Cheng Tianquan: Citizen Participation in Foreign Affairs

The following is the second half of an article by Cheng Tianquan (程天权), professor and party secretary at Renmin University (or People’s University). The article was first published by Jiefang Daily, and then by the CCP’s website, on Tuesday.

Cheng was born in Shanghai, on March 28, 1946, according to People’s University’s website, and is a specialist in Chinese legal history. From 1986 to 1991, he was the director of Fudan University’s propaganda department. He became professor in 1995, apparently while at Fudan University, and has been Renmin University’s party secretary and administrative affairs’ (or university council) director since February 2001.


It needs to be pointed out that the building and handling of international relations isn’t only a matter for the national government, but also for the citizens. In this interlinked world, where everyone may widely disseminate news, it becomes important to talk about how citizens can be helped and be guided in their participation in international affairs, and how harmonious “people-to-people” relations can be developed in this global village. Although the government clearly guides public opinion, the so-called “will of the people” has at times kidnapped1) the government’s diplomatic policy-making. It would be promising if influential researchers and think tanks in the field of international issues would make it their task to guide citizens to look at international affairs rationally.


The appropriate road for international strategic research should also be on various levels. First of all, fundamental research, on the historical as well as the philosophical range, should be deepened.This is important work there are specialists who apparently have nothing to do with international relations, but who in fact have a lot to do with it. After all, language, expression and ideological habits may all constitute obstacles in the field of knowledge and assessment in a broader sense. Just as with obvious cultural differences between the West and China, there are also dissimilarities within the oriental cultural system, on various levels.


Secondly, the applicability of international-relations theory research, mainly generally used international-relations theory research, at the same time includes the expansion and innovation of these theories.

As a third point, concerning real-time countermeasures, there needs to be exchange between thinktanks and final appraisals. This can build rich resources and case-study material with a lot of reference value for the handling of international affairs. And finally, thinktanks should be encouraged to participate in people-to-people diplomacy2). International experience tells us that an important way to create smooth conditions for a country in the international community is to use people-to-people diplomacy to actively communicate [within the international community], by individual behavior, trade activities, cultural interaction, thinktank exhanges and other diversified means, to enrich the understanding of ones own country among a foreign public, among foreign organizations and foreign media. In this regard, the role of thinktanks is irreplaceable.




1) Cheng’s “kidnapping” remark won’t refer exclusively to the Chinese government’s “management” of public opinion after the arrest of Chinese fishermen by a Russian FSB patrol boat earlier this month. However, the issue of public anger concerning foreign affairs probably led to the  explicit mention of “policy kidnapping” by the public in Cheng’s article.
2) 民间外交 (minjian waijiao) usually stands for what may be translated as people-to-people diplomacy, while 公共外交 would amount to public diplomacy. Please see footnote 1 under that post.



» Jiang Zemin: Importance of Philosophy, Xinhua, April 28, 2002


3 Responses to “Cheng Tianquan: Citizen Participation in Foreign Affairs”

  1. All this would be far more relevant if it paid enough attention to how “people-to-people” diplomacy is actually working at the moment in practice – that is, toleration and encouragement of nationalist protests directed at the enemy-of-the-week, organisation of overseas Chinese to take part in such protests by diplomatic missions. The thing is, in the end this kind of rent-a-mob-ism only appeals to a domestic audience – most of all the leadership – and works to undo whatever may be acheived by the kind of people-to-people diplomacy discussed here.


  2. I suppose the mob is part of the glory that Chinese public or “people-to-people” diplomacy intends to proclaim throughout the world, foarp. That said, the public anger at the Chinese consulate that handled the trawler incident with Russia earlier this month probably wasn’t welcome to Beijing. Russians are simply too barbarian to care about the feelings of the Chinese people – hence no use to make the same fuss there that works so efficiently on London or on Berlin.



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