The Role of China In the Region and the World Today

Li Zhaoxing former Foreign Minister, Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of the 11th National People's Congress, and Honorary President of CPIFA.
We all agree that it is no easy thing to understand a country, especially a country like China, whose many aspects still wait to be discovered. China's big population, its landmass, the history and culture, as well as its role in global political and security affairs as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, all makes it a major power in the world.
At the same time, and more important, China is still a developing country. Despite the size of its economy, now the second largest in the world, and its contribution to global economic growth, there remains a considerable gap between China and advanced economies when it comes to the level of development. China ranks after 80 countries in the world in terms of per capita GDP with eight African countries ranking above it. China's economy is going through restructuring and it is making great efforts to address the problems of resources, the environment and uneven development. There is a long way to go before China truly becomes modernized.
Talking of diplomacy, a central task for China is to uphold peace and stability at both the regional and global levels and to secure a favorable international environment for domestic economic and social development. China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. It is committed to building socialism with Chinese characteristics and to the path of peaceful development. The trend of the times and the values that China holds dear all dictate that China's diplomacy must be one that serves the interests of people of both China and the world, one that upholds justice and contributes to human progress.
First, China is a constructive force for upholding the international order. China, a founding member of the United Nations, supports the UN in playing a central role in international affairs. At the same time, China believes that reform should be introduced to the current order on a gradual basis in light of the reality in the evolving international landscape. Such reform should not be designed to start something new from scratch. Rather, it should be based on reality and keep improving itself to adapt to the changing times.
To be more specific, China actively supports the G20 in becoming the premier platform of global economic governance. China supports the reform of the IMF and the World Bank to increase the representation and voting power of developing countries. The direction of reform of the international system should be toward greater democracy in international relations and the rule of law in international governance. The result should be better protection of the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and, indeed, of all countries in the world, for, in the end, a world of greater equality, harmony and security is all that we want to see.
Second, China is an active force contributing to sound and sustained global economic growth. In recent years, with the growth speed moderated, the Chinese economy has entered a state of “new normal” and switched its focus to stabilizing growth, adjusting structure and improving people's livelihood. Even so, China is still one of the main engines driving global growth. Its 7.4% growth remains one of the fastest in the world. In 2014, the share of China's economy in global GDP was up from 12.7% in 2013 to 13.3%, contributing 30.4% to global economic growth.
According to major global economic institutions and many economists, although China's growth may moderate under the new normal, the actual increase in China's economy will only become larger in real terms. Growth will become more sustainable and supported by more growth drivers thanks to economic restructuring, with increased contribution from consumption, the services sector outperforming the manufacturing sector and the rise in new job opportunities. This will offer the rest of the world huge market opportunities and make global economic growth more balanced.
China's proposal to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a major strategic initiative to increase connectivity and improve infrastructure through mutually beneficial cooperation. This will serve to expand the convergence of common interests between China and countries concerned. By now, over 50 countries have responded positively to China's initiative. Going forward, China will engage countries concerned in consultations on an equal footing and work with them in joint efforts to translate the vision into reality and bring this region new opportunities of win-win cooperation and common development.
Third, China is a staunch force for world peace and regional stability. China calls for the settlement of international issues through peaceful means and takes an active part in international security dialogue and cooperation. China champions a new security outlook of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination. On regional hotspot issues such as Ukraine and the Korean and Iranian nuclear issues, China holds a just and objective position and has played a constructive role in promoting peaceful settlement through negotiations. China is actively involved in UN peacekeeping operations and is in fact the biggest contributor of UN peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the Security Council. When it comes to non-traditional security threats, China is resolutely opposed to terrorism in all its manifestations and has taken an active part in international and regional counter-terrorism cooperation. In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, China was the first to reach out to countries affected with a total of four rounds of assistance to countries directly hit by the epidemic and to those neighboring countries as well. China has also stayed actively involved in international cooperation on climate change, food security, energy security and disaster prevention and relief.
Fourth, China is ready to develop friendship and all-round cooperation with all countries in the world. China's relations with the United States, Russia, the European Union and other major powers are growing steadily. China pursues a neighborhood diplomacy that features amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and is working with its neighbors to advance the building of a community of common destiny. China's unity and cooperation with Africa and Latin America is strengthening. President Xi Jinping once borrowed a metaphor from Napoleon Bonaparte that compared China to a “sleeping lion”, but President Xi's version was that "now China the lion has awakened, but it is a peaceful, amicable and rather civilized lion."
Fifth, China actively promotes dialogue and mutual learning among civilizations and cultures. The Chinese culture advocates harmony without uniformity and seeks common ground by reserving differences. China supports all countries in following the development path that suits their national conditions. China stands for diversity in civilizations and in development paths. China has hosted the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Shanghai 2010 World Expo and the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and now Beijing is bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Last year, outbound Chinese travelers for business or leisure exceeded 100 million person-time for the first time. All this has helped deepen mutual understanding and friendship among people of different countries.
China has never been so closely connected with the world, and the world needs China and its development. As China continues to grow, expectations are also growing on China to play an even bigger role in international affairs.
As President Xi Jinping observed, we need to be confident, but never complacent, about ourselves. Over the years, China has worked to play its due part in international affairs that is commensurate with its national condition and has contributed its share to world peace and development.
Having said that, I want to point out that there are some in the world that still cling to the outdated mindset, that tend to view China through colored glasses and with suspicion and doubt. For instance, some accuse China of free-riding and of being selective in undertaking international obligations. Some are even upset to see China's initiatives to set up the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund and other positive steps designed to promote regional development, prosperity and win-win cooperation. They claim: China is seeking geo-political gains with every move it makes.
Yet if one chooses to confine himself in such a narrow perspective, he surely loses sight of the big picture. In this highly interdependent "global village" where countries survive and thrive together, we all should discard the "zero-sum" game mentality and take on a new way of thinking. We need to step up coordination and communication and follow a new path of win-win cooperation, as this points to a surest way to keeping abreast of the times and the trend of development. Countries need to act in a responsible manner, enhance strategic mutual trust, increase practical and equal-footed cooperation and unleash positive energy to boost global economic recovery and uphold peace, stability and prosperity in the world.
Asia, where China belongs, is crucial for China's development. To build a neighboring environment of long-term stability and harmony is an important strategic objective underpinning China's neighborhood diplomacy. It is also essential for the realization of the Chinese Dream, which will bring prosperity, national renewal and happiness to China and the Chinese people.
At the fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), President Xi Jinping put forward, for the first time, the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia. Common security means that the security of every country should be respected and ensured. No country or group of countries could have its or their own security ensured by leaving others insecure, still less could one obtain the so-called absolute security at the expense of the security of others. Comprehensive security means to uphold security in both the traditional and non-traditional sense of the word. We need to take into full account the historical background and reality of Asia while addressing the security issue. We need to adopt a multi-pronged and holistic approach, and coordinate our efforts to enhance regional security governance. Cooperative security means we need to promote the security of both individual countries and the region as a whole by increasing strategic mutual trust through dialogue and cooperation. We need to promote peace and security through cooperation and stay committed to resolving disputes through peaceful means. Sustainable security means we need to place equal emphasis on both development and security. We need to focus on development, improve people's lives and narrow down the wealth gap so as to cement the foundation of security. We need to advance the process of common development and regional integration and promote sustainable security through sustainable development.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the victory of the world's anti-Fascist war. China, a major responsible country in the world, will work with countries in the region in a joint effort to uphold the victory of World War II as well as the post-war international order. Together, we may seize the opportunity of deepening globalization, and jointly create a brighter future for Asia and beyond through win-win cooperation.

Li Zhaoxing is former Foreign Minister, Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of the 11th National People's Congress, and Honorary President of CPIFA.