Over the last two weeks, China has seen a train of high-profile receptions for leaders and senior officials visiting from four major Asian nations, reflecting its greater emphasis on relations with neighboring countries.
Experts say China’s foreign policy is becoming more active and open in the wider context of profound changes in the international and regional situation.
China has maintained frequent high-level contacts with other Asian nations and played a constructive role in Asian political affairs over the first half of this year.
During Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to China, China recognized the tremendous efforts and sacrifices that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism.
China and Pakistan agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation on regional affairs such as the Afghanistan issue in a joint statement signed during the prime minister’s visit.
DPRK leader Kim Jong Il expressed willingness to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and improve relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK) during his most recent visit to China, which happened to be his third visit to the country in the past year.
He said the DPRK will stick to its objective of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and believes that the six-party talks should be resumed.
During Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s visit, China called on Iran to start a new round of nuclear talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (G5+1).
During Myanmar President Thein Sein’s visit, China and Myanmar upgraded their relationship to a “strategic partnership” and inked economic agreements in a demonstration of improved ties between the two neighbors.
China also reaffirmed its respect for Myanmar’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and its support for Myanmar’s development.
Zhao Qinghai, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said that China’s recent dealings and meetings have not only demonstrated respect and accommodation for its neighbor countries, but also helped to safeguard the common interests of Asia as a whole.
REGIONAL PRAGMATIC COOPERATION
China has also made positive contributions in boosting regional and sub-regional cooperation in 2011.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference in April, Chinese President Hu Jintao delivered a keynote speech titled “Towards Common Development and a Harmonious Asia,” making a five-point proposal for Asian countries to increase their economic cooperation.
Media reports said Hu’s proposal indicated that China is willing to increase its participation in Asia’s development and share new opportunities for growth with other Asian nations.
During the fourth China-Japan-ROK (Republic of Korea) Leaders Meeting in Tokyo, the three parties agreed to set up a trilateral cooperation secretariat in the ROK in 2011.
As three of Asia’s most important economies, the three countries’ political cooperation will be conducive to promoting regional cooperation and stability, said Gao Hong, deputy director of Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
In April, member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) saw frequent visits from Chinese leaders and senior officials.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Malaysia and Indonesia; Chinese top political advisor Jia Qinglin and Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission Xu Caihou visited Myanmar just after its new government was installed; Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie visited Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Chen Xiangyang, a researcher from the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said that enhanced links between leaders of China and ASEAN nations will help to boost cooperation between east Asian nations in advance of the East Asia Summit (10+8), which will be held this fall.
In the latter half of 2011, representatives from China will be present at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, which will be held in the Kazakh capital of Astana, as well as at the Informal Meeting of APEC economic leaders.
Earlier this month, China and the United States agreed to establish an Asian-Pacific consultation mechanism in order to increase interaction between the two countries and contribute to peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region.
CONTRIBUTING TO REGIONAL SECURITY
China also enhanced its security cooperation with Asian nations this year as it continues to face both traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
At the Boao Forum, Chinese President Hu Jintao advocated a new security concept featuring “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination,” which was widely praised by the Asian and international community.
This year also saw more frequent visits by Chinese military delegations to Asian countries.
Senior delegations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have visited six Asian nations and attended multilateral meetings in those countries over the last two months.
At the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue 2011, Deputy Chief of the PLA General Staff Ma Xiaotian raised a proposal on enhancing regional security cooperation.
Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie will lead a delegation to attend the 10th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asian Security Summit, which will be held in Singapore from June 3 to 5.
Wei Fenghe, deputy chief of the PLA General Staff, will also lead a military delegation to participate in a regional security policy meeting, which will be held in Surabaja, Indonesia next month.
China believes that the establishment of mutual trust is an effective way to safeguard national security and regional stability, said Hou Xiaohe, a deputy professor at the National Defense University.
It is also a reflection of the need for peaceful development in China, he said.
ADVOCATING “ASIAN SPIRIT”
Chinese President Hu Jintao elaborated on the essence of “Asian spirit” at the Boao Forum.
He said the “Asian spirit” stands for a desire to seek self-improvement, learn from others and help out those who are most in need of assistance.x China has made efforts to boost exchanges and cooperation with other Asian nations in areas as diverse as culture, education and tourism in recent years.
China invited five Pakistani youth delegations to visit China between 2007 and 2011 and sent three Chinese youth delegations to visit Pakistan during the same period.
At the China-Japan-ROK Leaders Meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao suggested that the three countries should strive to realize the goal of participating in 26 million personnel exchanges by 2015.
He also invited 500 Japanese students from areas recently devastated by the March 11 earthquake-tsunami to visit China.
History has demonstrated that the “Asian spirit” can help the region’s diverse population to cope with common challenges in the age of globalization, said Zhao Kejin, a professor at China’s Tsinghua University.
After the devastating earthquake in Japan, people from several Asian nations worked closely with the Japanese to help them rebuild, which is an excellent example of the “Asian spirit,” he said.