China Leadership Monitor

The Rise and Descent of "Peaceful Rise"

Saturday, October 30, 2004

A controversial formulation about China's emerging global role and responsibilities appears to have been set aside, in part as a result of leadership disagreements. The idea of China's "peaceful rise" (heping jueqi) as a responsible and benign global power was introduced into China's foreign policy discourse by Party General Secretary Hu Jintao associate Zheng Bijian in November 2003. It caught the interest of many Chinese foreign affairs specialists, becoming the subject of intense and surprisingly open debate. Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao both used the formulation in speeches in December 2003, suggesting that the idea had become an authoritative component of Chinese foreign policy statements. But Jiang Zemin and some members of the Politburo Standing Committee are rumored to have raised objections, and the leadership is said to have decided in April 2004 to drop the formulation in public statements. The concept itself has not been anathematized, however, and it remains the subject of academic debate in China. Still, it has lost much of its policy salience and some of its intellectual luster, a casualty of China's more open scholarly environment, the omnipresent Taiwan issue, and leadership jealousies.