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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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The first reference on the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to “security” ( ) as a “core interest” was in a December 2008 Xinhua interview with China’s ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe. See “,”. (“Mission to the EU, Ambassador “Song Zhe accepts Xinhua News Agency’s ‘Reference News’ year-end interview,” Mission to the EU Press Release), December 26, 2008, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zwbd/wshd/t529299.htm.

Hu Jintao also referred to “national security” ( ) as a “core interest” in a statement commenting on Sino-Russian bilateral relations, in June 2009: “,” (“President Hu Jintao accepts the joint interview from foreign media,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), July 18, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zyxw/t568406.htm.

The first reference on the PRC Foreign Ministry website to respecting each other’s core interests is in a speech Yang Jiechi gave as ambassador to the United States in May 2004 in Arkansas. See “ ( 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. The next reference occurred later that same year in remarks from Hu Jintao during a November 2004 meeting with Australian prime minister John Howard. See “,” (“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. Also see the record of a SinoPeruvian meeting between Wen Jiabao and Peru’s president Alejandro Toledo in June 2005 (“,” [“Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao each met with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China], June 3, 2005, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t198568.htm), and remarks given by Hu Jintao in a meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia in March 2006 (“,” [“Hu Jintao holds talk with Russian president Vladimir Putin,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China], March 21, 2006, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/oz/1206_13/xgxw/t241482.htm).

For more recent examples see “Chinese President Hu Jintao Meets with His U.S.

Counterpart Obama,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, April 2, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjdt/wshd/t555783.htm; “,” :

(“First round of the Sino-U.S. Economic Dialogue: In addition to the main discussion of the Moon,” China News Online), July 29, 2009, available at http://www.chinanews.com.cn/gn/news/2009/07shtml; “U.S. Defense Secretary Invited To Visit China Early Next Year,” Xinhua, October 11,

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

2010, Open Source Center (OSC) CPP20101011968207; President Hu Jintao, Remarks at Strategic and Economic Dialogue Opening Session, May 23, 2010 (China date: May 24, 2010), available at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/05/142134.htm; and State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Remarks at Strategic and Economic Dialogue, “Concluding Joint Statements by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (as released by the State Department),” Federal News Service, May 25, 2010.

See “,” (“First round of the Sino-U.S.

Economic :

Dialogue: In addition to the main discussion of the Moon,” China News Online), July 29, 2009, available at http://www.chinanews.com.cn/gn/news/2009/07-29/1794984.shtml. Also see State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Closing Remarks for U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Washington, DC, July 28, 2009, available at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/126599.htm.

Dai’s remarks were to some extent presaged (though not explicitly spelled out) by Foreign Minister

Yang Jiechi, in remarks delivered in Washington, DC, on March 12, 2009. At that time, Yang stated:

“Mutual respect means that we should respect international law and norms governing international relations, view each other in an objective and sensible way, respect each other’s choice of development path and core interests, and refrain from doing anything that may harm each other’s sovereignty, security or development interests.” Yang Jiechi, “Broaden China-U.S. Cooperation in the 21st Century,” Speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C., March 12, 2009, available at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zmgx/t542231.htm, emphasis added.

For example, see “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang’s Regular Press Conference on July 13, 2010,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, July 14, 2010, available at http://www.mfa.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t716745.htm.

Da Wei, deputy director of the Department of American Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations [CICIR], cited Dai Bingguo’s definition in his discussion of how China should strategically utilize the term “core interests”; see Da Wei, “Why Should China Declare Its Core Interests?” Huanqiu Shibao, July 28, 2010, OSC CPP20100729788013.





Jin Canrong, vice director of the School of International Studies at China’s Renmin University, also discussed Dai’s definition, explaining that the phrase “basic system” referred to the system “of multiparty cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party of China.” See “China Denies Taking Tough Stance on International Affairs,” Global Times Online, March 8, 2010, OSC CPP20100308722006.

For other unofficial references to Dai Bingguo’s multi-part definition, see Wu Zhong, “China Cut To the Core,” Asia Times, August 19, 2009, OSC CPP20090819715002; and Cary Huang, “A Bolder China Asserts ‘Core’ Interests But Will It Act?” South China Morning Post, August 12, 2010, OSC CPP20100812715004.

See “,” (“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.

This is the earliest reference to “national unity” ( ) or “reunification” ( ) as core interests of China found on the PRC Foreign Ministry website. For similar later references, see “ ” (“Zeng Qinghong meets with Hungarian prime minister Gyurcsany, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), September 8, 2005, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t210951.htm; “,” (“Consul General Zhang Yun in Los Angeles attends ‘ ’ Southern California Overseas Chinese Bridge and opposes Taiwan’s ‘referendum to join the UN General Assembly’,” Consulate General in Los Angeles), September 16, 2007, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjdt/zwbd/t441207.htm; and “Getting to Know the Real China,” Statement by H.E. Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, At the General Debate of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 23, 2010, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/topics/wenjibaochuxi65jieUNdh/t761353.htm.

See “,” (“Namibian parliament and government to support the implementation of the “Anti-Secession Law,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), March 18, 2005, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/zt/ywzt/2005year/fflgjf/t442120.htm. This is the first reference to the phrase “independence” ( ) in the context of “core interests.” Also see “

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

,” (“President Hu Jintao accepts joint interview from foreign media,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), July 18, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zyxw/t568406.htm; here Hu Jintao referred to “independence” ( ) as a “core interest” in an interview commenting on Sino-Russian bilateral relations.

“Hu Jintao Holds Talks with General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) and Lao President Choummaly,” Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Lithuania, November 19, 2006, available at http://lt.chinaembassy.org/eng/xwdt/t281353.htm; “Carry On Traditional Friendship And Deepen All-round Cooperation—Address by Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, At Islamabad Convention Center, SRC-406,” November 24, 2006, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/yzs/gjlb/2757/2758/t285917.htm. See also, “Hu Jintao Holds Talks with US President Obama,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, November 17, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/bmdyzs/xwlb/t628187.htm, where Hu mentions “human rights” in the context of “core interests,” but does not explicitly label them in that category.

“,” (“Maldives Foreign Minister Shahid meets with Yang Jiechi,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), May 26, 2008, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t458721.htm; “,” (“Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi accepts a written interview with the Associated Press of Pakistan,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), April 25, 2008, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjdt/wjbxw/t429027.htm; “ —,” (“Harmonious and Win-win Cooperation— Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong at the 30th Anniversary of Sino-U.S. relations, writes ‘People’s Daily.’” U.S.

Embassy Press Release, January 1, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/wzb/zwbd/wshd/t530030.htm; “,” (“Mission to the EU, Ambassador Song Zhe, head of the Xinhua News Agency accepts the end-of-year interview with ‘Cankao Xiaoxi,’” Mission to the EU Press Release), December 26, 2008, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zwbd/wshd/t529299.htm; “,” (“Pakistan establishes the first China-Pakistan Research Institute,” Embassy in Pakistan Press Release), October 2, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/cgb/zwbd/wshd/t617868.htm; “,” (“Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui gives speech at the World Affairs Council in Islamabad,” Embassy in Pakistan Press Release), May 23, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/cgb/zwbd/wshd/t564112.htm; “,” (“Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Sun Heping attends the farewell dinner of Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Oli,” Embassy in Nepal Press Release), March 7, 2007, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/yz/1206_24/1206x2/t301747.htm.

See “ ‘ ’,” (“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue’s remarks on the positive elements in the U.S. State Department comments on Chen Shui-bian’s ‘ten-point statement,’” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), November 16, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/fyrbt/t170288.htm; “,” (“Li Zhaoxing held talks with U.S. Secretary of State,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), October 25, 2004, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t166903.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 ASL does not explicitly use the term “core interests.” However, it does state that “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “brook no division” ( ). And “sovereignty and territorial integrity” ( ) had been officially identified as Chinese core interests as early as April 2004, as indicated above. See “Anti-Secession Law, Adopted at the Third Session of the Tenth National People’s Congress on March 14, 2005,” available at http://www.china.org.cn/english/2005lh/122724.htm. For the original Chinese text, see “ (“Anti-Secession Law,” Xinhuanet), March 14, 2005,,” available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2005-03/14/content_2694168.htm.

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34



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