China’s Diplomacy: How Many Kinds of Major and Minor Partner “Relations” 夥伴關係 Does China Have?

With President Xi’s visit to the US, one might wonder how China evaluates its broadening and deepening global network of diplomatic relationships.

A 2015 article from Hong Kong’s Wenhui Bao, translated below, discusses the gradations in the hierarchy of China’s diplomatic relationships.

From the article, one gets the impression that China’s diplomatic relationships with Japan and DPRK are the most difficult.

  • All – round strategic partnership 全方位戰略夥伴關係
  • Comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership 全面戰略合作夥伴關係
  • Comprehensive strategic partnership 全面戰略夥伴關係
  • Strategic cooperative partnership 戰略合作夥伴關係
  • Strategic partnership 戰略夥伴關係
  • Non-partnership relations

You can get a flavor of the terms by looking at the China – foreign country X diplomatic relations characterizations on the PRC Foreign Ministry website in English at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/gjhdq_665435/ and in Chinese at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/…/gjhdq…/gj_676203/yz_676205/

How Many Kinds of Major and Minor Partner “Relations” Does China Have?

中國與大小夥伴有多少種「關係」

http://news.wenweipo.com [2015-04-22]

[Wenhuibao Net report] There are three different types of relations between states: partnership relations, alliance relations and non-alliance, non-partnership relations. China has not made alliances with other countries. Most of the relationships that China has with other states that are friendly and close are partnership relations.

According to the April 22, 2015 report from the China Youth Daily, an April 20, 2015 joint communique by China and Pakistan proclaimed that that two sides agreed to raise the level of the Sino-Pakistan relations from strategic cooperative relations to an all-weather strategic cooperative relations 全天候戰略合作夥伴關係 and to continually deepen the Sino-Pakistan community of common destiny and to strive to build friendship between the coming generations of Chinese and Pakistanis. A search in the People’s Daily database revealed that at the 2010 Asian Games held in Guangzhou, when then Premier Wen Jiabao met Pakistani President Zardari, who had come for the opening ceremony, Wen had mentioned “the strengthening and the deepening of the all-weather strategic cooperative relations between our two countries”. The most recent joint statement provides a document that makes this relationship clearer.

There are three different types of relationships between states: partnership relations, alliance relations and non-alliance, non-partnership relations. China has not made alliances with other countries. Most of the relationships that China has with other states that are friendly and close are partnership relations.

Comprehensive strategic partnership relations 全面戰略協作夥伴關係

In addition to Pakistan, which is the only state with a relationship characterized as an “all-weather strategic coordination relations”, China has a unique relationship with the Russian Federation. The formulation “comprehensive strategic partnership coordination relations” is only used to describe the relationship between China and Russia.

In November 2007, when Wen Jiabao visited and had informal discussions with Russian legislators, he mentioned that he wanted to promote “Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic coordination partners”. At that time, the relationship between China and Russia was called a “strategic coordination partnership”. That was the first strategic partnership relationship that China established with any foreign state.

In June 2001, on the tenth anniversary of the signing of the “Sino-Russian treaty on friendly and cooperative neighborly relations”, then Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev issued a joint statement in which they agreed to add the word “comprehensive” to their characterization of the bilateral relationship.

All-round strategic partnership relationship relations 全方位戰略夥伴關係

In China’s relations with the states of the European Union, one stands out by its special appellation. That is China’s “All-round strategic partnership” with Germany. In March 2014, during Xi Jinping’s visit to Germany, the two sides agreed to establish an all-round strategic partnership.

In fact, the first country to propose, in its relations with China, an “all-round strategic partnership” was Brazil. Already in 1995, the Brazilian president had proposed during a 1995 visit to establish an all-round strategic relationship between the two countries. In 2012, the two states raised the level of the Sino-Brazilian relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Officially it was called “entering a new stage in the good comprehensive development” 進入全方位良好發展新階段 of the relationship between the two countries.

Comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership relations 全面戰略合作夥伴關係

With the addition of the word “cooperative” 合作, the scope of bilateral relations widens. China’s relationship with the Southeast Asian countries Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos all fit into this category.

China with these countries cooperates across a wide range of issues in highly sensitive areas such as politics and diplomacy as well as in economics and other less sensitive areas so those relationships are characterized as “comprehensive strategic cooperation”.

Comprehensive strategic partnership relations 全面戰略夥伴關係

This list is longer. Searches through recent issues of People’s Daily found that states that have a comprehensive strategic partnership relationship with China include Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Algeria, Belarus, Mongolia, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Italy, Venezuela, Egypt, and Brazil among others.

Taking Egypt, which recently formed a comprehensive strategic partnership relationship with China, as an example, the joint statement of the two countries includes “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China” and strongly condemned terrorist acts that had taken place in the two countries.

Strategic cooperative relationships 戰略合作夥伴關係

These are states on the “greater periphery” of China. They include countries that directly border on China such as India, South Korea, and Afghanistan as well as Turkey and Sri Lanka which lie within China’s “greater periphery” and now fall within the scope of the “One Belt One Road” project.

Compared with the relationships at the next higher level, they lack the word “comprehensive”. That means that the scope of the bilateral strategic cooperation is not as broad. For example, although Afghanistan shares a common border with China, it is still preoccupied with war at home and has deep domestic security concerns. Therefore the bilateral relationship focuses more on security and strategic areas and less on the economy, trade and investment.

Strategic partnership relations 戰略夥伴關係

In January 2015, the Costa Rica government announced that China and Costa Rica had agreed to establish a strategic partnership relations. This indicates that China’s influence in Central America is growing. It will also help Chinese companies gain a foothold in the region.

Over ten states have strategic partnership relationships with China including Canada, Nigeria, Turkmenistan and other countries in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Other types of partnership relationships

China’s relationships with the states listed above all include the word “strategic”. The absence of the word “strategic” suggests that those states do not have any special importance to China for political or security reasons or as a supplier of strategic resources. However, this means that the stress in the partnership relationship is not political but economic.

Among these the relationship with Bangladesh is characterized as “particularly close”. As it does in the case of Pakistan, this means that that state’s relationship is closer to China than that of other states. The China-Bangladesh-India-Myanmar economic corridor and the Maritime Silk Road are two important highways that link China and Bangladesh.

In addition to the above, there are also an all-round friendly cooperative partnership relationship (Belgium), comprehensive friendly cooperative relationships (Romania, Bulgaria, Maldives), comprehensive cooperative partnership relationships (Ethiopia, Croatia, Nepal, Tanzania, Congo (Brazzaville), The Netherlands, and East Timor), friendly cooperative partnership relations (Hungary, Maldives [sic], Senegal, etc.) and friendly partnership relations (Jamaica), and new type of cooperative relations (Finland) etc. There is no need to list them all here.

Non-partnership relations

When Bill Clinton was the U.S. president, there was one year in which the two heads of state characterized the Sino-American relationship as a “strategic cooperative relationship” but this fine name for the relationship was not carried on during the administrations of George W. Bush and Obama. In 2013, Xi Jinping and Obama at the Sunnylands talks arrived at a consensus to “not to confront or clash with one another, to have mutual respect, and to always search for win-win solutions”. 「不衝突不對抗、相互尊重、合作共贏」 They agreed to do their utmost to create a new kind type of Sino-American great power relations.” After that meeting, the formulation “new type of great power relations” became widely known.

In 1998, China and Japan proposed to “devote their best efforts to a friendly cooperative partnership for peace and development”. Later, after various twists and turns in Sino-Japanese relations, Japan was clearly not included in the list of China’s diplomatic “partners”. In 2008, when then Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan, the two countries in their joint statement firmly agreed to promote “strategic mutually beneficial relations”. 「戰略互惠關係」

As for North Korea, the Chinese Foreign Ministry characterizes China’s foreign relations with North Korea as “traditional friendly cooperative Sino-Korean relations”. 「中朝傳統友好合作關係」

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About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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