BEIJING - Instability and uncertainty loom large as the world enters 2012, a year in which China should play an even greater role in global affairs, said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
"The growth and demise of global forces, shifts and adjustments in the international system, as well as tensions in and interactions of global relations will unfold on deeper levels," Yang said in a statement posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry on Monday night.
This year will witness an enormous amount of changes around the world, as elections are due in the United States, Russia, France and the Republic of Korea. The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is also scheduled to be held this year.
While concluding that, for China, opportunities overwhelm challenges in 2012, Yang called for efforts to create "a better external environment" by adhering to the path of peaceful development.
These include doing "more pertinent work with countries where elections are to be held, and avoiding disruption to bilateral relations due to their domestic political factors", the statement said.
The country should deepen communication with the US through existing channels of dialogue to avoid strategic misjudgments, and in turn ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, said Ren Yuanzhe, a researcher with the department of diplomacy at China Foreign Affairs University.
Resolving outstanding issues with its neighbors, meanwhile, will be the top concern for Chinese diplomacy in 2012, Ren said.
"Maintaining stability in China's surrounding areas suits the interests of not only China and its neighbors, but also the US," he added.
But this will not be easy, because the external pressure China faces as a result of its continued rise is mounting, said Wang Junsheng, an expert on Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"China is in a strategic breakthrough period, one that will last for a fairly long time," he said.
In his statement, Yang said mechanisms to boost mutually beneficial cooperation with neighboring countries will be improved to enhance trust, dispel suspicion and stabilize the region.
To do so, Wang, the analyst, said the principles of diplomacy must be rational, pragmatic and independent.
China should bear more responsibilities in regional and global affairs and offer more transnational mechanisms to showcase its image as a responsible power, he said.
Looking back, Yang said 2011 saw "extremely profound and complicated changes" in the global arena.
These ranged from flaws in global economic governance as reflected by the intensifying global financial crisis, to regional clashes and tensions and the rising strategic influence of the Asia-Pacific, where growing input by competing forces has complicated interregional dynamics, according to Yang.
Meanwhile, Wang said improvements in relations with neighboring states were a defining highlight of Chinese diplomacy throughout the year.
"Aside from furthering the traditional friendships with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Pakistan, China's relations with Vietnam and India, with which it has territorial disputes, strengthened during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting (in Hawaii in November)," said Wang, adding that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent visit also lends support to this interpretation.
"Chinese diplomacy in 2011 firmly defended national sovereignty, security and development interests, and further boosted China's international standing and influence. This shows that in general, Chinese diplomacy is more proactive, open and confident."
Citing the evacuation of 35,860 Chinese citizens from crisis-torn Libya - the largest such effort from abroad since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949 - and a joint patrol with Laos, Thailand and Myanmar on the Mekong River in the aftermath of a tragedy there that killed 13 crew members of a Chinese vessel, Yang said China is committed to protecting the lawful rights of its citizens overseas.
"There is no other choice for us but to increase spending and ensure the rights of our citizens overseas," Wang said.