What Do First Foreign Visits Tell Us?

With Li Keqiang traveling to India on his first foreign visit since taking office as China’s Prime Minister in March, The Diplomat’s Mu Chunshan explores what the early trips of China’s new leaders suggest about its foreign policy:

Many of these inaugural trips involve China’s neighbors: Russia, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, India and Pakistan. Beijing has always considered the nations that surround it as the starting point for its diplomacy, and repeatedly refers to a policy in pursuit of an “amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood”. With China engaged in territorial disputes with several Southeast Asian countries and with India, these first visits can help not only to attenuate doubts and confusion, but also reflect China’s continued emphasis on peaceful coexistence. Meanwhile, relations with Russia, Pakistan and Mongolia are already relatively sound, and visits to these countries simply seek to strengthen traditional friendships.

Africa and South America are rapidly joining Asia as the “new engines” of international politics and economics. The fact that these regions have been top destinations for the Chinese leaderships shows that Beijing is looking to combine neighborhood stability with outreach to its fellow emerging nations.

If the media is right, and Li Keqiang’s first trip includes Switzerland and Germany, then this inaugural round of Chinese diplomacy can be considered balanced and comprehensive. In other words, focus on the emerging world without ignoring relations with developed countries.



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