China and its neighboring countries enjoy geographical proximity, cultural affinity and integrated interests with a shared future. The millennium-old friendly exchanges between the two sides are a vivid history of exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. Such friendly bonds are best captured by the Chinese saying: “true friendship weathers the changing seasons without fading away and is made even stronger by hardships.”
The neighborhood is where China survives and thrives and the foundation of its development and prosperity. As a member of the Asian family and a responsible major country, China attaches great importance to neighborhood diplomacy, always prioritizes the neighborhood on its diplomatic agenda, and remains committed to promoting regional peace, stability, development and prosperity.
Outlook on China’s Foreign Policy on Its Neighborhood in the New Era, based on the assessment and overview of the current situation and future trends in Asia, comprehensively outlines the achievements, policies, visions and objectives of China’s neighborhood diplomacy, and declares China’s commitment to the path of peaceful development, to promoting development of the neighborhood through its own development, to working with regional countries to advance modernization, to jointly building a community with a shared future among neighboring countries and to realizing the vision of a peaceful, secure, prosperous, beautiful, amicable and harmonious Asia in the new era.
I. Asia faces new opportunities and challenges
In the Report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and Chinese President, pointed out that changes of our world, our times, and of historical significance are unfolding in ways like never before. The world has once again reached a crossroads in history. Asia, amidst the changes unseen in a century, stands at a new starting point towards development and revitalization and faces unprecedented opportunities and challenges.
Asia, with its vast land and abundant resources, is home to a large population with diverse cultures and development. It has remained generally stable in the past few decades. Regional countries have enjoyed growing political mutual trust and ever deepening cooperation and exchanges. As a result, Asia has doubled its share of the world economy, made the leap from a region of low income to one of middle income, and formed a momentum of cooperation, development and rapid rise in a short span of 40 years. In recent years, Asia, as an important engine driving global economic recovery and growth, has contributed more than 50 percent to global growth. Asia is the most dynamic region with the biggest development potential in the world and will remain a promising land for global development and prosperity.
Meanwhile, global governance is in dysfunction; Cold War mentality is resurfacing; unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism run rampant; multiple risks in such fields as energy, food, finance, industrial and supply chains and climate change are having greater impact on Asia. Asia also faces challenges such as uneven economic growth, and pronounced security and governance issues. Some countries have intensified efforts to build regional military alliances; the Korean Peninsula issue remains complicated and intractable; Afghanistan faces numerous challenges in its reconstruction; terrorism, natural disasters and other non-traditional security threats persist.
There are two opposite propositions and trends concerning the future of Asia. One advocates open regionalism, true multilateralism, a development-first approach, mutually beneficial cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, integrated development, and pursuit of common development in harmony. The other represents a relapse into the Cold War mentality and exclusive clubs, and attempts to draw lines based on values, politicize economic issues, divide the region into different security blocs, and stoke division and confrontation.
Good principles keep abreast of the times. The right choice for Asia should be openness, solidarity, cooperation, justice and harmony rather than isolation, division, confrontation, hegemony and zero-sum approach. This not only hinges on the future prospects of countries in the region, but will also have a fundamental and far-reaching bearing on the future of Asia and the world. Building a community with a shared future for mankind is the sure path to a prosperous and better Asia and the world.
II. Significant progress made in China’s relations with its neighbors
Over the past half century and more, Asia, once plagued by poverty, weakness, turbulence and wars, has progressed successfully toward peace, stability, development, and prosperity. This is mainly accredited to the commitment of regional countries to independence, unity for strength, mutual respect, inclusiveness, mutual learning, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. In this process, China and fellow Asian countries have jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, carried forward the Bandung Spirit of solidarity, friendship and cooperation, and kept advancing good-neighborliness and mutually beneficial cooperation. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, China’s relations with neighboring countries have been upgraded at a faster pace and produced fruitful results.
Political mutual trust has been growing. As of the date of this document’s release, China has established diverse and substantive partnerships, cooperative relations and strategic relations of mutual benefit with 28 neighboring countries and ASEAN. China has reached common understandings with Pakistan, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Malaysia and Kyrgyzstan on building a community with a shared future, and has agreed with the five Mekong countries to build a community with a shared future among Lancang-Mekong countries, and announced with the five Central Asian countries the decision to build a China-Central Asia community with a shared future. China has resolved historical boundary issues with 12 neighbors on land through negotiations and signed the treaties of good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation with nine neighboring countries . China has signed and ratified the Protocol to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, respects Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status, became the first to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and is fully prepared to sign the Protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty at any time.
Mutual benefits keep deepening. China is the largest trading partner of 18 neighboring countries . In 2022, China’s trade in goods with neighboring countries exceeded USD 2.17 trillion, up by 78 percent from 2012. The two-way investment between China and ASEAN has exceeded USD 380 billion in cumulative terms. China took the lead in ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and worked for its entry into force and implementation, enabling and enhancing regional economic integration.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has delivered benefits to the neighborhood. China upholds the principle of planning together, building together and benefiting together, stays committed to the philosophy of open, green and clean cooperation, strives to achieve high-standard, sustainable and people-centered cooperation. China has signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with 24 neighboring countries , and worked to synergize the BRI with cooperation plans of ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Union. China has initiated the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund to provide financial support for infrastructure projects. Thanks to the joint efforts of all parties, a general connectivity framework consisting of six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports has been put in place. The fruitful Belt and Road cooperation has spurred economic growth and improved people’s lives in relevant countries and has injected strong impetus into economic recovery in the region.
Regional cooperation has grown in depth and substance. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), co-founded by China and neighboring countries, has become a comprehensive regional organization with the largest geographical coverage and population. The China-Central Asia mechanism established by China and the five Central Asian countries has emerged as an important platform for in-depth cooperation between the six countries. Lancang-Mekong Cooperation is a success story of mutually beneficial cooperation in the sub-region, and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Economic Development Belt is taking shape. In a spirit of openness and inclusiveness, China actively participates in multilateral cooperation, including the ASEAN-centered East Asia cooperation mechanism, China-Japan-ROK cooperation, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), contributing to the region’s integrated development and people’s well-being.
Hotspot issues have been effectively managed and controlled. China has contributed solutions to political settlement of regional hotspot issues, and proposed and put into action the Chinese approach to addressing hotspot issues. On the Korean Peninsula issue, for the sake of peace, stability, and lasting security on the Peninsula, China has put forward the innovative “suspension-for-suspension” proposal and the dual-track approach, stayed committed to political settlement and actively facilitated peace talks. On Afghanistan, China has established a mechanism for coordination and cooperation among Afghanistan’s neighbors, relaunched the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue, and issued the Tunxi Initiative on helping Afghanistan with reconstruction and development, building synergy among various parties. On Myanmar, China has encouraged the parties to bridge differences, restore social stability in the country, and launch political dialogue as quickly as possible.
Risks and challenges have been addressed effectively. China and neighboring countries have worked together in tackling such challenges as terrorism, separatism and financial crisis in the region. Since COVID-19 broke out, China and neighboring countries have come together to overcome difficulties, which reflects the spirit of a community with a shared future and provided leadership for global solidarity against the pandemic.
The remarkable progress made in Asia is attributable to the joint efforts of China and neighboring countries, and need to be cherished. China’s development would not be possible without a peaceful and stable neighboring environment. The development of China and that of neighboring countries complement and reinforce each other. China’s development will bring major opportunities and long-term benefits to countries across Asia, and will make even greater contributions to peace and development in the region.