Foreign relations continue to rapidly climb the political agenda in China. A stable external environment is key to the growth of the Chinese economy and domestic stability. Intensified tensions between a rising China and its neighbors as well as the United States raise the stakes in Beijing’s expression of its views on the global stage through the use of economic, political and military means. To that end, recent, unconventional elevations of senior career diplomats were major steps in streamlining China’s foreign policymaking, cementing a global leadership role for Beijing. These moves represent a massive reinforcement of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) strengthened, centralized role in shaping and implementing foreign policy.
During the 19th Party Congress last October, the elevation of state councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top-ranking career diplomat, to the twenty-five-member Politburo of the CPC Central Committee, the Party’s elite ruling body, raised eyebrows. This leap placed Yang higher in ranking than the vice chairpersons of the Central Military Commission and of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing’s complicated hierarchy. Yang currently serves as secretary-general and chief of general office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, CPC’s supra-ministerial body governing and coordinating foreign affairs led by its General Secretary and President Xi Jinping.