By Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein*
March 21, 2023 – On March 7, during a press conference held within the framework of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress in Beijing, the recently appointed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang stated: “If the United States does not step on the brakes and, instead, keeps accelerating down the wrong path, there will be no barrier that can prevent derailment, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation.”
Qin added that the U.S. government’s policy toward China had completely deviated from the “rational and sensible path.” This language, far from the Chinese diplomatic tradition based on restraint and self-control, is an expression of changes that are manifested not only in rhetoric and discourse but also especially in practice and proposal.
At some point, [the late Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping stated that Chinese diplomacy should be characterized by “hiding strength and biding its time.” Clearly that is in the past. The months that have elapsed since 2023 began have witnessed not only a transformation of rhetoric but also intense diplomatic activity on the part of China, which seems to want to occupy its true place in the international system as a leading actor and protagonist of the transformation process that is clearly beginning.
Qin Gang, who turned 57 on March 19, is part of a new generation. He was 10 years old when Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai died, and he was 12 when the Reform and Opening-up policy began in 1978. He is completely foreign to that time.
Qin Gang entered the Foreign Service at the age of 26, and he was 46 when Xi Jinping was elected as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China for the first time in 2012. At the time, he was deputy director general of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In just 12 years, he rose to the highest responsibility of his country’s chancellery.
This new generation, characterized by sustaining intense activity on social networks, does not allow any affront to their country, responding harshly in each case, while making their proposals and projects known in all corners of the Earth. With language that spares no sarcasm, irony and mockery, Western transnational media has baptized those carrying out the new Chinese diplomacy “Wolf Warriors.” The name refers to the members of the Chinese Special Forces who successfully confronted American mercenaries in a television series with that name that gripped the country for two seasons in 2015 and 2017.
Regarding China’s relations with Russia, a cardinal aspect of his country’s foreign policy at the present time, Qin Gang said that with both “working together, the world will have the driving force to multipolarity and democracy in international relations, and the global strategic balance will be better guaranteed.” This is a precise and strategic statement of the ties between the two countries. It cannot be overlooked that in this definition, in a single paragraph, the new Chinese foreign minister has demonstrated three categories that define the future scope of Chinese diplomacy: multipolarity, democracy and global strategic balance.
Anyone who might have doubts regarding the new orientation of Chinese diplomacy should consider that it was President Xi Jinping himself, who, the day before, March 6, in his speech during the first session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, took responsibility for outlining the course that the country will adopt for the coming years.
First, Xi diagnosed the situation: “The external conditions for China’s development have changed drastically, with a significant increase in uncertain and unpredictable factors, above all because Western countries, led by the United States, have subjected our country to total containment, siege and repression, posing unprecedented and grave challenges to our development.”
‘Great Wall of Steel’
Xi established that given the situation U.S. policies created, China should modernize its army and turn it into a “Great Wall of Steel.” In addition, he insisted that the country must achieve technological self-sufficiency. All of this is framed within a major government restructuring that will have a profound influence on the country’s economy and society. For this, there will also be an intense reform of the financial system.
Xi also announced that the structural transformation plan to face the new times includes the reform of various organs of the Communist Party of China and the government. This reform, which seeks to strengthen the leadership of the party, will involve its local and central institutions, the National People’s Congress, the State Council and the cabinet, as well as the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s highest advisory body.
As an expression of this trend in the framework of foreign policy, China unveiled a “Global Security Initiative” in February with the aim of eliminating the root causes of international conflicts, improving planetary security governance and stimulating efforts for joint international agreements that guarantee greater stability and certainty and promote lasting peace and development throughout the world.
The proposal is based on six principles: Maintain the commitment to the vision of a common, global, cooperative and sustainable security; respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; respect the objectives and principles of the United Nations charter; take seriously the legitimate security concerns of all countries; resolve disputes between nations peacefully through dialogue; and, finally, preserve security in traditional and nontraditional arenas.
Not only speech and rhetoric have begun to change in China this past year. The appointment of the new Foreign Minister on Dec. 30, 2022, and the launch of the “Global Security Initiative” proposal in February have been accompanied by a clear intention to start playing a much more relevant role on the international scene.
Saudi Arabia and Iran
In this area, in recent days it has been announced that, with the mediation of China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have decided to establish diplomatic relations, thereby influencing a radical change in the regional and even the global political scenario. This step has dealt a heavy blow to the U.S. scheme to dominate that region, a scheme whose axis is U.S. support of the Zionist state of Israel as a launching pad for imperial policy in the area.
According to this scheme, Washington intended to create strong alliances of Zionism with some Arab and Muslim countries. All these plans received a severe blow stemming from the silent and patient Chinese diplomacy.
This agreement will significantly reduce the possibility of an armed conflict between these regional rivals, either in direct or indirect confrontations. This could create conditions that favor a political agreement that stops and puts an end to the prolonged war in Yemen, as some West Asian capitals have begun to speculate.
In another sphere, but also as an expression of China’s great diplomatic effort in favor of world peace, a few weeks ago a 12-point proposal prepared by Beijing was released to end the conflict in Ukraine through negotiation and dialogue. For this reason, President Xi will pay a visit to Moscow, where he will meet with his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin, after which he will hold a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
In this way, while stormy winds are blowing from Washington and Brussels, Beijing is making efforts to reduce tensions without lowering its guard. While repelling attacks from the U.S.-led empire, China works to make a real and significant contribution to peace and the development of the planet.
*A Venezuelan international relations expert, Rodriguez Gelfenstein was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TeleSUR. You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701. The English translation was published March 21, 2023, on unitedworldint.com.