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Jan 04 2017
Three Features in China’s Diplomatic Thinking
By Yang Jiemian
China’s diplomatic thinking has taken on three features since the CPC’s 18th National Congress in late 2012.

First, it emphasizes following and promoting the trends of the day. From a Chinese perspective, peace, development, cooperation, and win-win cooperation have become the theme of the twenty-first century. China’s leaders have set an array of goals (near-, mid-, and long-term) for different phases within China’s development time frame. The Xi Jinping-led central committee of the CPC attaches great importance to top-level design and strategic planning and underscores the importance of a holistic approach. China’s foreign policy strategy has been embedded into its grand strategy of realizing the Chinese dream, fulfilling the two centenary goals, and safeguarding world peace and development.  China has also proposed its visions of a new international system, a new international order, and a new global governance system, and initiated the “One Belt, One Road” and an “Asian Community of Shared Destiny.”

Second, it emphasizes multidimensional planning. In an increasingly complex and connected world, effective diplomacy requires not only strategic planning but also elaborate operationalization. Economic diplomacy remains the mainstay. As the world’s second-largest economy, China places high value on the economic dimension of diplomacy and regards development cooperation as a new platform in the conduct of its foreign policy. In addition, interactions between politics, economics, security, and the military has become a new aspect in China’s diplomacy, which has a time-honored virtue: a holistic approach. In terms of institutional and organizational reforms, the Chinese leadership has strengthened the central authority by establishing a National Security Commission and a central leading group overseeing the implementation the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. China has paid close attention to the spillover effects of both domestic affairs and international affairs. New frontiers and new media are also factored in China’s strategic planning. Changes in cyberspace, outer space, deep seas, and polar regions have presented new challenges for China’s diplomacy. China has a stake in the agenda-setting and rule-making process concerning cyber security, cyber sovereignty, and cyber operations and advocates that outer space, deep seas, and polar regions should be regarded as part of the global commons.

Last but not least, China’s diplomacy emphasizes bottom-line thinking and dispute management. In China’s diplomatic parlance, bottom-line thinking implies a sense of urgency and crisis and requires contingency planning and strategic preparedness. In a world of proliferating crises, it is bottom-line thinking that enables China to contribute to the possible solutions to the Syrian crisis, ISIL’s rise, and the tensions on the Korean Peninsular. For a rising, socialist country, effective dispute management is an essential part of China’s successful diplomacy especially at a time of growing tensions between China and other powers. For example, China adheres to the “no conflict and no confrontation” principle in handling the Sino-American relationship, the dual track approach in managing the disputes over the South China Sea, and resorts to the World Trade Organization to address trade disputes. At the same time, China has strengthened trust-building by engaging in United Nation’s peacekeeping missions, joint military exercises, hotline diplomacy between heads of states in order to manage disputes and contain crises.  

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