China’s Global Times has an informative interview with Chen Jian, China’s former ambassador to Japan and former under-secretary-general of the United Nations, The interview took place at the World Peace Forum 2013 in late June and was published on July 14, 2013.
Mr. Chen Jian “oversees the Department of Outward Investment and International Cooperation.”
Here’s what he had to say about China’s diplomatic image:
Q: There are two opposing views of China's diplomatic image. The international community says China's diplomacy is becoming aggressive, but Chinese people always criticize China's diplomatic moves as being weak and disadvantaged. How do you see such contradictory comments?
Chen: This is truly the most difficult part of modern diplomacy, and this problem exists in almost every country.
It is mainly caused by two reasons. On the one hand, the development of an information-based community has given ordinary people access to massive amounts of information. On the other, the deepening of globalization has closely interconnected the national interests of most countries.
Few diplomatic policies can meet with approval from both the inside and outside, no matter what country you are in. Easy access to information has tremendously increased public involvement in international affairs, fueling the rise of nationalism. A tough stand to protect their own national interests is usually what they expect from their governments. But if all countries resort to such an aggressive policy, then the job of the foreign affairs ministry could be taken over by the national defense ministry.
To some extent, those expectations for "toughness" are misleading ordinary people into a wrong view of diplomacy. By its very nature, diplomacy is about "compromise." As long as the "compromise" can be made within a cooperative and reciprocal framework and thus the national interests and other countries' interests can be balanced, diplomacy will help address international issues in a peaceful way.