WITH economic globalisation and the advent of a multi-polar world, China and other emerging countries are clearly set to play much more important roles not only in 2012, but in the coming decades.
As China’s economic power and influence in the world economy have increased following the financial crisis of 2008, the idea has been floated that China and the US should co-lead the world under some sort of “G-2” arrangement. But such a G-2 framework is not consistent with China’s independent foreign policy, nor with the general trend towards wider dispersion of geopolitical power within the international community.
Although China’s senior leadership will change this year, this position will not change.
Indeed, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Prague in May 2009 for the 11th China-European Union summit, he explained that China was opposed to the G-2 concept. It is China’s firm intention never to seek hegemony, nor to support global domination by a small minority of countries.
What China does believe in is deepening co-operation with all of the world’s major regions. Consider Europe — a splendid and time- honoured civilisation, and now a major player on the world stage. The progressive deepening of EU integration has brought dynamic vigour to the European continent; despite Europe’s current difficulties, it still boasts extraordinary overall strength and international influence.
China has always supported European integration, and hopes the EU will become a pillar of international order. In the wake of the global financial crisis and the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis, China has bought government bonds, made direct investments, and sent business delegations to Europe.
During Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero’s visit to Beijing in April 2011, Wen reaffirmed China’s willingness to continue purchasing Spanish government bonds as a further demonstration of support for Europe’s efforts to emerge from its crisis. Moreover, China’s huge market and labour pool have created important opportunities for Europe.
In this new multi-polar era, China and Europe must work together, and they are now at a critical moment if they are to deepen their co-operation. What we do to share opportunities, meet challenges, and pursue development will be directly relevant not only to our own peoples’ welfare, but also to the world’s future. China-EU co-operation will be essential to maintaining global peace and stability.
We share a commitment to resolving international issues through political means, and both sides have played a constructive role in addressing global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The parallel launch of China’s 12th five-year plan and Europe’s 2020 strategy has also helped to deepen our co-operation. China and Europe worked together after 2008 to prevent a global financial meltdown, oppose protectionism, and promote reform of the international financial system, in an effort to facilitate a worldwide economic recovery.
China also takes its relations with the US very seriously. Indeed, our bilateral relationship is among the most important in the international community. That relationship has gone through some rough patches since diplomatic ties were established in 1979, but, overall, it has continued to grow and benefit both sides. Today, China and the US share more interests than ever, and there are encouraging prospects for still broader co-operation.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Washington DC in January 2011, he and US President Barack Obama agreed to build what Hu referred to as “a China-US co-operative partnership based on respect and mutual benefit”. They reaffirmed their deference for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and reached agreements on major strategic issues, including efforts to strengthen co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region and in multilateral institutions, and to respond jointly to regional and global challenges to peace and stability, for example, on the Korean peninsula.
China is the world’s largest developing country; Europe is the largest bloc of developed countries; and the US is the largest single developed country. Together, we account for nearly one third of humanity and two thirds of the world economy.
As the three major global powers, China, the EU, and the US must strengthen their co-operation, and must work with the rest of the world to face the complex international issues that challenge us all.
Together, we must shoulder the task of upholding world peace and promoting common development.
While China is committed to its own independent foreign policy, it cannot achieve development in isolation. Likewise, the world cannot develop without China.
Hu once said that the 21st century should be a century of peace, development, and co-operation. China is willing to join with the EU, the US, and the rest of the world to realise the potential of a truly harmonious world.
* Li Zhaoxing was China’s foreign minister from 2003-2007, and is currently chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011