The annual two sessions are on in Beijing and China's diplomacy is one of the leading topics attracting global attention. How will China's diplomacy progress in 2018? What Chinese-US relations will develop and whether a bilateral trade war is unavoidable? Global Times (GT) reporter Luan Xuan talked with Jia Qingguo (Jia), a member of the National Committee of the 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, on these issues. Jia also served as dean of School of International Studies at Peking University and a member of international advisory committee at The Charhar Institute.
GT: Some Westerners believe China will put more efforts into diplomacy and act more proactively in 2018. What are your views on this?
Jia: I think China will still focus on domestic affairs in the near future. China faces massive developmental challenges such as advancing supply-side structural reforms, protecting the environment, poverty reduction, developing education and reducing income inequality. China has a lot of work to do on the domestic front, which will be the major concern of the Chinese government.
With a growing economy, increasing overall strength, and expanding overseas interests, China would be willing to play a bigger role on the international stage. However, the West mainly sees China's influence with prejudice, highlighting the "China threat" theory and worrying that China will challenge the world order. Actually, China will contribute to maintaining the international order and advancing global governance and work to make the international order fairer and more equitable to bring benefit to the world.
GT: Considering the current international situation, what are going to be the highlights of China's diplomacy in 2018?
Jia: China will seek more cooperation on the Belt and Road initiative. It hopes not only to cooperate with countries that are in need of infrastructure building, but also those who can co-finance with China on relevant projects. It is a win-win cooperation and more countries are expected to participate in the initiative.
Currently, the world faces many problems, especially the challenge to the global order, such as protectionism. China needs to work with countries which favor free and open trade, to protect the current international trade system. On climate change, Beijing will cooperate with other countries to implement the Paris climate agreement. It will also work with other countries on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Beijing will increase its participation in global governance and protect the international order.
GT: China and the US are two big powers and their relationship draws worldwide attention. How do you see the bilateral relationship in 2018?
Jia: Chinese-US relations face many challenges this year. Some Americans deem China as a threat and advocate a tougher stance against it. Some see China as an economic rival, calling for harsher ways to balance bilateral trade. There are also some US politicians playing the Taiwan card.
Facing the challenges, both governments should maintain channels of communication and coordinate. Recently, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Liu He, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, both visited the US, showing China's efforts for better bilateral relations. I hope the Trump government could be practical in dealing with bilateral ties.
GT: As US President Donald Trump adopts an aggressive trade policy, is a trade war between China and the US unavoidable in 2018? What preparations should China make to deal with this?
Jia: I think nothing is unavoidable. China will make more efforts to communicate and coordinate with the US to deal with problems which can be resolved and dealt with. Common interests take precedence over differences and conflicting objectives. As two big powers, China and the US need to maintain the global order to protect their national interests and cooperate with others to minimize costs. Both nations hope to take advantage of the other's massive resources to maintain the global order. From this perspective, Beijing and Washington have many common interests.
Chinese-US trade ties benefit both. Although China's exports to the US have far outweighed US' exports to China, Washington needs to consider the issue more deeply. China's exports to the US are not only the products China makes but includes those from the whole world. Many of China's exports to the US are products that China imports from other countries first, including the US, and then processes them. The profits that China derives from these products are small in proportion. China's exports to the US are inexpensive and Americans can enjoy their quality. The US should not only focus on the trade deficit, but consider these hidden factors.
US has trade imbalance with many countries, including China. It is not the right time for the Trump administration to take a strong stance on trade, which also damages American interests.
GT: Some think tanks and Western politicians hype up China's "sharp power" and alleged Chinese infiltration. They argue that China is exporting its development model to the outside world. What do you think of this?
Jia: Some Westerners harbor strong prejudice against China, looking at everything Beijing does in other countries as vicious. Through Confucius Institutes, China wants to promote Chinese culture and make other countries to better understand China. But biased Westerners see the Confucius Institutes as China's way of spreading its cultural influence.
Beijing should introspect its actions. Cultural communication is good only as a non-governmental activity. The government should encourage non-governmental organizations to play a bigger role in propelling cultural communications with other countries.
As for the arguments that China wants to advocate its development model to the world, I think it needs further clarification. General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Xi Jinping mentioned in his report to the 19th national congress of the CPC that China's successful experience "offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence."
Whether the Chinese model fits others should be for those countries to consider. China advocates that every country make its own strategies in accordance with its own situations and needs, neither copying Western or Chinese models.