Event ReportsPublished on Sep 06, 2019
The event revolved around the current Chinese foreign policy in south-east Asia, its BRI project and relations with the Indo-Pacific countries and how the world views China under these geopolitical scenarios and Chinese reactions towards them.
Event Report | Foreign policy under Xi Jinping
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s foreign policy ambitions have expanded on a global scale. China has invested heavily in global infrastructure, working towards economic integration, investing in strategic locations for securing its trade and security interests. Considering such geopolitical moves under the current Chinese leadership, ORF had organized an interaction on the ‘Changes in China’s Foreign Policy under President Xi Jinping’. The discussion was led by Professor Chen Ding Ding, Jinan University and President of Intelligentsia Institute. The interaction was moderated by Prof. Harsh V Pant, Director, Studies and Head, Strategic Studies Program. It was held at the ORF Conference Hall, New Delhi on 13th August. The discussion began with Prof. Harsh Pant introducing the current Chinese foreign policy in south-east Asia, its BRI project and relations with the Indo-Pacific countries. Leading towards an important question regarding how the world views China under these geopolitical scenarios and Chinese reactions towards them.

Changes in China and the World

Professor Chen, began by giving the background of China’s diplomatic changes in President Xi’s era. He highlighted the ‘Changes in China’ and how it has become the biggest developing country in the world, its unprecedented economic growth, development in Science and Technology and how China has successfully worked towards its population’s well-being; In support of his arguments Prof Chen provided some very nuanced figures to the audience. He put forward that how within 15-20 years China’s GDP is going to surpass US’s GDP and three Asian economies i.e. China, Japan and India will be among the world’s top 5 economies. He then moved to the changes happening in the world and the crisis in the current international order - the changes in the world political landscape, process of globalisation, changes in technology and industry and in the global governance system. According to him, pressure on the current international order began from the 2008 economic crisis. China sees these fundamental changes both as opportunity and challenge. He points out Xi’s address to the ‘Central Meeting on Foreign Affairs work 2018’ where Xi said that, at present, China is in an optimal period of development and the world is undergoing changes unprecedented in over a century. There is chaos and uncertainty and China’s leadership is seeing this as an opportunity.

US, China and developing world

He pointed out that US is in a relative decline, but it is not an absolute decline and no one in China believes that US will go into a total decline. But, due to the growing economies, the developing countries have gained more decision making power in global governance. The Asian, South-Asian and African countries have more important roles to play. Owing to a new international security environment, and the fading support from the developed world is the biggest challenge that the current order is facing. He then discussed what has changed in the past 5-6 years within. According to him, the fundamental shift of the 2008 crisis gave China the chance to maintain a certain degree of counter-balance against the US, as China not only survived the crisis but also continued to grow. It is not only about the change in leadership in 2012, but China’s unique form of great power diplomacy with its own characteristics have developed an all-round, multi-tiered and three dimensional diplomatic deployment that has created a favourable external condition for its development. AIIB, BRI, Silk Road Fund, and the recently held summits of G20, BRICS and CICA in China, has enabled China to actively promote reformation in global governance.

Domestic Development and Leadership

According to him, China had officially entered the ‘new era’ by preferring domestic development, a two-stage strategy, till 2035 – catching up with the previous numbers and domestic development, to become a modernised, military, soft-power. China has a very ambitious leadership and the pressing domestic issues are more important than external issues for them because the victimization approach is very deep in China. The leadership takes different tactics, which is making things happen but at the same time is also uncertain about many issues. There is no grand geopolitical plan in China, but there are going to be more Chinese led plans, instead of following or reacting to other’s plan. For China the 1st phase of BRI was easy, but the 2nd phase is going to be much more difficult and challenging. According to him there is going to be new strategic framework and new grand strategies that will stay with us in future, because of the current global uncertainties. China does not want to overthrow the current global order, as it has benefited a lot from it, but there is a process of reform that needs to be started and these radical reforms will be started by China. But according to him , it is still too early to talk about China being a global leader, at least not until 2049, till it becomes the biggest economy and a big tech power. China does not want to rely on brutal hard power, but on institutions and soft power. He concluded by saying that, ‘Competitive relationship’ is the new normal of world politics today. And there is a new form of great power relations that China wants to create, based on two principals: first, incremental transformation not radical and, second, collective efforts which are all-inclusive. Finally, the talk was concluded with a fruitful Q&A session where important questions regarding power identity, Sino-Indian relations, boundary issues, trade war, Hong Kong protest and Huawei were discussed. The talk was summarised and wrapped up by Prof. Harsh V. Pant.
This event report was written by Animesh Jain, Research Intern, ORF Delhi
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.