Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 189 (2016)   

China’s new foreign politics:
Xi Jinping’s universal rule by virtue?

Publicerad 14.1.2016

Jyrki Kallio
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China’s foreign politics has taken a turn towards a more proactive approach, especially with a view to facilitating China’s economic development through trade.

A new set of foreign policy concepts has emerged, emphasizing China’s desire to build a "world truly shared by all” where peace, cooperation and common prosperity reign. The concepts are meant to offer a rhetoric-level challenge to the founding ideas of the Westphalian system and the perceived dominance of the West.

The need to ensure economic growth and the desire to portray oneself as a challenger to the West both arise from domestic politics, namely safeguarding the legitimacy of the Communist Party. It is questionable whether the two goals can be reconciled in the long term.

Xi has been making public appearances which make him seem like a statesman and a strong leader even in the field of foreign relations. Whether China’s foreign policy strategy is becoming more assertive as a result remains to be seen, but at least before its centennial in 2021, the Party must present itself as patriotic and unwaveringly dedicated to the restoration of China’s greatness.