: Specifically speaking, what belongs to the “principles”?

A: On our core national interests, we adhere to our principles and leave no room for compromise. National interests have several layers, normally classified as core interests, important interests and general interests. State Councilor Dai Bingguo described China’s core interests in the article “Insist on a Peaceful Development Path.” The first is the political stability of China’s state and government system, namely the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the Socialist system, and the Socialist path with Chinese characteristics. The second is China’s sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and the unification of the country. The third is the basic safeguard for sustainable socioeconomic development. These interests are inviolable and indestructible. We firmly oppose any action that harms and endangers our core interests such as sovereign integrity, national security, and development. There is no room for negotiation on these points.

We have never given in on the principle issues when our national strength was relatively weak. Now with the rise of our national strength, we are more capable of safeguarding our national core interests. This cannot be called playing “hard.” …

In recent years, labels such as the “China’s Responsibility Theory,” the “China Threat Theory,” and so on have flooded international society. There are deeper motives behind these catch phrases. While seeing through the intention behind these labels, China is firmly walking on the path of developing its economy. This is our powerful response to these arguments.

Q: The Western countries demand that we take on more responsibilities. We also proposed to take on more responsibilities. However, the two sides seem to understand the responsibilities differently. What do you think?

A: The West’s so-called “China’s Responsibility Theory” is actually the West’s attempt to accuse China of not being responsible, or not being responsible enough. The increased international responsibilities that the West demands are, in fact, beyond our national strength and what we can actually shoulder.

For example, on the global economic rebalancing, some Western countries have insisted that the Renminbi appreciate dramatically. They suppose that the global economy can achieve a balance if the exchange rate of the Renminbi rises sharply. On the climate change issue, they accuse China’s economy of having caused serious environmental pollution, due to its rapid growth. China should undertake more responsibilities to reduce emissions.

The West is pressuring us to undertake responsibilities beyond our strength and capacity  for its own ulterior motives. China’s economy has grown quickly. Though one cannot say it is already the second largest power in the world, its strength is quite different from before. Some Western countries could not curb China’s development momentum even if they wanted to. If they placed economic sanctions against China, they themselves would be the ones who would suffer the most. Therefore, these countries have tried to play new tricks by using so-called “responsibility” as an excuse to deter China’s development in a “soft way.”

If we implemented the policy to allow the Renminbi to appreciate sharply according to some countries’ requests, our national economy would be seriously impacted, many companies would go bankrupt, and many people would lose their jobs. The foreign exchange reserve would also shrink in value. If we were to respond to their demands on climate change issues, we would have to slow down our economic development and industrialization, while the Western countries have already entered the post-industrial stage.

Besides the issues mentioned above, the West is also attempting to stipulate norms for China’s development path regarding our value system, the international moral system, and so on. Currently the West has formulated most of the international rules and standards. If we comply, then we are “responsible”? If we do not, are we “irresponsible”? The Western countries could not control China’s development momentum, but they are trying to use these rules and standards to influence the direction of China’s development.

What we talk about being responsible for is that we may contribute more to regional and world peace, stability and development along with our economic development and the increase in our national strength. It may include gradually increasing foreign assistance and being a voice for the interests of developing countries in the international arena.

Therefore, we are not irresponsible. However there is a distance between the request and the expectations of Western countries. China has made great contributions to the global economy. In 2009, its contribution to global economic growth exceeded 50%. How could anyone say that China was irresponsible or not responsible enough?

[1] Source: International Herald Leader, January 27, 2011