China’s Foreign Policy Seek for Strategic Vision: Opening to the “West”

Posted on December 19, 2014, 4:40 pm
22 mins

It is a fact that China has been getting the attention of the whole world due it’s economic growth rate of the last 20 years. Economically, this rapid growth and development is not paralleled in other areas as well, it is one of the problems frequently mentioned about China. In particular, China’s lack of political equivalent to its economic magnitude and the fact that its foreign policy is not able to reflect a big government makes it clear that China is lacking when it comes to being a super power rivaling United States. On the one hand, China is trying to act in the awareness of its missing, while on the other hand it is trying to raise its international position by guaranteeing its own national interests in the current national system. Undoubtedly, having a consistent, active and long-term foreign policy strategy for the implementation of all these objectives is a vital issue not only for China but for all other countries.

Along with the significant changes that have taken place in the international geopolitical plane over the past few years, the Chinese foreign policy strategy has given significant change signals. This issue will be taken up by the Chinese academy institution in particular, and the idea that the change that will be made in China’s foreign policy strategy was of vital importance for the future of China was put forward. The most remarkable work among these academic studies was undoubtedly by Wang Jisi,the dean of the Faculty of International Relations of Peking University. He set out on China’s foreign policy strategy his idea of ‘ opening up to the west’. Mainly, this concept of China’s foreign policy vision is to focus more on the western part of its borders and by that China develops closer relations with the western part of its border in a wider range of cultures, education and inter-peoples relations aside from economic policies. It is emphasized that China’s strategic direction in foreign policy should shift to this region, especially for Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa.

Understanding how China’s recent quest for strategic vision in foreign policy has developed in the background will be important in terms of what the concept of opening to the west expresses or what it is about. In order to be able to do a healthy analysis here, it is a good idea to briefly take a look at China’s foreign policy strategy history.

With the struggle of the Westerners to occupy China at the end of the 1800’s, China entered a tough period. Aside from the struggle against the westerners there was a war against Japane and the conflict between the two Nationalist Parties and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) within the country was finally overcome by the superiority of the CCP, A new era has begun with all it’s directions. The People’s Republic of China, founded by the CCP, has undoubtedly determined the system of state administration as socialism. China, which signed an alliance agreement with Russia just one year after its establishment, has also set its international position in this way. However, Russia was seen as the main enemy of the country in the last period of the Qing Dynasty, that is, just before the New China. However, in terms of the interests of the CCP, Mao Zedong has designated the foreign policy strategy of the period as Yi Bian Dao (unilateral) in Chinese sentence. During the Cold War era China took a side with the Eastern alliance and did not deviate from its one-sided policy with Soviet Russia in general, except for some periods in its foreign policy strategy. In 1965, when the United States entered the Wietnam war, China was disturbed in terms of its own security and shifted its primary orientation in security policy to the South East Asian region. After the death of Stalin, it was understood that the Sino-Soviet relations would not be as it used to be because Kuruscef who defended the idea of conducting a peaceful policy with the United States. In 1971, as the United Nations recognized the People’s Republic of China as the only official representative of China, China changed its position internationally, and with that, it began to give tension signals related to its close friendship with Russia. Soviet Russia has taken the place of the United States, which until 1970 was regarded as a threat to the security of the country, by the spreading emissaries of Russia these years. Around the same years, while the efforts of Russia to spread it’s self now was a danger for China, in 1970 Soviet Russia has taken place of the United States as the threat to the security of China. With this process, a change was made again with Mao Zedong in China’s foreign policy strategy. In 1973, The strategy that was put together this time was expressed by Mao Zedong on his meeting with the special representative of the president of the United States Henry Kissenger. Mao Zedong said :’’I spoke with a foreign friend, I think a transverse line should be drawn, a latitude that containes the US, Japan, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Europe in it. “. With saying so he meant to pressure Russia with the United States. At the same time, this meant the change in Chinese foreign policy. After the visit of US President Nikson to China, At the same time, this meant the change in Chinese foreign policy. China entered the process of normalization after Nikson’s visit to China, and Deng Xiaoping’s visit to USA in 1979 caused major changes in China’s foreign policy strategy.Undoubtedly, the biggest outcome of this change was the Outward Opening and Reform movement, which was launched under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Although China has opened it self for the outside world at this time, this opening has not gone beyond the economic framework and has remained limited in South East Asia geography. Outward Opening and Reform were the most important trend regions in this process and these regions have made a significant contribution to the economic development of China. While the SSBC disintegration in 1991 provided the opportunity to learn from the livelihoods of China, the foreign policy strategy was to establish stability in the regional countries and to open up to the world based on the Asia Pacific region. Established in 1996, the Shanghai Five became a Shanghai Cooperation organization in 2001. and China, together with its rising economy, set up a mechanism in Central Asia to provide both energy and security control for the future.

Specially during 65 years period of time, China’s foreign policy strategy began in the early days with Mao’s Socialist ideology, followed by Soviet Russia’s more realistic way of dealing with the threat from Mao’s ideological foreign policy strategy. When the Deng Xiaoping period came, a foreign policy strategy based on the economic base was exhibited. But in the meantime, China’s foreign policy strategy has not crossed the boundaries of South East Asia as a priority orientation. During this period of 65 years, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth and raised its international position, while its foreign policy strategy was generally limited to the South East Asia region. For China, which is on its way to becoming a global power, a foreign policy understanding with limited direction is unthinkable. This shortcoming, especially in the past few years, has been an issue that the Chinese academy community and state officials have emphasized.

Why Opening to the West?

Before passing this question, it is necessary to briefly explain what the Western concept means. The Western concept expressed here does not express European geography as it is expressed in classical manuscript. On the contrary, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are located in the west of China are taken as centers.

Based on the geopolitical base, we can express why this fiction is directed to this region as ‘expansion to the West’ because China is surrounded by US in foreign policy and the maneuvering area is narrowed.

China’s encirclement policy was followed by the interventions of the past, such as the US’s entry into the Vietnam war, intervention in the Korean War, and alliances in the region. In particular, China’s increasing day-to-day activity has made the US’s policy of securing China even more important, and Obama announced that in 2011, the US will shift its priority strategic direction to the Asia-Pacific region again. The change in the strategic direction of the US will push China to a more restrictive position in the region, because China is already having difficulty showing its reflexion of becoming a leading country in the region. The issue of border disputes with China’s 2012 Senkaku island problem with Japan and other East Asian countries in the region, and occasionally the rise in tension in the region, has greatly restricted China’s foreign policy.

Moreover, while the policy the US imposed on its allies in the region further complicates the task, even the small countries that are not comparable to China in many aspects, such as the Philippines or Wietnam, can easily challenge China with courage from the United States. In all this complexity, China needs time to be able to demonstrate an effective policy and to show the reflex of the leading country in the region, which is a situation that can be won by creating a new maneuvering area in China for foreign policy. The geography where this maneuvering area will gain the most productive and most beneficial way is seen as Central Asia, North Africa and Middle East respectively. As Wang Jisi also puts it, these regions are a region in China where foreign policy can be quite new, while at the same time China can be protecting its interests and raising its international position by these regions . Because there is a historical background, especially in terms of Central Asia, there is a ready mechanism with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Moreover, China has no direct historical problems with any of the countries in this region, and the region’s countries are not in a very negative view of China. On the contrary, most countries in the region take China as an example of economic development model. Apart from that, China has a great importance for the security of the country and for the energy interests of these regions in terms of the country interests for China. Perhaps most important, especially in Central Asia, the fact that US activity is not so high, and that there is a bad US image in the Middle East is an advantageous point for China. In the same way, China has already gained significant gains against Europe and the United States with its tight relationship with the North African countries. Here we can make an analogy over Turkey in order to make the concept easier to understand. When we thought about the change that took place in Turkish foreign policy as of 2002, Turkey has long been heading for the East, especially in the Middle East, in addition to the Eurocentric foreign policy initiative, and it has increased its activity in the international arena in a short period of time. With this multi-axis policy pursued, Turkey not only improved its efficiency but also experienced significant developments in its relations with the EU, in particular the European Union process, and created a diplomatic maneuver area against Europe. Such an understanding expressed by the principle of “Arrow-Bow” can  be considered in China’s concept of ‘opening to the west’.

In sum, when we express China’s foreign policy strategy in a ‘Arrow Bow’ way. The more China stretchs its bow towards its western regions, the more powerful the arrow that it will throw to South Asia will be. In this way, it will gain both time and power to solve the existing problems in South East Asia by raising its international position with the relations it has developed, at the same time, This will allow China to catch diplomatic maneuvering area against USA’s encirclement policy .

Innovative and Boundary Aspects

The construction of such a foreign policy strategy expresses a new vision in terms of current Chinese history. Because in the history of five thousand years China has always been a civilization that has remained within itself. In this respect, it is a very innovative approach for China to construct a foreign policy now beyond the borders of Central Asia and to embrace universal values and embrace a vision. In this respect, the opening to the west is a more active foreign policy, unlike the current foreign policy. On the other hand, when we think of it, China offers flexibility to its foreign policy, so that with its strategy of opening to the west, China will take time to solve its own internal and external problems and will increase its international position parallel to this and will interfere with the problems in South East Asia. advantageous position. Thus, on the one hand, the country will be protecting its interests and on the other hand it will be making its deactivated identity more active and participant.

Although all of this presents new arguments on behalf of China’s foreign policy, the point at which such a strategy is confronted is at stake. Due to its problematic territory, China has protected the principle of not interfering with internal business in all circumstances. It seems that this principle, which has become a tradition in Chinese foreign policy, will remain the same for a long time. What kind of foreign policy will China follow in pursuit of an intricate intervention in the problems in the complex regions as envisaged in the strategy of opening to the west? When it is clear that such a high level of foreign policy and the relationship of interest with the region will directly affect China’s interests, China will have difficulty in staying true to this principle.

Another point is that other regions outside of Central Asia are very weak in China’s activity and politics since the past. Therefore, it seems that China has not yet posses the infrastructure required for such a fiction. In areas outside of the economy, China’s relationship with the regional is so little that we can say that it has non. However, such a foreign policy depends on the rigid cultural, religious, and social communication. The problem here is that Chinese culture and society are very traditional, and it has much differences with the other regions. Aside from economy, China needs to produce a universal common value that will bring out activity and unity, but we can not say that China has been very successful in this regard until now.

Finally, a foreign policy strategy that China will take in Central Asia with little US involvement or with its bad image in the Middle East will disturb countries with the capacity to become un other leading country in the region. For example, will countries such as Iran, Turkey and Israel be willing that China will be so actively  involved in the region? Or what kind of relationships or policies will China follow with strong local countries in those regions where very complex equations take place?The lack of concrete evidence and data on how these balances are to be observed in such a foreign policy strategy is a major shortcoming.


In the coming years, it seems that there will be important years for China’s foreign policy. The foreign policy strategy to be developed alongside this economic power is much to contribute to China becoming a global power. China is actively aware of this lack. Thus, Xi Jinping, who was elected president after the 18th general congress of the CCP, is showing more importance to diplomatic relations than the previous Chinese leaders. Especially with the new Silk Road Economy, which was launched during his visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, Xi Jinping proved the importance of the above-mentioned regions for China as a state. The four-point solution proposed by Xi Jinping on the Israeli-Palestinian issue for the first time in the past is not only the official statement of a Chinese leader for the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but also shows that he wants to be active in the region. The search for this new strategic vision of China is of great importance to the Western region outside its borders, but it remains open to debate on how China will pursue this goal.

In 2014, Academia China, which is dedicated to promote a harmonious relationship amongst continents, started building a connection between China and Turkey, providing better awareness and understanding about their geopolitical differences, eliminating prejudice along with discrimination, creating a bridge from Far East to European countries and eventually around the globe. To conclude, Academia China serves as a gateway for all nations in the world.

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