Zhao Xuechun & Luo Fang

China borders  21 countries, including 14 land and seven maritime neighbors, making it one of the countries with the most significant number of neighbors globally. Compared with other countries such as the United States, China’s surrounding regional and international environment is exceptionally complicated, including giant neighbors like Russia with a population of 144 million and tiny neighbors like Bhutan with only 780,000 people.

At the same time, China is also a country with a vast territory, with a land area of 9.6 million square kilometers and a sea area of nearly 3 million square kilometers. China’s land area is more extensive than 44 European countries and regions combined.

In other words, in China’s 34 provincial-level administrative regions, almost each has the same territorial area, economic scale, and population as a medium European country. Such a considerable scale also makes neighboring countries have extremely complicated approaches towards China.

While neighboring countries hope that a rich, powerful, and friendly China will promote the development of their own country, they are also concerned about China’s growth. They are worried an unfriendly and less developed China will affect their development. On the other hand, China has the same concern, and it is also worried about poor and backward neighboring countries that will affect its development.

In recent years, with the rapid development of China’s economy, this concern of some neighboring countries has become increasingly prominent. The Western media has led them to assume that China will take control of raw materials and sell industrial products, making neighboring countries poorer and poorer and eventually dependent on China. Such complexities surround China’s neighborhood.

Unlike China’s complex international environment, the United States has only two neighboring countries: Canada and Mexico. A wealthy, stable, and friendly Canada is the staunchest partner of the United States.

However, a poor, unstable, and unfriendly Mexico has become the wariest object of the United States regional policies in its immediate neighborhood. The US believes that Mexico’s continuous smuggling of drugs and illegal immigrants to the United States is the root cause of American social instability.

It is not difficult to find that the United States prefers neighboring countries like Canada over Mexico. The previous Trump administration built thousands of kilometers long wall between the United States and Mexico to keep the troubles on the other side of the wall and not let them affect the USA.

History shows that all countries want to have prosperous, stable, and friendly neighbors, not the other way around. Like the United States, China also hopes to have prosperous, stable, and friendly neighboring countries that can benefit and help each other in development.

Since 1978, China has received a significant investment from developed economies such as the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. It is entirely due to the interaction between China and these developed countries and continuous learning of these countries’ advanced technology and management experience, leading to China’s economic growth and making it the second-largest economy.

Therefore, China’s goals for participation in surrounding governance include eliminating ecological, environmental, economic, and trade challenges. They also involve ending cross-border crimes and human rights protection, promoting neighboring countries’ overall economic and social development, and fundamentally eliminating the unstable factors that affect the comprehensive deepening of cooperation between China and its neighbors.

It is essential to point out that among the 21 neighboring countries of China, some countries are still facing challenges to development. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the “the Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) for the first time, hoping to share China’s development experience with other countries in the world, especially the neighboring countries.

However, the western anti-China media has led people to believe that the BRI aims to colonize other countries and that China’s participation in international governance is also a so-called “self-serving” behavior.

However, these views are untenable and do not align with China’s national interests. From the economic point of view, just like any rational person makes the most profitable decision, any rational country would also make the most profitable decision. Having prosperous, stable, and friendly neighbors will inevitably bring China mutual benefit and promote its development.

Having poor, unstable, and unfriendly neighbors will make China pay a considerable cost to eliminate these varying factors and ultimately affect China’s national interests. China’s decision-makers have chosen innovative minds to take the leadership roles.

Such assumptions lead to the question, how can they decide between “harming others and not benefiting themselves” and making neighboring countries poorer, unstable, and less friendly?

Finally, China’s participation in international governance aims at eliminating the challenges that China and neighboring countries face in different areas of development. China has no ability or intention to colonize any land. Making its neighbors more prosperous and more stable and maintaining friendly bilateral relations is in its interest.

Chinese people have experienced poverty and backwardness in the past and the need to have a prosperous society.

Therefore, China’s development needs a peaceful and stable surrounding environment. China participates in surrounding international governance in the hope of creating a rich, durable, and friendly surrounding environment.

Its development can not be separated from that of the neighboring countries. It is also willing to share its development experience with neighboring countries and make this region a world peace and prosperity model.

 **Zhao Xuechun is a scholar at Yunnan University, the People’s Republic of China, and  Luo Fang is a scholar at Kunming Frontier Information Research Center, the People’s Republic of China.

***The views expressed in this article are writers own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the magazine.