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The Democratic Republic of Congo recently became the 18th country in the world to conclude a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership with China. It is also the 12th country from Africa to have such high-level partnership with China which shows China’s rising diplomatic might beyond its neighbourhood. Comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is considered as the third highest level of relationship China has with other countries and indicates China’s interests and its closeness to these countries. Apart from Africa, other countries are from Southeast Asia that have similar partnerships with China. These defined “partnerships” may not always provide any preferential treatment to these countries, but still indicates China’s strategic priorities and its perceptions about different countries. These partnerships are often reiterated during speeches and joint statements published at the bilateral meetings to differentiate China’s relations with those countries.

Two of the closest partners of China, namely Russia and Pakistan, for which China prefers terms such as ‘coordination for new era’ and ‘all-weather’ partnership, respectively. These are the terms which are not usually seen in China’s foreign policy discourse and only reserved to define close allies like Russia and Pakistan. China’s “no limits” relations with these countries shows its efforts for maintaining friendly neighbourhood despite frequent global upheavals. Especially in the case of Russia, the inclusion of the term ‘new era’ in 2019 to define their relations represents Xi Jinping’s hallmark in strengthening China-Russia relations.

Apart from these two highest-level partnerships, China also maintains other levels of partnerships based on development of bilateral relations. Its 41 Comprehensive Strategic Partners include countries from all continents, with more focus on South America, Central Asia and South Pacific islands. These regions are vital for China’s strategic interests and are gradually becoming important in China’s foreign policy calculations. It also includes countries such as Australia, France and Saudi Arabia with which China has been trying to strengthen relations in the last few years. Amongst these countries, China recently agreed upon Permanent Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Kazakhstan and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for a new era with Kyrgyzstan as these are key countries for China’s border security as well as for its long-term strategic objectives in Central Asia. Strategic And Cooperative Partnership is also considered as a high-level engagement by China, which it shares with 8 countries including India. India and China agreed upon this partnership in 2005 and since then, it was regularly used in joint statements until a few years ago. Apart from India, other South Asian countries like Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka also share strategic and cooperative partnership with China.

China also shares Strategic Partnership with 23 countries such as Canada, Djibouti, Nigeria, Sudan, Ukraine and so on, with the newest country being Palestine. China’s relations with these countries have not evolved beyond specific strategic interests due to which China prefers not to use the term ‘comprehensive’ to define these relations. On the other hand, countries like Madagascar, Croatia, Uganda share Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership and lack strategic utility for China as of now.

Besides these partnerships, China has also developed some unique partnerships with countries based on specific bilateral interests. For instance, China has signed the Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century with the United Kingdom in 2015 which allows both countries to go beyond bilateral interests and make efforts for “world peace and prosperity.” Similarly, China has developed Friendly Cooperative Partnership with Armenia and Japan which emphasizes limitations of these relations due to divergent strategic interests. Furthermore, despite identifying China as a ‘systemic rival’, Germany maintains a special relationship titled as All-round Strategic Partnership with China. Contrary to these recognized partnerships, China’s relations with countries like the USA, Colombia and a few countries in Africa have not been defined yet as “partnership” due to several factors. Lastly, there are currently 14 countries left in the world (after Honduras’s recognition to mainland China) which do not have official diplomatic relations with China. These countries, excluding Bhutan, instead, maintain official relations with Taiwan. Most of these countries are from South America and Caribbean region while rest of them lie in the South Pacific Ocean.


Omkar Bhole is a Senior Research Associate at Organization for Research on China and Asia (ORCA). He is a Chinese language student and completed Masters in China Studies from Somaiya University, Mumbai. He has completed the HSK 4 level of Chinese language proficiency and works as a Chinese language instructor. His research interests are China’s foreign policy in Asia, China’s economic transformation and China’s domestic politics. He has previously done internships at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) and What China Reads. He has presented papers at the 1st All India Conference of East Asian Studies and 16th All India Conference on China Studies. He can be reached @bhole_omkar on Twitter or him email at

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