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ASIANPERSPECTIVE, Vol. 30, No. 4, 2006, pp. 5-10. CHINA IS REACHING OUT TO THE NEW WORLD Introduction to the Special Issue Jean-Pierre Cabestan In the last few years, China's foreign policy has both become much more active and reached out to parts of the world where its presence was marginal in the past. The last quarter of 2006 is probably one of the best illustrations of this activism and this ambition. In September, after several years of feuding and non-com­ munication, President Hu Jintao decided to take advantage of the nomination of a new Japanese prime minister to resume summit meetings with Tokyo. He invited Abe Shinzo to Beijing to initiate a new era in the relations between the two countries, as if the Yasukuni Shrine rift had been solved, never existed, or was shelved for good. In October, Hu attended the APEC meeting in Hanoi, conversed with Iris U.S. counterpart, George W. Bush, and other top leaders of the Pacific Rim and then embarked on a ftighly publicized journey to South Asia, demonstrating China's mastery of balancing diplomacy between India and Pakistan. Whereas Beijing has continued to deepen and normalize its rela­ tionship with New Dellu, it has not neglected Islamabad, main­ taining close economic and military cooperation with an old ally. Less than a month later, in early November, Hu welcomed the president or top leader of some forty-eight African countries, gen­ erously invited to the third Sino-African summit in Beijing. On 6 Jean-Pierre Cabestan this occasion, Hu announced a substantial increase of Chinese aid, interest-free loans, and investments in the black continent. Against the background of this diplomatic activism, China had to manage a new crisis with North Korea after Pyongyang, ignoring the repeated advice or pressure exerted on it, decided in early October to test a nuclear weapon. For the first time in the history of Sino-North Korean relations, China joined the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and imposed sanctions on Kim Jong Il's regime. But what is even more striking is that less than three weeks later, Beijing was able to convince Pyongyang to go back to the negotiating table and resume the Six-Party Talks (Moscow, Seoul, and Tokyo are also involved), initiated by China in 2003 as a way to allow direct discussions between North Korea and Washington. The only disappointment China had to encounter was the postponement until January 2007 of the second East Asian Sum­ mit, initially due to take place in Cebu in December 2006. But this decision had nothing to do with Chinese diplomacy; it was the direct consequence of the deadly typhoon that had hit the Philippines just two weeks before and the coming of another hurricane at the time of the summit. Already, the leaders of the region had anticipated this meeting as an opportune occasion to pursue bilateral negotiations with some of their neighbors, as if they did not feel any summit fatigue already. Some observers are tempted to attribute China's diplomatic activism to Hu Jintao himself. It is true that since 2003, the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership has promoted an international discourse aimed at reaching out to its neighbors and the entire world, as if China had no more enemies. Although Zheng Bijian, Hu's close adviser, has been allowed to continue to propagate his ideas about China's "peaceful rise," the govern­ ment prefers to stick to a softer and more reassuring motto of "peaceful development."1 And since 2005-2006, domestic and international "harmony" has become the key concept underlin­ ing the Chinese government's political strategy. In other words, China is no longer a destructive source of criticism and division;1 1. Zheng Bijian, Lun Zhongguo heping jueqi fazhan xin daolu. Peaceful RiseChina 's New Road to Development (Beijing: Central Party School Publishing House, December 2005, bilingual edition). China is Reaching Out to the New World 7 it has become a constructive force of consensus and compromise. Actually, China's new diplomacy goes back to the last years of the Jiang Zemin era and the first years of the new millennium. Many well...


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