The following signed article appeared in Issue 19 of the journal Qiushi on October 8, 2002.

Entering a New Phase in Party Diplomacy
with Chinese Characteristics that Reflects the Tenor of the Times

Dai Bingguo

The five years since the Fifteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), held in 1997, happened to span the turn of the century and millennium. In this period, the Party's international work, like all its other undertakings and those of the state, has kept pace with the times, been innovative and creative and developed to a new breadth and depth. The CPC has focused on cultivating party diplomacy with Chinese characteristics that reflects the tenor of the times and has accumulated new experiences and made fresh achievements in this regard. The Party's international work is playing an increasingly important role in the state's overall diplomatic work, the socialist modernization drive and its own Party building. The CPC has established a better image in the international political arena, and its international influence is growing with each passing day.

1. Cultivating all-dimensional party diplomacy responsive to the developments and changes in the world situation and party politics.

As we enter the new century, significant changes are occurring in the international situation. As world multipolarization and economic globalization progress, the international political landscape and the conditions of political parties in the world are undergoing extensive and profound changes. All types of ideologies, political power and social movements compete and coexist. Diversity in the world's civilizations and development models is becoming increasingly apparent. Interdependence, contact, exchanges and cooperation in human society are increasing daily. In this situation, party-to-party relations, which are an important component of state-to-state and international relations, have become accepted and highly regarded by political parties and statesmen in more and more countries because such relations serve as a bridge that facilitates dialogue, exchanges and cooperation between the main political forces and statesmen in different countries on many issues such as peace and development. Exchanges and cooperation between political parties throughout the world have become increasingly lively. In addition, as China continues to develop and its international standing rises, foreign political parties and statesmen are expressing greater and greater interest in exchanges and cooperation with the CPC. Developments in the cause of the Party and the state are making new demands on both the form and content of the CPC's international work.

The international work of the CPC conforms to the trend of the times and seizes upon developments and changes in circumstances. Its purpose is to serve the state's overall diplomatic work, China's reform, opening up and socialist modernization drive, Party building and building socialism with Chinese characteristics. Guided by Deng Xiaoping's diplomatic thinking and the general principles of the Party Central Committee on diplomatic work, following the four principles of independence, complete equality, mutual respect and noninterference in each other's internal affairs and transcending ideological differences, the Party's international work seeks friendship and cooperation, and makes friendly contacts with various types of foreign political parties, thereby engendering a new pattern in party diplomacy that is all-dimensional, multi-channeled, wide-ranging and deep-leveled.

The CPC has constantly deepened its friendly contacts with political parties in developing countries. These parties constitute the largest group of political parties the CPC has contacts with. In the face of the growing tendency toward economic globalization and world multipolarization and increasingly fierce competition in overall national strength, developing countries are trying to find ways to survive and develop. To this end, they place great hope on China, the world's largest developing country. With a view to strengthening friendship, solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries, the CPC actively interacts with national democratic parties in such countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our contacts with them are increasingly high-leveled, meaningful, diversified and high quality. Delegations frequently come and go to exchange work experience or make investigations on special issues. A political party leader in Africa said with emotion that experience transfer is more valuable than material assistance.

The Party's exchanges and cooperation with parties in power in other socialist countries have continued to increase. After deep reflections on the drastic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, parties in power in the existing socialist countries made theoretical explorations and practical innovations in accordance with their own national conditions while adhering to socialism. The CPC maintains and deepens contacts with the parties in power in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba, and has frequent high-level interactions with them, and the substance of its relations with them is continually being enriched. Propelled by these high-level contacts, exchanges and cooperation at other levels and in different fields keep developing. Exchange of experience in running parties and states has reached a breadth and depth never before reached. Moreover, some major problems in bilateral relations have been solved, creating better conditions for developing a new type of friendly relations with these countries.

The CPC has expanded comprehensive contacts with the mainstream political parties in developed countries. In the spirit of transcending ideological differences and seeking mutual understanding and cooperation, it has conducted extensive contacts, dialogue and exchanges with all types of political parties in developed countries: left-wing, centrist and right-wing. The Party has established friendly contacts with all major political parties in Japan, and its dialogue with them has become broader and deeper. It has spirited contacts with 13 socialist parties that used to be in power in countries of the European Union. The CPC has maintained and strengthened dialogue and contacts with centrist and right-wing parties in Europe, which have long alternated in power with the socialist parties there. It has also made a good start in its exchanges with the Green Party and other organizations representing new social movements.

The CPC's contacts with the political parties in the transition countries in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have developed steadily. In recent years, correlative with the constant changes in the political landscape in this region, the CPC has continued to actively but cautiously establish and expand various kinds of contacts and exchanges with the old and new parties there. With a view to improving the political foundation for Sino-Russian strategic partnership, it has made normal contacts with all the major parties in Russia. Also a good momentum has emerged in developing contacts between the CPC and the major political parties in countries in Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.

The CPC has made significant headway in its contacts with international and regional organizations of political parties. It not only has developed contacts with the Socialist International, which consists of more than 140 political parties, but also has established and maintains contacts with the Christian Democrats International, which comprises all the political parties of its kind from every country. The CPC has invited the Socialist International, the European Democratic Union and the party groups in the European Parliament to visit China. It has also sent representatives to participate in congresses of the Socialist International and the Christian Democrats International, the St. Paul Forum, the First International Conference of Asian Political Parties, and other multilateral political party meetings and international forums. These new forms and channels of multilateral contacts have further expanded the scope of the CPC's foreign contacts, increased its participation in international affairs, and raised its voice on the international stage.

During the last five years, the CPC sent about 400 delegations to visit other countries and received over 800 visiting delegations from foreign political parties. At present, the CPC has established contacts and exchanges of various types with 418 political parties and organizations in 147 countries and regions. The CPC has become a party in power in the world today that has the broadest and deepest international contacts. It has more and more friends and has greater international influence than ever before.

2. Making use of the unique role and advantages of party diplomacy to promote the sound, steady development of state-to-state relations.

Party diplomacy emphasizes intensive dialogue and exchange of ideas among participants. Recently in some countries, the political situation has been turbulent, government reshuffles have been frequent, and political figures have risen and fallen unexpectedly. By actively complementing government diplomacy and exploiting its own strength in communicating with people, the CPC diplomacy has continued to play a unique role in promoting the state's overall diplomatic work and the sound and steady development of China's relations with other countries. The CPC has established relations of friendly exchanges and cooperation with all the major political parties in our neighboring countries, which has contributed to bringing China closer to these countries. It has established dialogue, exchanges and cooperation with almost all the major political parties in the leading Western countries, helping improve mutual understanding and stabilize state-to-state relations. It has interacted with political parties in other developing countries, including many that have no diplomatic relations with China, maintaining and promoting our traditional friendship with these countries effectively. To be more specific, the unique role of party diplomacy has the following main aspects.

As an important cornerstone of state-to-state relations, Party diplomacy plays a foundation role. Facts show that high-level interaction and political dialogue between parties, especially between the parties in power in socialist countries, have decisive significance for maintaining and promoting state-to-state relations comprehensively and strategically. In recent years, General Secretary Jiang Zemin and other leaders of the Party Central Committee have headed more than 40 delegations on visits to dozens of countries all over the five continents and met political leaders there and have received hundreds of visits from foreign party delegations and political figures. Through these high-level contacts, leaders of both sides had frank and sincere exchanges of views and cleared up doubts and puzzles on bilateral relations and many other issues of mutual interest, and handled state-to-state relations from a far-sighted perspective, thus setting directions, removing obstacles and laying foundations for developing our relations with many foreign countries.

Party diplomacy acts as a propellant to state-to-state relations. Such diplomacy deals with parties, in power or out of office, and statesmen, senior or young. In interacting with parties in power, it aims at consolidating the political foundation of state-to-state relations and promoting their development. In its contacts with opposition parties, it attempts to ensure the continuity and stability of such relations if the political situation changes. Some present Asian, African and Latin American heads of state had visited China as the CPC's guests and developed friendship with us before they assumed power. After they took office, they actively promoted relations between China and their countries. In its contact with foreign young statesmen, the CPC is laying a sound foundation for our future relations with their countries. These future-oriented exchanges and contacts made a unique contribution to helping consolidate and develop state-to-state relations and ensure continuity and stability of China's relations with other countries.

Party diplomacy serves as a bridge for developing state-to-state relations. One advantage of party diplomacy lies in the use of Party channels to communicate with countries without diplomatic relations with China. In the last five years, we have, through party diplomacy which has both official and unofficial characteristics, actively established contacts with political parties in Asian, African and Latin American countries without diplomatic relations with China, including establishing contacts with more than 20 major political parties in 11 out of the 14 such countries in Latin America. Nearly 50 delegations of party members and individuals of various circles from such countries visited China by invitation. At the same time, dozens of Chinese delegations visited such countries. These friendly contacts have overcome obstacles arising from not having diplomatic relations, and extensively publicized China, they have promoted mutual understanding between us and these countries and their parties and people. Through these contacts, we have made friends with people from all walks of life and have strengthened the forces that are friendly to China. Solid preparatory and cumulative work has built a bridge for China to gradually normalize its relations with them.

3. Complementing the state's economic development strategies to actively serve reform, opening up and the socialist modernization drive.

In the last five years, China's reform, opening up and socialist modernization drive have developed more deeply. The Party Central Committee has serially formulated the major development strategies of going out, diversifying the market and developing the western region. Centering on the overall interests of domestic work, the Party's international work has continually expanded the scope of its service to our reform, opening up and modernization drive.

Emphasizing discussion of development experience in contacts with foreign political parties, drawing on the excellent cultural achievements of mankind that are conducive to China's development, and exchanging and discussing experiences in governing one's country have become essential aspects of the CPC's foreign contacts. Through their foreign contacts, the CPC leaders gain a deep understanding of the new conditions and changes in the world and in other countries today. They conscientiously study other countries' new experience and measures in their successful development so as to enrich their own ideas for development. Not content with general exchanges with the CPC, more and more foreign political parties pay great attention to the substance of contacts. Political parties in some developing countries fervently hope to learn from China's experience in development. Some parties from Western developed countries have begun to attach importance to studying China's tactics for running the country and have taken the initiative to start discussions and exchanges with us. These exchanges of wisdom and experience not only have provided a reference the CPC and state can draw upon to solve problems in reform and development but also have enriched the substance of party-to-party relations and infused fresh vigor into party diplomacy to stimulate its further development.

As economic factors have come to play an increasingly prominent role in international relations, promoting business cooperation through political contacts has become an important component of party diplomacy. In recent years, the CPC has worked hard to instill economic factors in its foreign contacts and has gradually created some new ways and means by which party diplomacy sets the stage for business activities. For instance, in our contacts with foreign parties, we pointedly arranged inspections of economic development projects and intensively explored different countries' development strategies, China's challenges since becoming a member of the WTO and other hot topics. When heading Party delegations on visits to other countries, leaders of some provincial, regional or municipal Party committees often take business groups with them. In this way, they have helped a group of strong Chinese enterprises and projects to reach out to the world and have had success in implementing the Party Central Committee's going out strategy and in opening local economies wider to the outside world. In recent years, we have used Party channels to recommend partners to economic departments and provide them with information, thus facilitating a number of business cooperative projects. Coordinated with the development of the western region, we have guided foreign investment into this region by attracting funds and projects from both institutions and individuals. In addition, we have arranged inspection tours of this region for hundreds of delegations from foreign political parties and organizations and groups of friendly persons from abroad. At the same time, we have arranged study visits to foreign countries for more than 30 CPC delegations headed by leaders of Party committees in a dozen western provinces and regions. We have achieved fairly good results in all these activities.

4. Intensively exchanging experience in running parties and states to meet the needs of developing and building the CPC.

The CPC, with a membership of over 66 million, is the party in power in a socialist country with a population of more than 1.2 billion. How to further enhance the Party's art of leadership and governance and how to raise its ability to resist corruption, prevent degeneration and withstand risks in conformity with the needs of the times and changes in domestic and foreign circumstances are arduous tasks the Party will face long into the new century. To complete these tasks, the Party must have a global perspective grounded on China's realities. By making full use of its foreign contacts, which serve as a channel or window through which it observes, understands and reaches out to the world, the CPC stresses the study of the laws governing the development of human society, the building of socialism and governance by the Communist Party, and draws political lessons from both the positive and negative experiences and the success and failure of a number of foreign political parties. Active participation in the Party's international work gives the CPC leaders and leaders of central departments and local authorities involved in this work direct, on-the-spot understanding of the ideas and methods of foreign political parties for running their parties and countries; it also gives them personal experience of the profound changes in the political, economic, cultural, scientific and technological spheres in the world today. All this is of vital importance for the CPC's efforts to correctly understand world development, accurately judge the international situation and the nature of the times, closely follow the progressive trend of the world, draw on all kinds of excellent cultural achievements of mankind that are conducive to building socialism with Chinese characteristics, achieve both theoretical and practical innovations, and always retain the advanced nature of the Party. Most importantly, it gives the CPC's senior officials a more global perspective.

Since the important thought of Three Represents was put forward by Comrade Jiang Zemin, we have, through our foreign contacts, studied more thoroughly new challenges and questions commonly faced by foreign parties in power, deeply pondered and studied the deep-seated causes of and the lessons in the dissolution of the communist parties and the collapse of their governments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the successive removal from office of some large, old parties long in power. We have also deepened our understanding of the laws governing how political systems of other countries change and how political parties there wax and wane. All this provides a valuable reference frame for the CPC's efforts to strengthen its Party building and improve its way of leadership and governance and its systems of leadership and work.

5. Presenting a good image of the CPC through foreign contacts as one that is liberal- and open-minded, keeps pace with the times, loves peace and is dedicated to cooperation and development.

Since the Party's Fifteenth National Congress, China has withstood trials from major sudden incidents, during which it has maintained social stability, sustained economic development, constantly improved the people's living standards, and continually raised the country's international standing. More and more foreign political parties and statesmen hope to learn from China's experiences of rapid development and find out the secret of the CPC's success. Through party-to-party contacts, many foreign political figures have acquired a relatively complete understanding of China, thereby clearing up confusions and eliminating doubts and prejudices. They have seen that behind China, a rising power, is the CPC, a party that is persistent and pragmatic and is steadfast in reform and opening up, that seeks peace and development and keeps pace with the times, and that is leading the Chinese people on the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics. They have seen the great changes that are occurring every day in China under the leadership of the CPC, and then have taken an active part in or exerted a positive influence on shaping their governments' policies toward China.

In recent years, the CPC has broadly and deeply exchanged viewpoints with different types of political parties of various ideologies to increase mutual understanding and trust. These exchanges have centered on major international issues of mutual interest such as peace and development, world multipolarization, economic globalization and relations between major countries as well as on issues concerning bilateral relations. In 2001, a CPC delegation visited the European Parliament (EP) for the first time as the guests of the Parliamentary Group of the People's Parties in the EP and had frank and sincere dialogues with the five major EP parliamentary party groups on human rights, Tibet and other questions. These party-to-party contacts played a positive role in our persuading the European Parliament to cancel its plan to nominate the leaders of Falungong and the "democracy movement" for the Sakharov Prize. The CPC also had frank and sincere dialogues with think tanks and experts of international issues in major Western countries, which led to more points of agreement and increased mutual understanding and trust. To address the distorted publicity about China by a few Western media organizations, we took the initiative to invite groups of legislators and journalists in Western countries to visit China and see things with their own eyes. Some of these visitors changed their formerly mistaken impressions about China after their visits. When they returned home, they actively introduced the achievements in China's reform and opening up and the truth about relevant issues.

Our practical experience over the past few years further shows that to keep opening new horizons and making new achievements in the Party's international work, we must emancipate our minds, seek truth from facts and keep pace with the times. We must focus on peace and development, the themes of our times. We must effectively serve the overall interests of the work of the CPC and state. We must strictly follow the four principles of party-to-party relations. We must rely on the participation, support and cooperation of various sectors of society and departments of the whole Party and throughout the country. We must study harder and keep improving the level of our work and our communication skills.

As we enter the new century, theoretical and practical innovations guided by the important thought of Three Represents have already become a powerful new force propelling the CPC's cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics forward. To attain the objectives to be set at the upcoming Sixteenth National Congress of the Party and to continue, in the Party's international work, contributing to the three major missions of propelling the socialist modernization drive, of achieving national reunification, and of safeguarding world peace and promoting common development, we must center more closely on the state's overall strategy and diplomatic planning and continue to uphold the spirit of emancipating our minds, seeking truth from facts and keeping pace with the times. Under the leadership of the Central Committee with Comrade Jiang Zemin as its core, we shall conscientiously review the past and plan for the future, continue to be practical and innovative, and achieve even greater success, so as to make a new, greater contribution to building the Party, developing our country and promoting the cause of peace, development and progress for mankind.

(Dai Bingguo is the Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee.)