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Country keeps busy with full diplomatic agenda

《中国日报》 2022-12-29

Numerous overseas leaders welcomed to Beijing

China faced a packed diplomatic agenda in 2022 that ranged from hosting VIPs arriving in Beijing for the Winter Olympics in February to a number of visits by leaders in the second half of the year.

The wide-ranging, informative agenda and busy schedule for visits to the nation by foreign leaders was best illustrated by that made by European Council President Charles Michel this month.

I have come to Beijing to engage in a candid, in-depth and face-to-face dialogue with China's leadership. Today's meeting with President Xi Jinping took some three hours.… It's our first in-person meeting since I took office, due to COVID, Michel said after his meeting with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec 1.

Vice-Foreign Minister Deng Li said the duration of the leaders' discussions far exceeded the estimated time.

Xi's meetings with visiting leaders covered some of the top global agenda items this year, including the Ukraine crisis, collaboration on economic recovery, and the response to COVID-19.

Fruitful results achieved from visits to Beijing included 13 cooperative documents signed with Vietnam, agreement with Pakistan to upgrade a railway and a motorway project, and the decision by China and Tanzania to raise their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Leading scholars said that behind these frequent visits to China is the common expectation among nations to strive for prosperity and progress amid unprecedented complexity in the international situation and aggravated deficits in global peace, development, security and governance.

Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan Universityin Shanghai, said, By hosting leaders from abroad, China sends clear signals — it is resuming major offline diplomatic events after the pandemic emerged three years ago, and China's fundamental policy of opening up has not changed.

China has made clear that it earnestly seeks collaboration on development with other nations — be they those from the East or the West, and whether they are developing countries or developed nations — and it is ready to play a bigger role in world affairs, Wu said.

All these agreements made through home-ground diplomacy show that the world closely tracks China's development, these countries pay great attention to their ties with China, and they are looking to give a fresh boost to two-way relations through visits to Beijing, he added.

Many observers said China's home-ground diplomacy accelerated alongside the convening of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing in October.

The long list of visiting foreign leaders included those from China's neighbors, such as Vietnam, Laos and Mongolia, as well as from distant countries such as Germany, Tanzania and Cuba.

Xu Yicong, a researcher at the China Foundation for International Studies and a former Chinese ambassador to Cuba, said, Behind the rush of China visits is the recognition by other nations of China's role as a responsible major country.

He said the world order is evolving in an extremely confusing and disturbing way, as the pandemic continues, armed conflict lingers between Russia and Ukraine, and there are no hopeful signs for a turnaround in the global economic downturn.

With many leaders flying to Beijing to discuss solutions to global issues with Xi, China's credibility is on the rise, and behind all this is the nation's lasting efforts in fulfilling its commitments, policies and ideas with action, Xu said.

Still, China needs to keep a cool head, continue making its own contribution, avoid arrogance, remain humble, and better serve the world with self-confidence, wisdom, vision and substantial actions.

Great hospitality

The Beijing Winter Olympics and the Paralympic Winter Games in February were the major events this year at which China hosted foreign guests.

When leaders arrived at the Great Hall of the People on Feb 5 for a welcoming banquet held by President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, many of them were amazed by amusement stalls set up outside the venue.

At the stalls, guests were presented with traditional performing arts souvenirs and delicate handicrafts with traditional Chinese features.

With help from staff members at the stalls, Prince Albert II of Monaco made a colored dough toy shaped like the Beijing Winter Olympics mascot Bing Dwen Dwen.

Can I keep this? he asked. Can I ask you a big favor? Can I do a second one? Because I have twins.

During his talk with Xi the following day, the president mentioned the prince's love for the mascot and his twins.

You can select a pair of your beloved Bing Dwen Dwen and take them back to your children with our best wishes, Xi said.

Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said that by hosting the two Olympic events, China welcomed official dignitaries from nearly 70 countries and international organizations, including 31 heads of state and government, key royal family members and leading officials from international organizations.

The welcoming banquet was held during Spring Festival, which could also be termed a reunion of the great Olympic family and a great reunion of the international community, Ma said.

Su Xiaohui, associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, or CIIS, said the Winter Olympics marked the first triumph for China's diplomacy this year, as Beijing successfully offset attempts by some Western politicians to politicize and demonize the global event.

While some politicians tried to force countries to take sides over whether to attend this event or not, many friends and leaders came to offer support. Some leaders came to China even though their countries did not send a delegation of athletes to the Games, she said.

China's hospitality was also reflected in Beijing's growing friendship with its neighbors throughout the year.

In July, Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first foreign leader to visit China after the Winter Olympics.

During his trip to Beijing, China voiced staunch support for Indonesia hosting the G20 Summit in Bali, and the two nations signed cooperative documents covering areas such as vaccines, green development, cybersecurity and marine cooperation.

About a week after the 20th National Congress of the CPC ended, Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, became the first of several foreign leaders to visit China.

At the Great Hall of the People on Oct 31, Xi held a grand ceremony for Trong, at which he awarded him the Friendship Medal of the People's Republic of China.

Trong said the award fully reflected the feeling of friendship from the CPC, the Chinese government and Chinese people, and is also a great inspiration for Vietnam's long-term commitment to the Vietnam-China friendship.

Su, the CIIS scholar, said, One of China's diplomatic successes over the past year is that many neighboring countries hold an objective, reasonable view toward China's growth, and they do not perceive its rise as a threat or something overblown or exaggerated by certain countries.

In particular, China's collaboration with its neighbors over infrastructure and connectivity are introducing tangible, substantial opportunities for their own growth, and the progress made on infrastructure projects will facilitate positive momentum for common development between China and these neighbors, she added.

Common ground

Ties between China and European countries have played a key role in Beijing's interactions with developing nations.

Media reports and observers have paid great attention to the diplomatic progress achieved in Beijing this year for China-Europe relations, given the compulsion of some European politicians to seek decoupling with China economically and politically.

Leaders from Germany and the European Union visited Beijing in November and December respectively, while Xi also held discussions with the leaders of four European countries in Bali, analysts said.

Meeting with Xi on Nov 4 in Beijing, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country wants to maintain communication and coordination with China to better safeguard regional and global peace and security, and China is an important trading partner for Germany and for Europe as a whole.

Feng Zhongping, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, said, China's relations with Europe are showing promising signs, and the two sides are demonstrating a trend of working together toward reasonability, pragmatism and stability (for their ties).

He said such progress is due to Europe being increasingly anxious about the Russia-Ukraine conflict and expecting China to play a greater role in promoting peace.

Another factor is that Europe is now deeply worried about the global production chain and supply chain. It seeks to reinforce collaboration with China in economy and trade, and wants to further stabilize its production and supply chains, Feng said.

As the United States has profited greatly from the conflict and the ongoing energy crisis, Europe has realized it cannot blindly follow the US' lead in containing China, or lose control of issues related to China, he added.

Exchanges between political parties were another highlight of China's diplomacy at home this year, as Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, met with and entertained heads of the ruling party in several countries.

Earlier this month, Xi met with Dmitry Medvedev, chairman of the United Russia party, at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.

Medvedev said cooperation between the United Russia party and the CPC is a vital part of Russia-China relations, and in recent years the two parties maintained high-level development of their relations and carried out extensive exchanges and cooperation.

After the 20th National Congress of the CPC, Xi also met with the leaders of socialist countries such as Vietnam, Laos and Cuba.

Pan Jin'e, a veteran Vietnamese studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, There are shared strategic interests among the socialist countries, and their reinforced collaboration is helpful for increasing solidarity and mutual trust.

Looking ahead

Observers said different countries are now looking forward to embarking on further head-of-state diplomacy with China, and using candid, direct communication and interactions to learn Beijing's views on the thorny issues facing the world.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday, Next year, head-of-state diplomacy will reach a new climax, and many highlights are expected in home-ground diplomacy.

Wang said one of these highlights is the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, which next year marks its 10th anniversary.

During state visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September and November 2013, Xi announced China's proposal to jointly build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — twin flagship components of the BRI.

Addressing the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, last month, Xi said, China will consider holding the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation next year to provide fresh impetus for the development and prosperity of Asia-Pacific and the world.

Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Studies and director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, said the BRI is one of the major international public goods China offers to developing countries.

Many nations have responded positively to Chinese proposals such as the BRI, the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative, Wang added.

It is part of China's sense of mission to advance globalization and participate in global governance as it looks to help resolve issues facing the whole of mankind, Wang said.

The Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative are also important public goods and cooperative platforms China offers to the global community and are part of China's solution to answering the 'question of the times', Wang added.

Feng, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said these Chinese initiatives are being highlighted at a time when developing countries are playing a fundamental role in China's diplomacy worldwide.

The initiatives are expected to consider and take care of the interests of the vast number of developing countries, he added.