China’s global mission: Xi Jinping sets new tone for international ambitions

Xi Jinping's assertive statements on China's leading role in the world in his political work report to the Party Congress represented a substantial change in tone and a clear break with his predecessors’ approach of keeping a low profile in international affairs.

By stating China's global ambitions, Xi basically described the new reality, as China has been working on expanding its global footprint on the security arena and the diplomatic arena for years now. Most of the priorities and goals in his report have been on Beijing’s agenda since at least 2013.

The section of the report on national defense and the military focuses on the need to modernize the army, make technology the “core combat capability” and improve the combat capabilities of the armed forces. This should be achieved with the leadership of the party, top-level design and civil-military integration. All of these priorities have been part of Xi’s efforts to modernize the People’s Liberation Army since 2013.


Similarly, the section on foreign policy is centered on the concept of building “a community with a shared future for mankind,” a concept that was introduced in a UN Security Council resolution on Afghanistan in March.

Xi called on China to work with other countries to face global challenges, including inequality and security threats such as terrorism, climate change and threats to cybersecurity. He also presented China as a champion of free trade and globalization. Xi also mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative as China’s main vehicle for international cooperation.

MERICS analysis:

“China’s Emergence as a Global Security Actor: Strategies for Europe.” MERICS Paper on China No 4, by Mikko Huotari, Jan Gaspers, Thomas Eder, Helena Legarda and Sabine Mokry