It is often pointed out that the status of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been declining in the entire party and government system in China in recent decades. As a result, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been unable to cope with many challenges China faces today. With the progress of the Reform and Opening-Up policy since the early 1980s, pluralization and decentralization are increasingly apparent in making and implementing its foreign policy. And recently, media and public opinion and private sector interests have begun to influence Chinese foreign policy. However, the phenomena of the gradual erosion of foreign ministries’ status as well as the expansion of low politics diplomacy in foreign relations have been observed among other advanced countries.
This paper studies how the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reshaped its organization and changed its role as one of the country’s many complex party-government apparatuses in the era of globalization. Traditionally, the scope and jurisdiction of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been rather narrow as compared with foreign ministries in other countries. The departments focusing on managing international economy, foreign aid, national security, cultural exchange, and intelligence and analysis, which are common in other countries, do not seem to exist. In recruiting young diplomats, there has been strong emphasis on foreign language ability rather than basic knowledge of social sciences such as international relations or economics. Consequently, the reality of traditional Chinese diplomatic practice has leaned too much on bilateral relations.
However, the spread of globalization has brought significant structural change to the organization of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With the apparent shift from regional affairs to functional affairs, several new departments have been established to tackle new global challenges. The impact of globalization has brought the low politics diplomacy dealing with the economics and social affairs to the forefront. Today, multilateral diplomacy is actively practiced. The ministry has been recruiting human resources with more diversified professional backgrounds.
As a result, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the globalization era has evolved to become more similar to ministries of foreign affairs of other countries. However, given the rapid change of circumstances both in and outside China caused by globalization combined with the traditionally limited jurisdiction and function of China’s national diplomatic organizations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has still been unable to fully meet the global challenges that today’s China faces.