Author: Charles Clover and Sherry Fei Ju

Posted on: The Financial Times | March 6th, 2018


China’s government has doubled the amount it spends on diplomacy during the five years of President Xi Jinping’s rule, with another hefty increase announced this week aimed at projecting its soft power throughout the world.

The government’s budget, presented on Monday, forecast that Rmb60bn ($9.5bn) would be spent on foreign affairs in 2018 — a 15 per cent increase on last year and up from Rmb30bn in 2011, the year before Mr Xi assumed power.

The doubling of expenditures on foreign affairs under Mr Xi has tracked a revolution in Chinese external policy, with Beijing becoming increasingly assertive throughout the world.

“For the past five years we have pursued distinctively Chinese major country diplomacy on all fronts,” Li Keqiang, the premier, told deputies to the annual National People’s Congress on Monday.

Chinese officials trumpeted a number of diplomatic successes at this week’s NPC, focusing on the Belt and Road Initiative that is aimed at projecting Chinese influence across Eurasia, as well as leadership on multilateral areas such as climate change.

China’s growth rate in foreign affairs spending is roughly double that of defence spending, which is set to increase 8.1 per cent to Rmb1.1tn according to this week’s budget.

Last year China’s leaders appeared to part decisively with three decades of cautious foreign policy dubbed by former paramount leader  Deng Xiaoping as “hide your strength and bide your time”.

In October, President Xi told deputies to the 19th Communist party Congress in Beijing: “It is time for us to take centre stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind.” China, he said, was “standing tall and firm in the east”.

He stressed that Beijing would no longer shy away from world leadership, and would even aim to promote its economic model around the world, harking back to an earlier era in China’s 20th-century history, under Mao Zedong, when it actively promoted foreign socialist movements. “China is now adopting the ‘broad diplomacy’ that includes everything from politics, economy, diplomacy to culture, science and military, and foreign affairs. It’s not limited to the ministry of foreign affairs,” said Wang Chong, senior researcher at Charhar Institute in Beijing, adding that “the increase in expenditure is understandable”.

“In the past, China’s diplomatic staff was obviously not big enough. This increase would make up for their inadequate input previously,” he said.

The foreign ministry declined a request for information about increases in staff and embassies abroad.

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