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IFANS FOCUS China’s Security & Foreign Policy for the Current Year Seen through “Two Sessions” 2023 표나리 아시아태평양연구부 조교수 발행일 2023-05-18 조회수 12040
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China’s annual “Two Sessions,” known as the “Lianghui” is a political event comprised of the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Thousands of delegates from across China gather to review the accomplishments of the previous year, deliver policy announcements, and confirm the list of proposed candidates for senior government appointments. This year’s Two Sessions lasted for 10 days; the CPPCC meeting began on March 4 and ended on March 11, and the NPC held its opening meeting on March 5 and concluded the session on March 13. 

The 2023 Two Sessions, the first political gathering to be held since Xi Jinping secured his third term as China’s president, cemented the CPC senior officials’ positions within the government and concluded organizational overhaul, which all marked the final formalization of Xi Jinping’s precedent-busting third term as China’s leader. While the Two Sessions have traditionally been arranged to set forth the country’s economic and political direction for the upcoming year, the Chinese leadership in a rare move highlighted an increasingly volatile and uncertain external environment surrounding China at the 20th Party Congress held in 2022. Given the Party’s bleak assessments of China’s external environment, it is important to reflect on the outcomes of this year’s gathering and take a look at how they might affect  and shape China’s foreign policy and national security strategies in the coming years.
The Chinese leadership expressed growing concern about the harsh external environment facing the country in the key documents released during this year’s sessions. Public comments made by senior Chinese officials and major changes to personnel and state institutions also reflect the growing concern shared by Chinese leaders. While the 20th Party Congress report never mentioned the United States or the West, the 2023 Two Sessions marked a notable shift in tone, as the Chinese leadership publicly criticized the U.S. and its role in the current cross-strait relationship in a number of documents and public comments. But at the same time, the Chinese leadership proposed that the U.S. and China foster a healthy and stable relationship, a clear reflection of Beijing’s desire to overcome the growing pressure from the U.S. This is also in line with the message China communicated when President Biden and President Xi met on the sidelines of the G20 summit. The 2023 Sessions were notable in that the Chinese leadership struck a different tone than “Two Sessions” 2022 and the 20th Party Congress at which the  leadership led by Xi emphasized confrontation rather than cooperation. 

With China shifting its tone on relations with the U.S., it remains to be seen whether Beijing will continue to pursue an assertive diplomatic stance like the “wolf-warrior” diplomacy despite the growing need for cooperation with other countries in the field of science and technology. Since the 2021 Two Session, China has made significant efforts to foster high-tech industries, the semiconductor industry and so called D.N.A. (data, network, and artificial intelligence) sectors. It should be noted that government appointments and organization reshuffle announced at this year’s Two Sessions reflect the government’s growing interest in these industries. With China increasingly aware of the importance of cooperating with technological powerhouses including the U.S., it remains to be seen if China will reach out to other countries to set the stage for broader cooperation in the tech sector. 

Beijing’s announcement, which came immediately after this year’s “Two Sessions,” to broker a landmark agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations, and President Xi Jinping’s proposal for the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) deserve attention. This is because Beijing’s stance on these issues will likely affect its foreign policies toward the Middle East, Central Asia, ASEAN, and also likely be linked up with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

From Korea’s perspective, how cross-strait relations will unfold in the coming years deserves attention. Formulating and implementing China’s Taiwan policy is not the State Council’s major task. However, based on the recent attempts made by Wang Huning (王滬寧), who was appointed as the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in charge of public appearances and speaking engagements disseminated throughout the country and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang (秦剛)’s recent remarks, it is forecast that China will likely make assertive efforts to achieve the Cross-Strait unification. Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou made an official visit to China from March 27 to April 7 and met with First Vice Prime Minister Ding Xuexiang (丁薛祥). In contrast, President Tsai Ing-wen met with Speaker Kevin McCarthy of the U.S. House of Representatives on the sideline of her trip to Latin America. Amid an anticipated backlash from Beijing, how Washington and Beijing will address cross-strait relations and concerns over China’s military provocations and repeated conflicts between Taiwan and China will affect the results of Taiwan’s presidential election scheduled for January 2024 require close monitoring.  
While there was no direct mention of the ROK-China relations, issues on the Korean peninsula, and ROK-Japan-China trilateral cooperation at the 2023 “Two Sessions,” China reaffirmed its tough stance in handling working-level diplomatic affairs. Beijing has condemned Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy for deliberately forging a closed and exclusive bloc with its allies to create an Asian version of NATO in the region, which seemingly aims to send warning messages to U.S. allies including Korea. 

Amid the weakening of economic cooperation between China and Korea, which has been the key linchpin and driver of their relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties, efforts to explore detailed ways to facilitate cooperation have faltered although the two sides seem to concur on the need in principle. In fact, the ROK-China relations are fraught with multiple challenges including mutual public hostility which has been sharply rising since the THAAD missile defense system dispute. However, it is anticipated that quarantine cooperation between the two countries, which has increased the exchanges of human and material resources to some extent, will likely rekindle discussions on how to tackle the relevant developments. In particular, China will likely propose boosting bilateral cooperation on advanced industries including semiconductor and DNA technologies. Therefore, it is advised that the Korean government should calibrate how to promote and advance Korea’s national security and national interests with prudence as Beijing will likely attempt to seize the upper hand in overall technology security issue areas such as the cross-border data flow control. 

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#China #TwoSessions #XiJinping #StateCouncil #CPPCC
IFANS FOCUS 2023-05E(표나리).pdf
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