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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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In this source, Deng Xiaoping states that he told Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in their 1984 meeting on the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese rule that “sovereignty was not negotiable” (“ ”). This was said in the context of Hong Kong (and later in these remarks he compares Hong Kong to Taiwan). However, the comment is often taken to refer to sovereignty issues in general. Jiang Zemin also used the exact same phrase as Deng Xiaoping—”the sovereignty issue is non-negotiable” (“ ”), on this occasion in direct reference to Taiwan. See “,” (“President Jiang Zemin meets with U.S. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Samuel Berger,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), November 7, 2000, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zyxw/t7531.htm. However, a 2008 article by current Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is perhaps the most direct statement of the fundamental non-negotiability of

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

China’s “core interests.” See,“ ” (Yang Jiechi, “China’s diplomacy since reform and opening”), September 16, 2008, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/wzb/zxxx/t512782.htm. Yang states: “In major issues involving core national interests, stand firm and clear-cut, dare to struggle, put up a good fight, and never trade principles.

At the same time pay attention to strategy, adhere to a flexible and pragmatic approach, reasonable, beneficial, and restrained, maintaining the long-term and fundamental interests of our country.” (“ ”) For example, in a speech to the NPC on the draft Anti-Secession Law, Wang Zhaoguo asserts that “safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity” is China’s core interest, and China has never forsworn the use of force to defend its “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” See Wang Zhaoguo, “Draft AntiSecession Law explained,” speech at National People’s Congress session, China Daily, March 8, 2005, available at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-03/08/content_422875.htm. Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Zhou Wenzhong implied in 2007 that China would use non-peaceful means if necessary to prevent Taiwan independence in order to safeguard China’s “core interest” of “national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” “ ‘ ’,” (“Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Zhou Wenzhong gives speech at the opening ceremony of the ‘Forum on the Global Promotion of the peaceful reunification of China,’” press release of the Chinese Embassy to the United States, November 17, 2007, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gj/bmz/1206_22/1206x2/t441126.htm.

A large number of unofficial Chinese media sources and personages convey a similar (and in some cases even more militant) resolve. See “American Shadow over South China Sea,” editorial, Global Times, July 26, 2010, OSC CPP20100726722003; “Major General Luo Yuan Discusses the US-ROK Joint Military Exercise in the Yellow Sea,” Renmin Wang, July 13, 2010, OSC CPP20100713787008; Li Yu-chi, “Vigorously Oppose US Meddling in South China Sea Issue,” Hsiang Kang Shang Pao, August 11, 2010, OSC CPP20100811716003; Huang Xiangyang, “Commentary: Get Back When Attacked,” China Daily, January 31, 2010, OSC CPP20100131968022; Yu Keli, director of the CASS Institute of Taiwan Studies, “The Two Sides of the Strait Should Look Squarely at the Issue of Ending the State of Hostility and Signing a Peace Agreement,” Zhongguo Pinglun, August 2009, no. 140, pp. 4–9, OSC CPP20090805710007;and Zhou Zhihuai, deputy director of the CASS Institute of Taiwan Studies, “A Programmatic Document for Advancing Peaceful Reunification,” Renmin Ribao (Overseas Edition, Internet Version), October 19, 2007, p. 5, OSC CPP20071019704022.

Recently, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made the same observation regarding China’s core interests, stating: “China has announced a number of ‘core interests’ which are, in essence, non-negotiable and for which China is prepared to fight, if necessary.” See Henry A. Kissinger, “Power Shifts and Security,” keynote address, 8th IISS Global Strategic Review, September 10, 2010, available at http://www.iiss.org/conferences/global-strategic-review/global-strategic-review-2010/plenary-sessionsand-speeches-2010/keynote-address/henry-kissinger/.

Adam Entous, “Tensions Ease in Asia, U.S. Says,” Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2010; Abe Denmark, “China’s Navy Gets Its Act Together, and Gets Aggressive,” Wired, Danger Room, April 26, 2010, available at http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/chinas-navy-gets-its-act-together-and-getsaggressive/; Jiang Lifeng, “Some advice for Japan,” China Daily, November 4, 2010, http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2010-11/04/content_21269982.htm; Phoenix TV: China, Japan ‘Likely To Engage in Fierce Confrontations Over Diaoyus’,” Feng Huang Wei Shih Chung Wen Tai, interview with staff commentator Ho Liang-liang, October 22, 2010, OSC CPP20101025715031; “Disputed Island Tests Chinese Diplomacy,” Caijing, September 29, 2010, OSC CPP20100929715030; Liu Huan, Meng Na, and Li Huizi, “Japan’s Illegal Detention of Chinese Boat Captain Seriously Undermines People’s Trust in Japan” (China Focus), Xinhua Asia-Pacific Service, September 20, 2010, OSC CPP20100920005007;

Major General Luo Yuan, “US engaging in gunboat diplomacy,” People’s Daily, August 13, 2010, OSC CPP20100813787009; Cary Huang, “A Bolder China Asserts ‘Core’ Interests But Will It Act?” South China Morning Post, August 12, 2010, OSC CPP20100812715004; Wu Zhong, “A Daring Departure from Deng,” Asia Times, August 6, 2010, available at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/LH06Ad02.html;





John Pomfret, “U.S. takes a tougher tone with China,” Washington Post, July 30, 2010, A01; Cary Huang, “War of Words Heats up With US Over South China Sea Disputes,” South China Morning Post, July 29, 2010, OSC CPP20100729715012;”American Shadow over South China Sea,” Editorial, Global Times, July

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

26, 2010, OSC CPP20100726722003; “We Would Like To Advise the United States Not To Make the South China Sea Troubled Waters,” Ta Kung Pao, July 26, 2010, OSC CPP20100726788010; “Major General Luo Yuan Discusses the US-ROK Joint Military Exercise in the Yellow Sea,” Renmin Wang, July 13, 2010, OSC CPP20100713787008; Wu Ting and Zhou Yun, “Sino-US-Japanese Sea Power Games in West Pacific,” Dongfang Zaobao, July 12, 2010, OSC CPP20100718138002; “China tells U.S. that S.

China Sea is ‘core interest’ in new policy,” Kyodo News, July 3, 2010, OSC JPP20100703969016; Michael Wines, “Behind a Military Chill: A More Forceful China,” New York Times, June 8, 2010; Edward Wong, “Chinese Military Seeks to Extend Its Naval Power,” New York Times, April 23, 2010; and Wang Te-chun, “Strategic Changes Are Currently Taking Place in China-US Relations,” Ta Kung Pao, November 10, 2009, OSC CPP20091110710002.

Some of the most significant official sources, as also cited above, include (in reverse chronological order):,“,” (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; “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; “President Hu sets forth guidelines on Taiwan,” Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Hungary, March 5, 2005, available at http://www.chinaembassy.hu/hu/xwdt/t185890.htm; “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang’s Regular Press Conference on 27 November, 2007,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, November 28, 2007, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t385091.htm; “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang’s Regular Press Conference on June 22, 2010,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, June 23, 2010, available at http://www.mfa.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t711047.htm.

Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “Tibet—Its Ownership And Human Rights Situation,” government white paper, September 1992, Beijing, China, available in English at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/topics/3711/t18996.htm#4, available in Chinese at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/zt/ywzt/wzzt/2296/t10532.htm. The white paper also refers to Tibet as a “fundamental issue” ( ).

At the meeting, Zeng stated: “The Chinese government appreciates the government of Sri Lanka for adhering to the one-China policy for a long period of time and offering precious support to China on Taiwan, Tibet and other questions involving China’s core interest.” See “Zeng Qinghong Meets with Wickremanayake,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, April 22, 2006, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zzjg/yzs/gjlb/2782/2784/t248856.htm. For the Chinese version, see “,” (“Zeng Qinghong meets with Wickremanayake,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), April 22, 2006, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/gjhdq/gjhdqzz/mzblwelm/xgxw/t248035.htm. Also see “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang’s Regular Press Conference on November 27, 2008,” Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic Of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland, November 28, 2008, available at http://www.chinaun.ch/eng/fyrth/t524172.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.

For example, see “,” (“Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia Zhang Weidong holds a secret meeting with Foreign Minister Robert [Luobote],” Embassy in Federated States of Micronesia), August 19, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjdt/zwbd/t579464.htm; “,” (“Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), September 30, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/mtb/bldhd/t616704.htm; “,” (“Xi Jinping Meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), September 29, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/wjdt/gjldrhd/t615959.htm; and Australia-China Joint Statement, 30 October 2009, available at http://www.china.embassy.gov.au/bjng/statement.html. The Chinese version is found here: “,” (“Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei

Swaine, China Leadership Monitor, no. 34

Talks about ‘China-Australia Joint Statement’,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China), September 31, 2009, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/zyxw/t623887.htm.

On the subject of the Yellow Sea, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang neither confirmed nor denied its “core interest” status in response to direct questioning in a press conference. 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.

“Q: Recently, there are lots of reports on China’s core interests in the Yellow Sea. Could you outline China’s core interests? And in what way will the US-ROK joint naval exercise compromise China’s core interests?

A: China’s core interests refer to national sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and development interests.” As for the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, in response to a direct question on their “core interest” status, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei neither confirmed nor denied that the disputed islands were part of China’s core interest. See “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei’s Regular Press Conference on November 2, 2010,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, November 3, 2010, available at http://www.mfa.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t766610.htm.

“Q:... China once said that issues such as Taiwan and Tibet bear on China’s core interest. Is the Diaoyu island issue also part of China’s core interest?



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