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«China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On “Core Interests” Michael D. Swaine (I am deeply indebted to Rachel Odell and Tan Weilu, Carnegie Junior ...»

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For similar usages, see,“,” (Huang Zequang, “Technology Creates Wealth,” People’s Daily), July 14, 1995, 7th edition, http://data.people.com.cn; “,” (“U.S. Treasury Secretary indicates in his speech that U.S.-China relations are critical to global economic prosperity,” People’s Daily), October 14, 1999, 6th edition, available at http://data.people.com.cn); and,“,” (Ou Can, “Warning Lee Teng-hui not to have any illusions,” PLA Daily), August 29, 1999, available at http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/14557759.

For example, see “,”, (“U.S. Embassy held important talks with General Secretary Hu Jintao,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), January 11, 2009, available at http://www.mfa.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zwbd/t531443.htm: “..


(“Ambassador Zhou... stated that... grasping fundamental interests and core national interests reflects the truth-seeking spirit of respect for history, respect for reality, and respect for the wishes of the people.”) A 1995 article from the PLA Daily specifically discusses the adjustment from a focus on “fundamental interests” to “core interests” in the process of economic and social reform. However, it does not clearly define the difference between the two terms. Based on a reading of the article, it is possible that the former referred to the basic interest of promoting overall national economic development while the latter was intended to focus on the attainment of greater economic and social equality and common prosperity.

Nonetheless, both concepts were at the time applied to domestic issues. See “,” (“Picture/Photo/Other,” PLA Daily), February 17, 1995, available at http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/14466790. For a similar usage, also see “ ‘ ’,” (“Qiushi published a signed article by Hua Qing: ‘Four Major Boundaries of Theoretical and Practical Issues,’” PLA Daily), August 17, 2001, available at http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/22327893.

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

Apparently, the first time the two terms were used together ( ) was in 2007, in a report on a meeting between Hu Jintao and German president Angela Merkel. See “,” (“Hu Jintao meets German Prime Minister Merkel,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), August 27, 2007, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t355870.htm.

The first reference to “major concerns” on the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is from 2000, in a report on a meeting between Jiang Zemin and President Chirac of France. See “,” (“Chairman Jiang Zemin and French President Chirac held meeting,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), November 7, 2000, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t7275.htm.

“. ” (“China and France share many common interests; the prospect for bilateral cooperation is strong. As long as the two countries start from the strategic perspective and the pattern of long-term development of the bilateral relationship, maintain mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefits, especially respecting each other’s major concerns, Sino-French relations can be raised to a new level in the 21st century.”) In a 2003 Policy Paper on the European Union, “major concerns” is used to directly refer to the Taiwan issue in a paragraph on the one-China policy. See “,” (“White Paper on, Chinese policy toward the EU,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, October 2003), available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/tytj/zcwj/t27700.htm.

Wang Jisi, a well-known scholar of U.S.-China relations, wrote an article in People’s Daily in February 2002 suggesting that both sides seek common ground in order to prevent differences from developing into serious crises or conflicts that would damage the “core interests” ( ) of either party. This is the first time that a People’s Daily article referred to the “core interests” of China (in a foreign policy context) and not only the “core interests” of other countries. See,“ ( )— (Wang Jisi, “Seek common ground and stability (monograph)—celebrating the 30th,” anniversary of the China-U.S. ‘Shanghai Communiqué’,” People’s Daily), February 28, 2002, 7th edition, available at http://data.people.com.cn).

A second similar reference in the same source occurred in December 2002. See,“,” (Yin Chengde, “Progress and Transformation of Great Power Relations,” People’s Daily), November 19, 2002, 7th edition, available at http://data.people.com.cn. In this article, Yin, a regular contributor to People’s Daily and possibly a Foreign Ministry official, referred to China in discussing the “core interests” of great powers.

See,“,” (Ding Gang, “Tang Jiaxuan Meets U.S. Secretary of State,” People’s Daily), January 21, 2003, 3rd edition, available at http://data.people.com.cn. At that time, “Tang Jiaxuan said, the Taiwan issue concerns China’s core interests” (“.”) A month later, Colin Powell visited China and again held talks with Tang Jiaxuan, who again reiterated the point. See “Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan Held Talks With Powell,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, February 25, 2003, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/zxxx/t19583.htm.

See “,” (Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kong Quan warns the U.S. for its decision to sell Taiwan the long-range radar system at a press conference),” January 1, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/fyrbt/dhdw/t82122.htm.

Most notably, on the official level, such usage occurred at several press conferences held by Foreign Ministry spokespersons Zhang Qiyue and Kong Quan, in speeches by such senior PRC diplomats as Yang Jiechi, Zhang Yesui, and Zhong Jianhua, in a meeting between Tang Jiaxuan and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in July 2004, in meetings between Li Zhaoxing and Colin Powell in October 2004, by Wen Jiabao in a speech at the October 2004 Asia-Europe Meeting and in remarks to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan in December 2004, and in remarks by Hu Jintao at meetings with President Bush and Australian prime minister John Howard in November 2004. “2004 2 19,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue’s regular press conference on February 19, 2004,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), February 19, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/fyrbt/dhdw/t66764.htm;

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

“2004 4 1,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kong Quan’s regular press conference on February 19, 2004,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), April 1, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/mtb/fyrbt/jzhsl/t82128.htm; “,” (“Ambassador Yang Jiechi visits Los Angeles and receives the award for Distinguished Diplomat,” Los Angeles General Consulate press release), April 5, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/bmz/1206_22/1206x2/t441607.htm; “2004 4 8,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kong Quan’s Regular Press Conference on April 8, 2004,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), April 8, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/fyrbt/dhdw/t83827.htm; “2004 4 27,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kong Quan’s regular press conference on April 27, 2004,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), April 27, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/fyrbt/t93544.htm; “ ( 10/ 05/ 04),” (“Yang Jiechi, Ambassador to the United States, delivered a speech on current Sino-U.S. relations in Arkansas,” press release of the Chinese Embassy to the United States), May 10, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/bmz/1206_22/1206x2/t431003.htm; “,” (“Tang Jiaxuan Meets with Condoleezza Rice,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), July 9, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/wzb/zxxx/t142558.htm; “,” (“Vice Minister Zhang Yesui’s speech at the Fifth China-U.S. arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation conference,” July 20, 2004, Beijing), available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/wzb/wjbxw/t143524.htm; “,” (“Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing meets with U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), October 11, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t163077.htm;,,“,”, (“Chinese, OO, Premier Wen Jiabao, ‘Strengthen dialogue and cooperation, deepen the partnership,’ speech at the fifth ASEM summit, Hanoi, October 8, 2004), available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zyxw/t163675.htm; “,” (“President Hu Jintao meets U.S. President Bush,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), November 21, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/zt/ywzt/zt2004/hjtlatinamerica/t171122.htm; “,” (“President Hu Jintao meets with Australian prime minister John Howard,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), November 22, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/dyz/1206/xgxw/t171174.htm; “,” (“Zhong Jianhua, Los Angeles consul general gives speech to Long BeachChina Friendship Association in Qingdao,” Los Angeles Consulate General Press Release), December 3, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/bmz/1206_22/1206x2/t443959.htm; “,” (“Premier Wen Jiabao holds meeting with Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), December 16, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/mtb/gjldrhd/t175152.htm.

In that same year, China also highlighted its “core interests” in several press conferences and speeches vis-à-vis Singapore, reacting against Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Taiwan in July 2004. “,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue’s remarks on the visit of Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), July 11, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/wzb/fyrbt/t142666.htm; “2004 7 13,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue’s regular press conference on July 13, 2004,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), July 13, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/mtb/fyrbt/jzhsl/t142922.htm; “,” (“Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan’s statement on Singapore deputy prime minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent visit to Taiwan with the Singapore media,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, July 20, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/mtb/fyrbt/t143616.htm; “ 2004 7 22

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

,” (“Assistant Foreign, Minister Shen Guofang puts the full text answer online on ‘Chinese Foreign Ministry Forum,’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, July 22, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t143741.htm; “,” (“President Hu Jintao Meets Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), November 20, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/zt/ywzt/2005year/hjtzt/hjt2004apec/t170958.htm; “,” ( “Ambassador to Singapore Zhang Yun discusses the spirit of Sun Yat-sen,” Embassy in Singapore), November 28, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjdt/zwbd/t172364.htm. The term was also used by Wu Hongbo, ambassador to the Philippines: “,” (“Ambassador Wu Hongbo attends the Filipino-Chinese Grand Family Association sponsored by Rang Dewu,” Embassy in the Philippines, October 19, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjdt/zwbd/t166879.htm. Such references to core interests continued in 2005 and beyond.

Li stated in a speech that sovereignty and security are Chinese core interests “.” See,“,” (Li Zhaoxing, —— “Valuable spiritual wealth of new China’s diplomatic work—studying Jiang Zemin’s diplomatic thought,” People’s Daily), September 30, 2006, 2nd edition, available at http://data.people.com.cn.

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