Basic principles in China’s mediation

Beyond the several rounds of Six-Party Talks regarding the Korean Peninsula, China extends offers to mediate conflict in Saudi Arabia and Iran, India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Djibouti and Eritrea, Myanmar and Bangladesh, and the Persian Gulf states and Qatar. China is driven by the need to protect its economic investments, a desire to raise its international stature, and a recognition of its responsibilities as a rising power. These all create an increasing impetus for China to adapt its long-held principle of non-interference to demonstrate its capability in international conflict resolution. To be more specific, these realities and intentions indicate that China, in most cases, will still adopt facilitative mediation, as China sticks to the non-interference principle. However, given cautious assessment of the impact of conflicts on China’s national interests or international prestige, China will choose to adopt evaluative or transformative mediation when necessary. In terms of the strategic goals and fundamental principles China upholds in mediation, we can concentrate on the aspects described in the following sections.

Balance between national interest and international responsibility

In recent years, under President Xi Jinping’s vision and guideline of Chinese diplomacy in the new era, the capability and willingness to build a community of shared future for mankind has required more involvement of China in regional and international negotiations and mediation than before.

In terms of protecting China’s national interests, mediation will help safeguard national security. In the case of the Korean Peninsula, China’s mediation helped stabilize the situation there, and thus permits China a peaceful environment to sustain its economic development. China’s mediation activities have in recent years expanded to the Middle East and African countries. As Xue Li and Zheng Yuwen analyzed it in The Diplomat,

In next decade, the prospect of China’s relations with Middle Eastern states mainly lies in the potential for economic cooperation. On the one hand, China wants to play a more significant role in security issues in the Middle East, to show its responsibilities and capabilities as a rising power. On the other hand, China also hopes to get economic and cultural profits from its interactions with the Middle East.

(Xue and Zheng)

Compared with the traditional players like the United States and Russia which prefer to play off one side against the other, or regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia with mixed interests on the ground, or the major international organizations like the United Nations or the Arab League with either limited resources or unrealistic ambitions -China, unlike the other players, “carries no religious, political, historical, and colonial baggage, making it an ideal candidate to break the gridlocks in the region’s conflicts and to play the role of an ‘honest broker’” (Chaziza). Therefore, China is now striving to balance being an honest broker and mediator in both regional and global conflicts to foster lasting peace and prosperity, and the positive outcome and global stability that China seeks as a rising global power.

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