The 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in 1978 ushered in a new era for China, an era of reform and opening-up. In the 30 years thereafter, under the direct charge of the central leadership of the Party and with the involvement of their personal efforts, the CPC’s external work has been carried out in a pioneering yet realistic spirit, with readjustment effected in the process of transformation, progress achieved along with exploration, and breakthroughs accomplished through innovative practices, all by freeing the mind and keeping abreast with the times. So far, a new vista of Chinese-style party diplomacy has been created, that not only is in keeping with China’s overall diplomatic programs, but also conforms to the general trend of party politics in the world. Party diplomacy has made positive contribution to China’s bi-lateral relations with other nations and has helped to build up a fine image of the Party and the state in the world.
I.Development of Chinese-style party diplomacy in the great course of reform and opening-up
1.Historic readjustments under Deng Xiaoping’s thinking on the new type of inter-party relations. The 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Party marked a historic turning point for China’s development. Keeping the overarching objective of modernization in view, and perceiving the external relations of the Party as within China’s overall scheme of foreign relations, Comrade Deng Xiaoping articulated the need to “establish a new type of inter-party relations”. This thinking of new type party relations mainly include the following viewpoints: 1) theories and practices of one party or one country should not be used as a yardstick to judge rights and wrongs of other parties or other countries; 2) parties in different countries should independently determine their own affairs on the ground of the actual situation in their respective countries; 3) all parties should treat one another as equals with due respect and refrain from interfering in other’s internal affairs; 4) ideological differences should not be obstruction to the establishment of the new type inter-party relations; and 5) past feuds and grievances should be cast away to look into the future. It was on the basis of these viewpoints that in 1982 the 12th National Congress of the Party set up the four principles guiding inter-party relations, namely, “independence, complete equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs”, and defined the primary purpose of the external work of the Party in the new era as to foster a favorable international environment for the reform and opening-up endeavor and the socialist modernization drive.
Under the guidance of Deng Xiaoping’s outlook on the new type of inter-party relations, a series of major readjustments were made in the external work of the Party. The CPC gradually normalized its relations with some other communist parties with whom there had been discord. It began to have contacts with nationalist democratic parties in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and also set up ties with socialist parties in Western Europe. By the end of the 1980s, the CPC had come into different forms of connections with over 270 political parties in more than 110 countries, and the Party was on a big boom in terms of its external relations.
2. New breakthroughs attained under the strategic thinking of the third generation of the Party’s central leadership on foreign relations. With the drastic changes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in late 1980s and early 1990s, the world socialist movement suffered a serious setback. Facing such a grave situation, the third generation of central leadership of the Party headed by Comrade Jiang Zemin remained firmly committed to reform and opening-up and successfully led the whole Party and the whole nation through the perils of both the political disturbance in China and the Asian economic crisis and with a keen understanding of what had happened to the world, to the country and to the Party, developed the important thought of “Three Represents”. Furthermore, based on the changes in the international situation and the scheme of things in the world, a guideline for cross-century development of the Party’s external work was formulated, which was focused on the central task of the Party and the sweeping national foreign strategy. It was made explicit on the 15th CPC National Congress in 1997 that on the basis of the four principles of inter-party relations, the CPC should “develop a new type of inter-party relations of exchanges and cooperation with all political parties of various countries which are ready to have contacts with our Party, with a view to promoting state relations.” The overriding purpose of the external work of the Party is to safeguard national interests and facilitate the development of China’s international relations.
Guided by the important thought of “Three Represents”, the external work of the Party was conducted with great dynamism in light of the general foreign strategy set forth by the Party’s central leadership. Consequently, the CPC’s relations with the ruling parties in socialist countries like the DPRK, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba were further consolidated; exchanges with political parties in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America were enriched both in forms and in content; more connections were established and in-depth engagements carried out with mainstream political parties in developed European countries; more contacts were made with political parties in countries without diplomatic relations with China; multilateral communication with regional party formations and political internationals like the Socialist International were also increased. By 2002, the CPC has established and maintained various forms of contact and communication with more than 400 political parties and political organizations from over 140 countries and regions. That is to say, foreign relations of the Party had taken on an initial shape of being all-dimensioned.
3. Further development under the responsible conception of foreign strategies of the new central leadership. Since the 16th Party Congress, the Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as the General Secretary, by upholding the Scientific Outlook on Development, has placed great emphasis on overall and long-term planning in devising diplomatic strategies, and determined that foreign affairs should be handled in a way to ensure that China’s development endeavors are coordinated from both national and international perspectives and that China adheres to the peaceful road of development and staunchly promotes the building of a harmonious world. This strategic thinking suggests that domestic development strategies and foreign policies must be well dovetailed in the all-round national development program.
Enlightened by the Scientific Outlook on Development and the comprehensive way of thinking on diplomatic strategies, party diplomacy has been employed with salient display of its strengths and its distinctive qualities. More heed has been given to the clearly defined priority areas and more stress laid on real effects. The Party’s external work has shown evident edge in organizing high-level exchanges, taking proactive steps against contingencies, conducting foresighted research and studies as well as collecting primary information. With unique links with socialist countries, countries without diplomatic ties with China and prominent political figures through party channels, the CPC has furthered friendly exchanges and cooperation with various types of political parties in different countries and has made acquaintances with quite a number of “China-friendly” or “China-understanding” party and government heavy-weights. Furthermore, communication with major parties in some major countries like Japan, Russia, India and Australia has embarked on a regular course. Connections with international political party organizations have also expanded. Up to date, the number of political parties and organizations who are associated with the CPC in different forms has reached 528 and they cover 166 countries and regions in the world. A new scheme of all-dimensional, multi-channeled, wide-ranging and deep-going foreign relations of the CPC oriented to mainstream political parties in various countries as well as international and regional party organizations has taken shape.
II. Principal attributes of Chinese-style party diplomacy
1. The ideas embodied in the Chinese-style party diplomacy is in keeping with Marxist principles on inter-party relations, and is solidly based on the Chinese and CPC conditions. Marxist principles on inter-party relations was developed in the process of international workers’ movement led by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The principles include: 1) international solidarity and cooperation among parties of the proletarians throughout the world; 2) independence of individual parties in managing their own internal affairs as well as national independence as the foundation for all international cooperation; 3) respect for the right to choose of different parties and opposition against any party to impose its own opinion on others; and 4) flexibility in dealing with parties other than those of the proletarians.
Having drawn on both positive and negative lessons of the international communist movement and on the past experience of the CPC in external exchanges, the thought of Chinese-style party diplomacy is a practical and renewed form of Marxist theory on inter-party relations in the context of contemporary world and contemporary China. It conforms to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and other universally recognized norms governing international relations and is therefore internationally acceptable while bearing distinctive Chinese features. The thought reflects the CPC’s openness as for whom to deal with as well as its stress on equality, its down-to-earth approaches and the flexibility in forms for carrying out party-to-party exchanges. It provides theoretical ground for the practice of party diplomacy in the new era, and is widely acclaimed and supported by parties overseas.
2. The Chinese-style party diplomacy has come into shape as a result of the Party’s pioneering efforts to follow the trend of events and to keep pace with the times. There is in fact a profound historical background for its formation. Since the end of the 1970s, the CPC’s perception of the theme of our times has altered from “wars and revolutions” to “peace and development”. China’s previous foreign strategy of “marking out a broad front” against the Soviet Union has been replaced by the independent foreign policy of peace. The purpose of the external work of the Party has also been redesigned from “supporting the left and opposing the revisionist” to working for a favorable international environment for the reform and opening-up and the modernization drive. All these changes have been made in answer to the calls of the era and in conformity of the trend of the times.
In the past three decades, the external work of the CPC has been performed in close keeping with the central tasks of the Party and the nation and in step with the ups and downs of the era. Efforts in party diplomacy are not merely confined to safeguarding national interests and promoting state relations, but rather are exerted more in sharing experience with other parties in running party and state affairs, and in building a sound reputation of the Party in the world. As part of the party’s external work, serious studies have been conducted on prominent issues such as foreign and security strategies, to provide references to the central leadership for their decision-making. Apart from that, systematic research programs are also carried out on the concepts, institutions, modes and laws of governance of foreign ruling parties, as well as their successes and failures, in a bid to provide intellectual support to the CPC for enhancing its ruling capacity and consolidating its ruling status.
3. The Chinese-style party diplomacy is the product of the relentless exploration and long-term solid work of generations of Party leaderships. As key actors on the Party’s external stage, top leaders of the CPC like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have taken direct oversight of and been personally engaged in the handling of major issues concerning foreign relations of the Party. Comrade Deng Xiaoping himself used to be in charge for quite long of the work of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee. His personal experience in many major events of the international communist movement gave him the idea of building a new type of inter-party relations. It was due to his mastermind that the CPC resumed relations with some communist parties in other countries and established contact with socialist parties in Europe. After the 1990s, Comrade Jiang Zemin as the CPC General Secretary received visiting party guests on many occasions, which effectively facilitated China’s bilateral relations with relevant states. At the turn of the century, Comrade Jiang Zemin timely spelt out the principles to guide the external work of the Party into the new century, charting out the course for further development. Comrade Hu Jintao, for his part, clearly affirmed the external work of the Party as “an important and indispensable aspect of the cause of the Party”, as well as “an integral part of China’s overall diplomatic program”. He described the role of party diplomacy as “irreplaceablly important in the establishment, consolidation and development of state-to-state relations, and in facilitating the reform and opening-up and the socialist modernization drive.” He has paid many foreign visits as head of CPC delegations and has received many visiting party delegations from other countries. During the 3rd International Conference of Asian Political Parties, which was held in Beijing in 2004, in merely three days’ time, 18 leading officials of the CPC, including General Secretary Hu Jintao himself, met on separate occasions with nearly 80 foreign party delegations who had come to attend the Conference. This string of meetings not only provided opportunity for in-depth discussions on certain matters of serious concerns, but also turned out to be a demonstration of the down-to-earth and enterprising style of work of the new line-up of Party leadership, as well as their dedication to peace, development, and regional interaction and cooperation.
III. Strive to attain a new plane of Chinese-style diplomacy with thorough implementation of the Scientific Outlook on Development.
1. We must stick to the principle of putting people first and handle foreign affairs to serve the interests of the people as well as the interests of national development. We should double our efforts to enhance the synergy of China’s overall diplomatic endeavors, so that China’s foreign relations on the state-to-state level will continue to develop in an all-round, steady and healthy manner. Given the historic changes taken place in the relations between China and the rest of the world, and with the fate and destiny of China more connected with those of the world, China’s internal and external affairs are becoming more and more interlinked. Under such circumstances, and according to the critical strategic deployment of the 17th National Congress of the CPC, we must ensure that both domestic and international developments are taken into consideration when deliberating the external work of the Party and that party diplomacy is employed in better coordination with other branches of the overall diplomatic scheme. We should strengthen incisive and systematic studies on strategic and portentous issues so as to grasp the move of things. We must focus our attention on the general situation of the whole Party and the whole country and make new contribution to the all-round, steady and healthy development of state-to-state relations by making the best of the period of strategic opportunities.
2. We must pursue development as the paramount obligation for the CPC to rejuvenate the nation and provide intellectual support to the socialist modernization drive and to the building of the Party itself. China is now open to the rest of the world in all dimensions and is so closely linked to the international community in economic, political, cultural, social and security aspects as never before. Presently, the entire membership of the Party and people throughout the country are devoted in concerted efforts to building a well-off society in an all-round way and to accelerating the socialist modernization drive. Development is paramount in the Party’s ruling duties and should be the focus of its external work. More economic and cultural factors should be added to party diplomacy and be combined with political factors in the bid to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. We should play our due part as adviser to the Party and render our intellectual support to the economic, political, cultural and social building of socialism with Chinese characteristics and to the building of the Party itself.
3. We will try and find out inherent regularities regarding party diplomacy and strengthen capacity building and image building of the Party in external exchanges. In order for the Party’s external work to move further ahead from a new start, we must draw on our past experience, obtain an incisive knowledge of the laws embodied therein, distill our practical perceptions into theoretical cognitions and keep exploring new mechanisms, new approaches and new measures for carrying out party diplomacy in the new era. We should enhance our awareness of the overall situation, have greater sense of anxiety and the sense to bring forth new ideas and obtain an accurate insight of the general trend of world development and of how things will change in the setout of the world. Furthermore, we should also have a keen understanding of the close relationship between contemporary China and the world and of the principle foreign policies of the Party and the government. We must improve our ability to size up and respond to world situations with more strategic thinking, improve our skills to handle international affairs, especially the skills to deal with foreign political parties and organizations. We should reinforce our efforts to build up the soft power of the Party and the nation by having more say in our foreign engagements and by demonstrating to the world that the CPC is a democratic, progressive, open-minded and pioneering party that is built to serve the interests of the people.
Our world today is undergoing extensive and profound changes. China is undergoing extensive and profound transformation. That poses new circumstances and challenges to the external work of the Party in the new stage of the new century. We are determined to embrace the Scientific Outlook on Development to guide our way forward, work together with one heart and in a down-to-earth manner to blaze new trails and press ahead with the external work of the Party and strive to create a new prospect for party diplomacy with Chinese features.