February 14 is Valentine's Day. Across the Pacific Ocean, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was meeting US President Barack Obama while in Beijing, the China-Europe Summit was getting underway. Neither the current Sino-US or Sino-Europe relationship is as intimate as that between lovers, but the complexity of strategic relations among great powers could be compared to romantic tales.
China is a newcomer on the diplomatic stage of major powers. It is still unfamiliar with how to use its power and how to deal with provocations from smaller countries. Facing giants like the US and Europe, China is accustomed to acting with care. It never stirs up trouble willingly, instead, when a crisis occurs, China's first reaction is to seek to defuse tension.
China interprets "good" foreign relations as being relations of mutual benefit and mutual respect, but it seems the US and Europe don not follow the same logic. They are pursuing a relationship with China always in their utmost interests, even at the cost of disputes with China. China highly values strategic opportunities for development. Under such conditions, reducing external interference is particularly important. But if China's development is too susceptible to external threats, the country is too fragile.
China's development should be able to face the world and brave any storm. In fact, since reform and opening-up began, the country has overcome many challenges and difficulties, from border wars to domestic chaos to Western sanctions. China should adjust its thinking on what are "good" relations. No matter whether Sino-US relations or Sino-European relations, the more favorable they are to China's national interests, the better. China's national interests include political stability, social solidarity and sustainable economic development.
China does not need to satisfy the West at the expense of its own interests. China will not provoke the US and Europe, but it has its own principles to follow. Chinese officials should take opportunities to make the world understand these. It is very difficult and challenging for Chinese diplomats and leaders to deal with the US and Europe. Pure cooperation is a utopia while overall confrontation is also undesirable.
There is a saying that diplomacy is no small matter. This saying has guided China's diplomacy for many years. But from a strategic perspective, we should also say diplomacy is no big matter. China is not a small nor a weak country. Even if diplomacy is crucial to China, it will not make or break the country.
China must be open and learn how to balance interests from all sides. When it is obstructed by any force, it should be able to dissolve it. Meanwhile, China is not a country which disguises itself. It needs to show its real face to the world.
To China, the US and Europe are important. It is the same with Russia and Japan. But China should view itself as the highest priority. This does not mean China should be arrogant, but rather ensure that it receives equal treatment from other countries through diplomacy.
Diplomacy is easier said than done. The difficulty of China's diplomacy lies in that it does not have the final say. However, it already has a certain influence. We are in a long transition period in which many global issues will take place. China will have more and more initiative.