February 2021 Update:
The classification/pecking order of China’s bilateral relationships is regularly discussed online. Article authors might be anonymous. However, since the classification depends on how a a bilateral relationship is classified in official PRC media, the country classifications are likely correct.
An excellent source of current official information on the state of PRC bilateral relations is the website of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The bilateral relations page — naturally most comprehensive and current in Chinese — is at https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/gjhdq_676201/gj_676203/yz_676205/
In any case can be checked with Chinese language searches of the PRC press using say Baidu or Google. Just search for the country pairs and through in the classification types. You too can be a PRC major/minor partnership classifier perhaps with a zany pen name too! To find more articles on this topic, you might try searching on 中国与各国外交关系级别
One recent article available in English through Google Translation on the “The level of diplomatic relations between China and other countries” by the commentator “Unfortunately I am not a Sagittarius” is interesting too for the comments following the article. Some variation in the definitions from article to article may reflect different understandings or even evolution of these concepts over time. The full article is available via Google Translate
Take a look too at Peter Braga’s overview article: “China’s Partnership Diplomacy and Its Approach to Eurasia” for more context, in particular China’s efforts to mesh better economically with its Eurasian neighbors in various belt and road schemes.
The citizen commentaries are fun to read. Many Chinese follow closely and are very concerned about the future of China’s bilateral relations.
Another 2020 article “Classification of strategic partnerships and China’s global partnerships” by “Beyond Doubt” concludes with partnership type lists with some additional countries added after the 2015 article below came out. Here are the first few paragraphs. The full article is available via Google Translate
September 2022 Update:
A List from the Baidu online encyclopedia as of September 7, 2022
List from Baidu online encyclopedia article “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” online at baike.baidu.com/item/全面战略伙伴关系/9229535 as of 7Sept22
Countries with “partnerships” with China
All Weather Strategic Partnership : Pakistan
New Era Comprehensive Strategic Partnership  : Russia
Comprehensive strategic partnership: Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique  , Congo (Brazzaville)  , Sierra Leone  Senegal  Namibia  , Zimbabwe  , Guinea [9 ] , Ethiopia  , Kenya 
A global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century: the United Kingdom 
Permanent Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: Kazakhstan 
Comprehensive strategic partnership: Italy , Peru  , Malaysia, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Indonesia  , Mexico  , Mongolia  , Argentina  , Venezuela  , Brazil  , France, Algeria, Belarus, Greece, Australia  , New Zealand  , Egypt  , Saudi Arabia  , Iran, Serbia  , Poland  , Uzbekistan  , Chile [28 ] , Ecuador  , Hungary  , Tajikistan, South Africa  , Kyrgyzstan  , United Arab Emirates  , Uzbekistan, Turkey 
All-round strategic partnership: Germany 
Strategic Partnerships : South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan  , Brunei  , Bangladesh  , Republic of Cyprus 
Strategic partnership : Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Canada, Ireland, Ukraine, Angola, Qatar  , Costa Rica  , Jordan  , Sudan  , Czech Republic  , Morocco  , Uruguay [43 ] ] , Djibouti  , Bolivia  , Congo (Kinshasa)  , Bulgaria 
All-round friendly partnership: Belgium 
All-round partnership: Singapore 
Comprehensive friendly and cooperative partnership: Maldives  , Romania 
Comprehensive partnership: Croatia, Nepal, Netherlands  , Timor-Leste  , Tanzania, Liberia  , Equatorial Guinea  , Gabon  , Madagascar  , Sao Tome and Principe [ 5] 58] , Uganda 
Friendly Partnership: Jamaica
Friendly strategic partnership: Austria 
Key Partnership: Fiji
New Partnerships: Finland 
Innovative strategic partnership: Switzerland 
Comprehensive Partnership for Innovation: Israel 
Uzbekistan and Turkey, at the bottom of the list in the Baidu article (an editing error?) are also listed as having a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, so I move them into that category.
The Baidu list, unlike the list of categories in the article translated below, seems to rank the categories in order of importance. The Baidu list, like the article below, is unofficial.
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?
[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.
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」
Appendix: Bilateral Partnership Classifications from Beyond Doubt’s 2020 article. The most recent partnership listed on this 2020 article is 2017. So the article may have been copied from somewhere else or the partnership business has slowed down some.
The following are China’s global partnerships:
A new partnership for the future – Finland (2017).
Innovative and comprehensive partnership-Israel (2017).
Innovative strategic partnership — Switzerland (2016).
Facing the 21st century global comprehensive strategic partnership-UK (2015).
An all-round partnership that keeps pace with the times-Singapore (2015).
All-weather strategic partnership-Pakistan (2015).
Future-oriented comprehensive friendly cooperative partnership — Maldives (2014).
A closer development partnership – India (2014).
All-round strategic partnership-Germany (2014).
All-round friendly and cooperative partnership-Belgium (2014).
Comprehensive partnership —Latin America-Caribbean Community (2014).
Comprehensive friendly cooperative partnership – Bulgaria (2014), Romania (2004).
Reciprocal strategic partnership-Ireland (2012).
Comprehensive strategic partnership — Russia (2011).
Important cooperative partnership – Fiji (2006).
Friendly partnership – Jamaica (2005).
Comprehensive partnership-Sao Tome and Principe (2017), Ethiopia (2003), Croatia (2005), Nepal (2009), Tanzania (2013), Kenya (2013), Netherlands (2014), Timor-Leste ( 2014), Equatorial Guinea (2015).
Strategic partnership-ASEAN (2003), Nigeria (2005), Canada (2005), Angola (2010), UAE (2012), Kyrgyzstan (2013), Turkmenistan (2013), Ukraine (2011), Qatar ( 2014), Costa Rica (2015), Sudan (2015), Jordan (2015), Czech Republic (2016), Djibouti (2017).
Strategic partnership – South Korea (2008), Afghanistan (2012), Sri Lanka (2013), and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (2016).
Comprehensive strategic partnership-European Union (2003), France (2004), Italy (2004), Spain (2005), Portugal (2005), Greece (2006), Denmark (2008), South Africa (2010), Kazakhstan ( 2011), Brazil (2012), Peru (2013), Indonesia (2013), Malaysia (2013), Mexico (2013), Belarus (2013), Algeria (2014), Mongolia (2014), Egypt (2014), Argentina (2014), Venezuela (2014), Australia (2014), New Zealand (2014), Saudi Arabia (2016), Iran (2016), Poland (2016), Serbia (2016), Chile (2016), Uzbekistan (2016) , Tajikistan (2017), Hungary (2017).
Comprehensive strategic partnership-Vietnam (2008), Laos (2009), Cambodia (2010), Myanmar (2011), Thailand (2012), African Union (2015), Congo (Brazzaville) (2016), Senegal (2016) ).
To sum up, this is the editor’s introduction to the “ Classification of Strategic Partnerships, China’s Global Partnerships ”. Do you understand? Strategic cooperation mostly refers to the military and economic cooperation between the two countries, thus establishing a cooperative relationship.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) Leaders’ Joint Statement
We, the Heads of State/Government of the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, convene by video on November 15, 2020 for the Fourth RCEP Leaders’ Meeting.
We are pleased to witness the signing of the RCEP agreement against the backdrop of the unprecedented challenges posed to the world by the 2019 New Coronavirus Pneumonia (COVID-19) global pandemic. The signing of the RCEP agreement underscores our strong commitment to support economic recovery, inclusive development, increased employment, and enhanced regional supply chains, as well as our support for an open, inclusive, rules-based trade and investment arrangement. We recognize that the RCEP agreement is critical to the region’s response to the new coronavirus pneumonia pandemic and will play an important role in building regional resilience through an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery process in the aftermath of the epidemic.
We note that the RCEP agreement is an unprecedented large regional trade arrangement involving developed, developing and least developed countries in the region. The agreement covers a market of 2.2 billion people (nearly 30 percent of the world), $26.2 trillion in GDP (about 30 percent of the world) and nearly 28 percent of global trade (based on 2019 data). We believe that RCEP, as the world’s largest free trade arrangement, represents an important step toward building a framework of desirable global trade and investment rules.
We also note that the RCEP is the most ambitious FTA proposed by ASEAN, enhancing the centrality of ASEAN in the regional framework and fostering cooperation between ASEAN and its regional partners. the RCEP agreement, as a modern, comprehensive, high-level and mutually beneficial agreement, consists of 20 chapters covering areas and disciplines not previously covered by FTAs between ASEAN and RCEP non-ASEAN countries . In addition to specific provisions covering trade in goods, trade in services, and investment, RCEP also includes chapters on intellectual property rights, e-commerce, competition, SMEs, economic and technical cooperation, and government procurement. We believe that RCEP’s market access commitments for liberalization of goods, services and investment will bring tremendous business opportunities for businesses in the region.
We agree that the full realization of the opportunities and potential offered by the RCEP agreement will only be realized when the agreement enters into force. To this end, we tasked our officials to expedite our respective domestic ratification processes in order to bring the agreement into force early. The Agreement will enter into force when at least six ASEAN member countries and three non-ASEAN signatories have deposited their instruments of approval, acceptance or ratification with the Depositary of the Agreement. We also asked Ministers to make RCEP a platform for dialogue and cooperation on economic and trade issues in the region, and to report to us regularly.
We are committed to ensuring the RCEP as an open and inclusive agreement. In addition, we attach great importance to India’s role in the RCEP and reiterate that the RCEP remains open to India. India is one of the 16 founding members and all parties will welcome its accession to the RCEP agreement. As a country that has participated in the RCEP negotiations since 2012, India’s role as a regional partner is strategically important for building deeper and broader regional value chains. To this end, we welcome the Ministerial Statement on India’s Participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) confirmed by the RCEP Ministers, as attached.
Annex: Ministerial Statement on India’s Participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
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