The term “core interests,” often written as the longer “core interests and major concerns” [核心利益与 重大关切] , is used by Party officials as a shorthand for the set of issues so central to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE that the official position on them is not subject to negotiation or compromise. The term entered the Party lexicon in 2003 in a discussion of Taiwanese independence, but subsequent party commentaries have identified these interests as falling into three broad categories: sovereignty, security, and development.
Each category is paired with a series of corresponding threats. Threats to China’s sovereignty interests originally referred to “splittism” in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, but in the Xi Jinping era the term has expanded to include opposition to Chinese claims in the South China Sea and challenges to state control over Chinese cyberspace. China’s security interests are challenged both by the type of threat that can be handled with traditional military deterrence and less traditional threats to China's "political security"—that is, threats to the stability of China's socialist system and legitimacy of the CPC leadership's over it. Defending development interests means safeguarding China’s economic model from outside interference. Originally conceived in terms of securing trade routes and access to key natural resources, the Sino-American trade war of the late 2010s has prompted Party leaders to reframe threats to China’s development in terms of technology controls and tariffs. Diplomats of the Xi era are instructed to take the protection of these interests as the “starting point and end point” [出发点和落脚点] of Chinese diplomacy (Yang Jiechi, “Use Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy for Guidance, Deeply Advance Foreign Work in the New Era,” Seeking Truth, 2 August 2018).
Michael Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On “Core Interests,”” China Leadership Monitor 34, Nov 2010; Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); eng Jinghan, Xiao Yuefan, and Shaun Breslin, “Securing China’s Core Interests: The State of the Debate in China,” International Affairs 91, no. 2 (2015): 245–66.; Elizabeth Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018);