China Foreign Relations Law

China Foreign Relations Law

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A Milestone in China’s Diplomatic History

China’s newly enacted Foreign Relations Law, which took effect on July 1, 2023, is a watershed moment in the nation’s diplomatic history. This comprehensive legal framework, consisting of 45 articles across six chapters, codifies China’s foreign policy principles and practices, reflecting its evolving role and ambitions on the global stage.

The Centrality of the Chinese Communist Party

At its core, the Foreign Relations Law emphasizes the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in all foreign policy matters, ensuring a unified and consistent approach to international engagement. Based on the Constitution, the law’s formulation aims to develop foreign relations, preserve national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and promote building a community with a shared future for mankind.

China’s Vision of Global Governance

As articulated in the law, China’s global governance vision centers on the concepts of “joint discussion, joint contribution, and shared benefits”. This inclusive approach underscores China’s commitment to multilateralism and its desire to shape a more equitable and balanced international order.

The Foreign Relations Law also reaffirms China’s adherence to the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law. It stipulates that China shall conduct foreign relations on the basis of sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs, in compliance with the fundamental principles of international law and the basic norms of international relations.

The Role of the State Council

Under the new law, the State Council assumes a central role in managing foreign affairs, concluding treaties and agreements with foreign countries, and exercising functions and powers related to foreign relations. This centralization of authority aims to ensure a more streamlined and effective decision-making process in the realm of foreign policy.

New Diplomatic Concepts

Notably, the Foreign Relations Law introduces new diplomatic concepts, such as the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, which reflect China’s growing aspirations to shape the global agenda. These initiatives showcase China’s readiness to take on greater responsibility in addressing pressing global challenges, from poverty alleviation to conflict resolution.

Ambiguity and Concerns

While the law seeks to safeguard China’s interests by prohibiting activities in foreign intercourse that harm state interests, it does not introduce new specific legal liabilities for such activities. This ambiguity leaves room for interpretation and potential concerns among the international community about the law’s implications for foreign entities engaging with China.

Balancing Cooperation and Competition

As China continues to navigate an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape, the Foreign Relations Law is a balancing act between asserting the nation’s “struggle” in international relations and projecting an image of a responsible great power. The law’s implementation will undoubtedly shape China’s diplomatic trajectory, as it seeks to carve out a unique path combining cooperation and competition elements.

International Scrutiny

The international community will closely watch how China wields this new legal tool in its foreign policy arsenal. Will it foster greater transparency and predictability in China’s international engagements, or will it be used to justify actions perceived as controversial by other nations? Only time will tell.

Shaping the Global Order

As the world enters a new era of great power competition, China’s Foreign Relations Law is a testament to its determination to safeguard its interests and shape the global order in line with its vision. The law’s impact will be felt in China’s bilateral relationships and multilateral forums, where China’s growing clout and assertiveness are already palpable.

Implications for Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan

The enactment of the Foreign Relations Law also raises questions about its implications for Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, which are considered integral parts of China under the “One China” principle. The law’s emphasis on national sovereignty and territorial integrity may complicate the delicate relationships between these regions and the mainland.

Impact on Foreign Businesses and Investments

Moreover, the potential impact of the law on foreign businesses and investments in China cannot be overlooked. While the law does not explicitly target foreign entities, its broad language on safeguarding national interests and countering foreign sanctions may create uncertainties for companies operating in China or seeking to enter the Chinese market.


In conclusion, the Foreign Relations Law represents a significant milestone in China’s diplomatic evolution. It codifies the nation’s foreign policy principles, reflects its global ambitions, and sets the stage for a more proactive and assertive China on the world stage. As the international community grapples with the implications of this new legal framework, one thing is certain: China’s foreign relations will continue to be a defining factor in shaping the 21st-century global order.