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Innovative ideas and new diplomatic thinking take center stage

Zhang Yunbi
Updated: Mar 11,2017 6:46 AM     China Daily

China will host two major international gatherings this year, and there are expectations new initiatives and measures will be unveiled to spur global growth and development amid the rise of protectionism.

The importance of the two events in this year’s diplomatic calendar was highlighted to China Daily by Chinese diplomats and experts attending the fifth session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee as members.

The first of the two events is the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that will be held in Beijing in May.

On March 8, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking with the media during the fifth session of the 12th National People’s Congress, said that the heads of state and government from over 20 economies and the leaders of over 50 international organizations will attend the forum.

He said the forum aims to examine key areas for cooperation and identify a number of major projects for connectivity in infrastructure, trade, investment and finance, as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Also it is hoped medium- to long-term initiatives will be announced at the forum, and it can explore ways to establish an effective cooperation mechanism and build a closer and result-oriented network of partnerships, Wang added.

Jia Qingguo, professor and dean at Peking University’s School of International Studies, said the upcoming forum can benefit both China and the countries along the routes by facilitating the transfer of capital, technology, talent and management experience from the developed eastern coastal region of China to those countries along the routes that need them.

“This would help sustain the development of the Chinese economy and support the development and prosperity of neighboring countries,” Jia said.

The other domestic diplomatic event this year, the ninth BRICS Meeting, will be held in the coastal city Xiamen in East China’s Fujian province in September.

The annual meeting brings together the leaders of the five BRICS countries-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The five nations, with over 40 percent of the world’s population, have a combined GDP of about one-fifth of the world’s total.

The five countries are busy preparing for the meeting, and a range of ministerial level meetings are being held beforehand to prepare for the summit, said Li Jinzhang, China’s ambassador to Brazil.

Brazil, which is suffering from great economic difficulties, has great expectations of strengthened cooperation among the BRICS countries, Li said.

“New ideas will be proposed and important consensus will be reached on key issues,” Li said.

“The voices of developing countries will be heard by the world” at the meeting in September in Xiamen, Li added.

Major high-end international gatherings held by China in recent years include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Week in Beijing in 2014 and the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 2016.

On these occasions, President Xi Jinping introduced new proposals and concepts aimed at improving global governance, and realizing sustainable growth and common development.

Open and inclusive

The two events are being held while the global economy remains sluggish and there is rising trade protectionism, diplomats and experts said, and many countries are looking to China for leadership as well as practical cooperation.

“While some countries are shifting their focus to domestic development, it is China that is ushering in new dynamics for international cooperation,” said Zhang Yunling, a senior researcher on Asia-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhang said that while other countries are looking to protectionism, the multilateral mechanisms promoted by China, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, “all embrace openness”.

“China is an advocate of openness when the trends of anti-globalization and protectionism are prevailing,” Zhang said.

Shi Mingde, China’s ambassador to Germany, said, “The world is in desperate need of trans-regional cooperation that has a bigger spread, a greater standard and is of a higher level. That’s why China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.”

The initiative is a key public good for boosting international cooperation and global governance offered by China to the global community, said Shi, who pointed out that many countries are facing demanding situations regarding their structural reform and development amid the sluggish global economy.

“The initiative will forge a close and strong link between the dynamic economies in Asia and the developed economies in Europe,” Shi added.

Win-win cooperation

China contributed to sustaining economic globalization by successfully hosting the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, and the two events it is hosting this year will not only be good for China, but also for the rest of the world as well, said Zhai Jun, China’s ambassador to France.

Zhai said that by promoting further integration between China and the world, the Belt and Road forum and the BRICS summit forum can provide strong impetus for China’s future development, which will in turn benefit the world.

“In the coming five years, China will import commodities worth $8 trillion in total and attract foreign investment of $600 billion,” Zhai said.

“Also, Chinese investment overseas is expected to be $750 billion over the next five years and there will be 700 million trips abroad by Chinese citizens,” Zhai said.

Zhang Yunling, the CASS researcher, also noted that the Chinese economy itself is undergoing a critical phase in which the country is restructuring its economy, and pursuing further reform and opening-up that “benefits both itself and other nations”.

“China could gear up transformation of its economy through improved cooperation with other countries,” Zhang said.

Aside from the two events to be held in China, other gatherings-including the APEC meetings in Vietnam and G20 Summit in Germany-will also provide opportunities for countries to cooperate on global governance.

Germany this year takes over the rotating chairmanship from China and will host this year’s G20 Summit and related lower-level meetings.

“We expect to maintain close contact and cooperation with the German side to offer new ideas for boosting global governance, introduce new opportunities, and send signals of cooperation, openness, peace and win-win results,” said Shi Mingde, the Chinese ambassador to Germany.

New role

Cui Liru, a senior researcher and former president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, noted that China has been proactive in hosting international meetings in recent years, and its home-field diplomacy “is a significant platform for presenting China’s new role and its new capabilities”.

“The two major events this year will yield greater outcomes than the past meetings, because the country has been consistently learning, accumulating experiences and improving, and its foresight is being reinforced,” Cui said.

The concepts proposed by China in recent years have shown it to be a quick learner in aligning with accepted international norms and codes, and highlighted its growing maturity, Cui added.

Wu Enyuan, a senior researcher on Russian studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that treating other countries on an equal footing is one of the reasons China has been successful in winning support for its proposals and initiatives from an increasing number of countries.

“The concepts first proposed by President Xi, including the Belt and Road Initiative and a Community of Shared Destiny for All Mankind, are popular in many developing countries partly because they welcome China treating them in a way which would have been unthinkable during the colonial era,” Wu said.

While political alignment and security alliances prevail on the world stage, the Chinese proposals “do not categorize or judge countries by political systems or ideologies”, Wu noted.

Wu cited the wide range of organizations and institutions proposed by China in recent years, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund.

“Such Chinese proposals are based on reality, they are not coming from nowhere, and they meet the actual needs of countries. That’s why few countries have said ‘No’ to the concepts and most have signed up for them,” Wu added.

But Cui, the scholar with China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, cautioned that China should strike a balance between being a developing country, although the largest, and the greater responsibilities in global affairs it shoulders.

“China is taking a new role. It has entered the new role in a short period of time, it will take time for it to adapt to the new situation.”

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