An Interview with Cai Wu, Vice Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee
June 21, 2005
Recently, a reporter from the journal The Contemporary World interviewed Cai Wu, Vice Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, on the need to study the decision adopted at the Fourth Plenary Session of the Sixteenth CPC Central Committee to adhere to the independent foreign policy of peace and to continually become better able to respond to international developments and deal with international affairs.
Reporter: Vice Minister Cai, first of all, I would like to thank you for giving me an interview despite your tight schedule. Could you tell me what requirements the decision adopted at the Fourth Plenary Session of the Sixteenth CPC Central Committee to strengthen the Party’s governance capacity has set for the continuous improvement of the ability to respond to international developments and deal with international affairs?
Cai: The Decision of the CPC Central Committee Concerning Strengthening the Party’s Governance Capacity states, “To lead the people in grasping opportunities, meeting challenges, achieving the grand objective of establishing a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and helping safeguard world peace and promote common development in the current complex, ever-changing international situation, the Party needs to correctly respond to events, handle its international affairs and relations well, and strive for a favorable international environment both globally and in our own neighborhood.” Focusing on this point and taking into consideration the actual conditions of the whole Party, especially its senior leaders, the decision stresses three areas for strengthening the Party’s governance capacity. First, we should continue to look at the world with a broad outlook and improve our ability to scientifically judge the international situation and think in strategic terms. Second, we should unswervingly implement the principles and policies concerning foreign relations and keep the initiative in our own hands in handling international affairs. Third, we should fully understand how international factors influence China and constantly improve our skills in interacting with the international community.
Linking the efforts to understand the world situation and deal with international affairs and relations with the efforts to improve the Party’s governance capacity and making the former an important task of the latter involves a completely new perspective. First, this perspective represents one of the two historic shifts the CPC has made as a ruling party from leading socialist development in relatively closed conditions to leading the modernization drive when China is trying to open to the outside world fully. This shift has set forth new demands on the Party’s governance capacity. Second, it fully reflects that the interaction between the Party’s governance and international factors is becoming increasingly close, frequent and deep, and that it places greater demands on the Party’s self-development. Third, it demonstrates the fact that China’s overall national strength has increased and its international standing has improved. It requires that in responding to international developments and coping with international affairs, the ruling party should take a broad outlook on the world, have the initiative, and improve its skills in interacting with the international community.
The Decision concisely sets these three requirements from a strategic perspective. They are not just ordinary requirements for the diplomatic work of the Party and the state. On the contrary, they are put forward for the ruling party to develop itself and improve its governance capacity, and they stress epistemology, rational thinking, and the need to have an overall command of the international situation and make an all-round plan for our diplomatic work. They are not just a general reiteration of the foreign policy of the Party and the state, but an explanation of the ideological and theoretical foundation, and basic concepts and values of the ruling party’s principles and policies for its foreign relations. They emphasize the concepts of taking the road of peaceful development, holding high the banner of peace, development, and cooperation, never seeking hegemony, determining China’s position and policy on the basis of the basic interests of the Chinese people and the common interests of the world’s people, and upholding justice and impartiality. They do not stress work style and working methods in an ordinary way, but in order to strengthen the Party’s governance capacity, emphasize the need to understand the close relations between domestic and foreign affairs, and achieve a mastery of the profound changes occurring in the world and their natures. That means it is necessary to grasp the laws and direction of development, size up and make the best use of the situation, attach equal importance to domestic and foreign affairs, seek advantages and avoid disadvantages, and avoid our weaknesses while exploiting our strengths. The Decision emphasizes the need to study hard, adapt to the times, and become more familiar and better able to operate with international standards and practices. All these explanations and statements are novel, target-oriented and important. They deal with both objective and subjective issues and both understanding and practice, and they are very logical and highly instructive.
Reporter: How would it be possible to make an accurate judgment of the international situation and face various risks and challenges with ease?
Cai: The Decision points out that it is necessary to understand deeply the close relationship between the overall domestic and international situation and that between domestic and foreign affairs; scientifically understand and grasp the world’s profound changes and their characteristics; have the initiative to keep in line with the trend of the times, that is, to safeguard peace and promote development; and correctly cope with the development trend of the world’s multipolorization, economic globalization and scientific progress. This also includes strategic judgment on the overall international situation and the world’s situation.
A correct judgment of the current international situation is a prerequisite for us to determine our domestic and foreign strategies, principles and policies. Since the beginning of the new century, the international situation has continued to undergo profound and complex changes, and world multipolarization and economic globalization remain the two main trends of changes in the international landscape. Peace and development are still the themes of our era, and achieving peace and development is an aspiration shared by the people of all countries and constitutes an irresistible historical tide. However, the world is not tranquil because the old international political and economic order, which is unfair and inequitable, has seen no fundamental change, and uncertainties and factors causing instability and insecurity that affect world peace and development are on the rise. Internationally, political, economic and security factors are intertwined. Conflicts over strategic areas, resources and dominance have cropped up from time to time. Regional, religious and cultural conflicts exacerbate political and economic contradictions, resulting in the occurrence of major disturbances. Hegemony and power politics remain the main threat to world peace and stability and pose a serious challenge for the current international mechanisms and the generally recognized principles of international relations. Although successes have been achieved in the international campaign against terrorism, the roots of international terrorism have yet to be eradicated completely. In addition, the North-South gap continues to widen, and developing countries are facing increasingly grave challenges.
Overall, the international situation is developing in a way favorable for our reform and modernization. In general, the world situation is relaxing, the scientific and technological revolution is developing vigorously, and an upsurge of economic globalization is sweeping across the world. These three trends are all favorable for China’s drive to modernize and to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. The overall relaxation of tension in the world and the prospects of the overall situation remaining peaceful mean that it is not likely that there would be a world war for a rather long period of time to come or there would be an all-out and serious confrontation between big powers. All this provides the foundation for a long-term peaceful and stable international environment China needs to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Although bringing greater pressure on developing countries, the vigorous development of the world scientific and technological revolution and economic globalization provide new opportunities and make it possible for most of these countries, including China, to rapidly develop their science and technology and accelerate their modernization drives. Throughout the first half of this century, there will be many uncertainties and all kinds of emergencies could occur, but it is not very likely that the three trends would be reversed. In the light of this situation, it is quite possible for China to fully exploit the numerous opportunities and favorable factors presented by the main trends in the world and achieve a deeper and more comprehensive integration into the course of world modernization. It will help us achieve the strategic goals of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and rejuvenating the Chinese nation by pursuing peaceful development in cooperation with other countries.
The main challenges China faces at present and will face for a long time to come are the international competition that is becoming increasingly fierce, and finding a way for China to win in the competition. If we say the 20th century was a century of confrontation, then the 21st century will be one of competition. The leading countries in the world all believe that the early part of the 21st century will provide them opportunities to achieve their strategic goals, so they are making strategic adjustments and trying to seize them to accomplish something significant. As the big powers try to seize and exploit the international strategic opportunities, keen competition has arisen among them in a wide range of areas such as politics, economics, security, science and technology, culture, and society. The competition is becoming increasingly sharp, in which one either makes progress or lags behind, though there may also be a win-win situation. The performance of all countries in the competition and the results a country achieves in the competition will exert a decisive influence on the destiny the country in the 21st century. Although China’s overall national strength is considerably strong, its level of development remains low, and for a long time to come the country will be subject to the pressures brought about by the advantageous power of the developed countries, so it should not overlook the risks and challenge it will faces. To win in the competition or gain the upper hand in it, China still has to make long-term and arduous efforts. We should become more aware of the dangers, respond to them soberly, exploit the advantages and avoid the disadvantages, and keep the initiative in our own hands.
Reporter: What are the relationships that we need to handle well so that we can keep the initiative in diplomatic work firmly in our own hands?
Cai: The Decision stresses the need to deeply understand the close relations between the overall domestic and international situations and between domestic and foreign affairs, to study the laws governing the development of the international situation, and our judgments concerning the international situation should be more strategy-oriented, future-oriented and guidance-oriented. This means the Decision has set important tasks for the entire Party: to uphold the world outlook and methodology of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, make a sober-minded and scientific analysis of the developments of the international situation, correctly understand and willingly apply the laws governing the development of the international community, bear in mind the overall international and domestic situation, and formulate scientific principles, policies, strategies and tactics for our diplomatic work, so as to keep the diplomatic initiative firmly in our own hands.
Marxist dialectical materialism is a scientific world outlook and methodology and a good weapon that guides us toward a correct, scientific judgment of the situation. At this new stage in the new period, the complicated international situation presents us with rare opportunities as well as unprecedented challenges. In dealing with international affairs and diplomatic issues, we should correctly understand and handle the following relationships in the light of dialectical materialism.
The relationship between unipolarization and multipolarization. The world is becoming multipolarized; this is an outstanding feature of the current international situation. The trend toward multipolarization is developing both globally and regionally and both politically and economically. The evolution of history shows that compared to unipolarization, multipolarization is more conducive to bringing about a peaceful and stable situation and can better help underdeveloped countries make progress. As a large socialist developing country, China, naturally, should support the trend toward world multipolarization. Although it is irresistible, the general trend toward world multipolarization will meet with difficulties that could be greater and more complicated than expected. The contradiction between unipolarization and multipolarization and the struggle against hegemony will be a focus of international political struggle long into the 21st century. During this time, complex situations could arise and the trend toward multipolarization will suffer different kinds of difficulties and setbacks – we should always bear this in mind.
The relationship between safeguarding the basic interests of China and the Chinese people and promoting the common interests of the people of all countries. We will continue to make the basic interests of our country and people the starting point and goal of our diplomatic work and always give top priority to safeguarding our national sovereignty and security. We will focus on the central task of the Party and the state in all our work and staunchly safeguard and develop China’s basic interests. We need to keep firmly in mind the overall task of safeguarding the interests of the country based on the features of the times and the conditions of China. First of all, we need to protect the economy and pursue our interests. This means we should strive to make sure that development is not interrupted by outside pressure or coercion, make sure the availability of strategic resources, both tangible and intangible, that are needed for ensuring steady and sustained economic development, play a normal role in international economic activities, and maintain a sound international market. We also need to staunchly safeguard our political interests by ensuring that China’s socialist system with Chinese characteristics, its current system of government and our basic values will remain unchanged in the face of outside threats, and by preventing outside political and ideological infiltration and influence from undermining our basic social stability. We need to vigorously safeguard our national security by protecting our sovereignty from being violated, safeguarding territorial integrity, opposing secessionist activities, guarding against the danger of involvement in local wars, and ensuring the country’s political, economic, cultural and information security. In this era of economic globalization, all countries are closely connected to each other and highly interdependent. As its integration into the course of economic globalization deepens, China will face numerous and more complex world problems affecting the common interests of the people of all countries or human society in general, including such nontraditional security threats as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the scourge of international terrorism, environmental pollution and ecological deterioration, imbalanced population growth, and communicable illnesses threatening people’s health and the existence of all kinds of organisms. These questions break down the traditional line differentiating domestic affairs from foreign affairs, and they can quickly and readily result in catastrophic consequences. This makes it all the more necessary for China to strengthen its cooperation with all other countries and their peoples. We should continue to safeguard world peace, promote common development and strive to integrate efforts to safeguard China’s interests with those to promote the common interests of all countries.
The relationship between seeking domestic development and making international contributions. We need to unswervingly uphold the policy of observing events cool-headedly, bide our time, accomplish something significant, and correctly balance long-term and short-term objectives, partial and overall interests, and ideals and reality. We often say that if China handles its own affairs well by solving the problems of the survival and development of its 1.3 billion people and ensuring they have a moderately prosperous life in all respects, it will have made its greatest contribution to world peace and development and human progress. We say this not out of modesty but because it is an indisputable fact. China is currently at the primary stage of socialism and will remain there for a long time to come. We should be soberly aware of this, and we should try to do what is objectively possible on this basis and refrain from bypassing current conditions and struggling to do what will be possible only in the future. With regard to major issues concerning China’s interests and world peace and development, we should uphold our principles but not take the lead or be a standard-bearer. We should accomplish something significant, but we should not exaggerate, overreact, cause trouble for ourselves purely for reputation, or allow ourselves to be drawn into conflicts that we can avoid. In this new historical period, accomplishing something significant means concentrating on developing ourselves, accelerating development, improving China’s overall national strength; keeping the initiative to open up to outside world firmly in our own hands; actively participating in the formulation and revision of international rules and standards to safeguard China’s interests; making contribution to the progress of human civilization through China’s development; and implementing the concepts of promoting democracy in international relations, encouraging peaceful coexistence of different social systems and diversified and independent ways of development, and promoting exchanges and sharing of the fruits of various civilizations.
The relationships between different aspects of our diplomatic work: taking our relations with big powers as essential, our relations with our neighboring countries as primary, and our relations with developing countries as basic. The fundamental tasks of China’s diplomacy are to safeguard the period of important strategic opportunities for China’s development and to strive for a peaceful and stable international climate, friendly and good-neighborly relations with neighboring countries, an environment of equality and mutual benefit, and objective and friendly public opinion. Diplomatic work must be planned to accomplish these tasks. Handling the relations with big powers, neighboring countries and developing countries is the core of China’s diplomatic work, and the work concerning the three relations promotes each others; all are interdependent and act on each other. We should take the initiative in responding to the thorough adjustments to relations between big powers and handle our relations with them from an overall strategic perspective. We need to continue to improve and strengthen our relations with big powers, seek or broaden the converging points of common interests, gradually bridge the differences we have with them through dialogue and negotiations on an equal footing, and promote the healthy and stable development of our relations with them on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. We need to continue implementing the foreign principle of seeking friendship and partnership with neighboring countries and make it our foreign policy to develop good-neighborly relationships with them and contribute to their stability and prosperity. We should promote friendship and good-neighborliness with all our neighbors and, in addition, promote the healthy development of cooperation in Asia and in the Asia-Pacific region to raise its quality and to broaden and deepen it. We need to further strengthen our unity and cooperation with other developing countries to reinforce the foundation of China’s diplomacy. On the basis of the principles of equality and mutual benefit, complementing each other’s weaknesses, and common development, we should broaden and deepen our economic cooperation with other developing countries and do our work relating to them better. We should discuss international and regional issues with other developing countries whenever possible, support their just and equitable demands and proposals, work with them to safeguard their rights and interests, and contribute to the establishment of a new international political and economic order that is more just and equitable. We will persevere in mutual respect and equal treatment and oppose the tendency toward great-nation chauvinism.
We need to properly handing diplomatic situations involving both bilateral and multilateral relations. As the international situation develops and changes, multilateral diplomacy is becoming increasingly important, and multilateral mechanisms have become important means for handling international affairs and adjusting international relations. We need to participate in multilateral diplomatic activities more extensively and thoroughly, make full use of multilateral diplomacy and multilateral mechanisms, make multilateral diplomacy an important arena for safeguarding China’s interests, and play our proper role in it. In September 2004, the CPC sponsored the Third International Conference of Asian Political Parties, the first of its kind ever hosted by China. The conference was a landmark event and produced important influence over the whole Asia-Pacific region. China should play its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to the fullest, actively participate in various UN activities, and safeguard the UN’s leading role in promoting international peace and security. We will take a greater part in UN peacekeeping operations. For the first time China sent its peacekeeping police to participate in the UN peacekeeping operations in a country (Haiti) that does not have diplomatic ties with China, thus extending China’s influence. We should urge the UN to be more concerned about development and development-related issues. We should actively participate in the activities of regional and interregional organizations and strengthen our cooperation with international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. We should promote South-North dialogue, and actively promote and take part in South-South cooperation. We will actively and steadily participate in international cooperation to fight terrorism and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We should also learn to use the international standards currently in effect, participate in the formulation of new standards, and work to help improve those aspects of the current international order that are unjust and inequitable.
Reporter: What new requirements do the study and implementation of the Decision make on people dealing with diplomatic and foreign affairs?
Cai: As a matter of fact, the Decision states that we must improve our knowledge of the international economy, politics, law, science and technology, culture and military affairs and study the laws governing the development of international situation. We need to increase our understanding of world history and current events and our judgments on international situation should be more strategy-oriented, future-oriented and guidance-oriented. These are requirements set for the whole Party, especially senior leaders. I believe that they are particularly important for people dealing with diplomatic and foreign affairs. In short, they require us to diligently study international affairs, cultivate a broad global vision, master the laws of development, improve our future-oriented strategic thinking, identify our historical position, willingly subordinate ourselves to the overall interests of the whole Party, improve our skills in responding to international affairs and keep the initiative in our own hands.
I would like to elaborate on the requirement to cultivate a global vision. Only by observing the situation from a global perspective will we be able to properly define the position of a region and an undertaking and formulate and implement correct strategies. History abounds with examples of countries that fail to take the overall world development into account and result in spinning a cocoon around themselves, leading to their decline and fall. In fact, if we fail to judge China from a global perspective, but examine it only from our own experience, we will not have a full and correct understanding of ourselves. Only by resorting to a sharp global vision to correctly identify the features of our era and scientifically analyze the international situation will we be able to make a scientific judgment of the complex and volatile situation, exploit advantages and avoid disadvantages in the face of fierce international competition, and formulate correct development strategies and foreign policies. Only by so doing will we be able to hold fast to the precept that development is of overriding importance and keep distractions from deflecting us from our central work and primary task. Only by so doing will we be able to do what we want and keep from doing what we don’t in the complex international environment, keep the strategic initiative in our hands while being tactically flexible, and accomplish our work well.