As the volatile 2020 draws to a close, the world looks to the next year for humanity. As the most dynamic and a more confident country during the heyday of the pandemic time, China rolls out its roadmap of foreign relations in 2021 and beyond. It shows the consistence and persistence of China to carry on the mission of “national rejuvenation” by 2050. To that end, the Chinese leadership continues to perceive major powers as the strategic priorities; the neighboring countries as the immediate concerns for the reasons of security and stability; and the developing countries, particularly African countries, remaining the major buttress of China’s foreign relations. This policy agenda started from the Mao-Zhou’s era and has continued for seven decades until nowadays.
When we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it is widely held that by traditional measurements, China would be able to overtake either the United States or the European Union in this decade. As it remains the strongest alliance in the world, it argues that the “transatlantic community” needs to take the lead in new technologies, particularly in military. In so doing, their joint capacity in science research and digital technologies must be unrivaled—for now and in the future. Since the Western countries are arrogant in terms of their legitimate positions, they say that the renewed transatlantic commitment to human freedom and democracy is needed to safeguard the future for their children and grandchildren. This mentality seems to verify that they can’t tolerate a more confident China and a resurgent Russia to take the lead in the areas of the latest technologies. This means that if China continues allying with Russia in this direction, they will be capable of challenging the most powerful and purposeful “transatlantic community” in the global affairs.
However, what Beijing aims to project on its political agenda in the next decades are relatively transparent and consistent. As the rise of China remains the same as its long-desired goal, Beijing’s priority necessitates to deal with the great powers—the United States, Russia, EU and Japan. Yet, among them the United States and its ally Japan and to certain extent EU have seen China as a competitor and probably a rival in geostrategic terms, China then needs to manage a stable relations with Washington. Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated that China has intended to restore the bilateral relations to the normal stage as the two largest economies of the world do share interests in many areas from anti-terrorism, peace-keeping to the pandemic and climate changes, let alone the issues of poverty and economic imbalance. Yet, tensions over cyber-security will remain, and deployments of theatre missile defense may resurface. As American scholar James Rae argued, conditions are more likely to be jeopardized by some form of a broad Obama-era rebalancing to the pivoting of ‘Indo-Pacific’ and more assertive American efforts to interfere in the South China Sea. Despite all these prospects, reasons for optimism remain.
First, the U.S. under the Biden administration is likely to recommit to multilateral efforts at promoting counter-terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation generally, and specifically to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iran nuclear question and more traditional diplomacy through the Six-Party talks on the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Those areas of agreement could be a salve to reduce mistrust on the broader security front. Second, cross-strait relations should at least return to some form of mutually acceptable dialogue rather than an ideologically-driven and hyper-partisan pro-Taiwan rhetoric and behavior provoked by the current hawkish groups headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Most likely opportunity for improvement the bilateral ties between China and the U.S. is within the economic dimension that the Trump’s team has torpedoed the relationship during the past year.
Second, China has highlighted the practical cooperation with the EU in the development of bilateral relations, including an early conclusion of the China-EU investment agreement. China has become the top trading partner of the EU and the two sides signed a protocol on geographical indications (GI) this year. Now the bilateral investment agreement negotiations are underway and the two sides have also decided to establish a high-level dialogue on environmental, digital cooperation. For sure, China is perceived as a technology competitor and a systematic rival in the future. In spite of this, China and many member states of the EU have moved forward the bilateral cooperation in various fields. China vows to maintain continuity, stability, and sustainability of the macro policies, such as macro-control measures that must be in line with market rules and China’s economy will run in a reasonable, a steady and sound development while it opens more room for cooperation with the EU.
Starting in 1970s, China has supported the European integration process and hopes to see a more united and prosperous EU. As Chinese Premier Li said recently, China supports the EU in keeping strategic independence, and working in unity and cooperation, and also supports its member states in playing a more constructive role in the EU and the world as well, such as joint efforts to safeguard multilateralism, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and maintain world peace and stability. As the EU vows to play a “civilian power” in the new era, it will continue to provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.
Third, China and Japan are the neighbors and also important economic powers in the East Asia. Accordingly, when Yoshihide Suga became the first new prime minister of Japan in nearly eight years, he stressed that Japan would implement policies to beef up its alliance with the United States, while hoping to establish stable relationships with China and Russia. As the situation surrounding Japan is becoming more volatile, Japan is certain to expand its alliance with the U.S., but it is equally necessary to build a stable relationship with neighboring countries including China and Russia. Meanwhile, China insists that to develop a bilateral relationship that features long-term stability and pragmatic cooperation conforms to the fundamental interests of the two countries and the expectations of the international community.
Obviously, China is aware that in order to deal with the complicated relations with the U.S., Japan and the EU effectively, it is vital for it and Russia, its great neighbor in the north, to further strengthen the bilateral relations. In a recent phone call by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, both men hailed the high-level of mutual trust and profound friendship between the two countries since they helped and supported each other through their anti-pandemic efforts, maintaining a high level of cooperation. It is seminal that the two strongest Eurasian powers share common grounds on many issues and have jointly upheld multilateralism, safeguarded global and regional security and stability, and played the exemplary role in international anti-epidemic cooperation while fighting against “political viruses.” Now looking into the new decade, China and Russia vow to work together to push forward the social-economic development goals by 2030.
As a matter of fact, China and Russia have acted as the driving force to move forward with Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia to jointly build an anti-pandemic fortress, a Health Silk Road and a community of health for all. This is really a “civilian alliance” to cope with all the non-conventional security issues, which in turn would enhance the regional cooperation along with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In a bid to further deepen the anti-pandemic cooperation, China and the four countries will support the World Health Organization in playing a coordinating role and oppose any attempt to politicize the pandemic and attach a geographical label to the virus. Accordingly, they will consolidate and expand anti-pandemic achievements. In so doing, they will actively promote the cooperation in the development, production and purchase of vaccine. The four countries also vowed to make a concerted effort on Chinese traditional medicine cooperation.
As the world is entering a period of turbulence and change, strong China-Russia relations are of more prominent significance in sustaining regional and world peace and security. The two powers are expected unwaveringly to develop future-oriented relations, and work with the international community to construct a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for mankind, so as to make greater contributions to the cause of human peace and development.
In brief, China and Russia must not allow the unease that has spread through many countries to darken the milestones we have achieved collectively.