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Busier Diplomacy Ahead

By Source:Xinhua 2016-03-10

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gestures at a press conference on the sidelines of the fourth session of China's 12th National People's Congress in Beijing, capital of China, March 8, 2016. Wang talked about China's foreign policy on international and regional issues. [Photo: Xinhua/Chen Junqing]

What a busy man!

That's my impression of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s press conference Tuesday morning on the sideline of China's annual legislative session. 

Ten foreign journalists and eight Chinese reporters took turn in two hours to bombard him with questions - many critical, some strongly challenging. The very last or 19th question from Chinese netizens seems to speak for all - busy diplomacy for what - or in the original wording - diplomacy impacts on the lives of ordinary people.

In general, Ministry Wang said China's busy diplomacy has been "worthwhile and fruitful" in the past years and has benefited the people's livelihood. Referring to an example, he said the Yiwu-Teheran railway started operation four days after President Xi Jinping's visit to Iran in January, serving as a cost-effective channel of transportation for over 70,000 businesses in Yiwu (a city in East China) and creating more opportunities and better profits for them.

Imagine the same question was raised by journalists from a different country -- what’s loaded on the train to and for and what does that mean to countries along the rail route?

2015 saw Chinese leaders and diplomats touring around the world and hosting their foreign counterparts on bilateral and multilateral channels, shaking hands, conducting negotiations and overseeing deals signed. 2015 also saw 120-million Chinese tourists travel abroad, spending an estimated total of 250 billion dollars. As outbound trips increase year by year, and as 30-thousand Chinese companies with millions of Chinese workers and many times more local employees operate in other countries, China’s overseas interests grow rapidly, pressing for more active diplomacy and consular protection of their legal rights and rights of their partners.

As for the future, the minister said China's diplomacy will get busier and Chinese people can expect more benefits. Same applies to other countries engaging with China – meaning: busy and constructive diplomacy is needed to jointly steer out of trouble waters at a critical time of security threats and economic difficulties.

The 19 questions Wang Yi answered cover almost all major challenges China now faces, indicating even busier diplomacy down the road.  

Complicated? Well there are clear signs of what China’s active diplomacy mean when we refer back to a speech by Minister Wang Yi two weeks ago at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

In the speech entitled “The Developing China and China’s Diplomacy”, the minister said “China’s diplomacy will, in a more proactive way, continue to create new opportunities, safeguard its national and people’s interests, assume its due responsibilities for international affairs, and develop friendly cooperation with other nations in the world.”

Proactive?  

The world has seen China step up diplomatic efforts in addressing security issues such as the South Sudan peace process, the Iran nuclear issue, Afghanistan and Syria, and is expected to be more active in tackling the Korean Peninsula Nuclear Issue and tensions in South China Sea.  

China’s naval fleet continues with its anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, and helped evacuate thousands of Chinese and foreign nationals out of warn-ravaged Yemen and sent emergency water supplies to Maldives. 

Chinese medical staff fought tough but triumphant anti-Ebola battles in West African nations. Many doctors and nurses are still in African countries on rotating missions. 

Economically, at a time of downturn pressure and sluggish global trade, China’s engaged with many countries in building two massive economic corridors linking Asia with Europe and Africa. That initiative, in the name of “One Belt, One Road”, aims at building modern day land and sea Silk Roads to cater for shared needs of modern infrastructure. With inter-connectivity, one can anticipate joint-efforts to solve development bottlenecks and combine development ambitions of participating countries working to create opportunities. In line with that, trade and investment, job-generation will be promoted, hence capacity cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. 

Same with the newly-established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Bank and several other new financial institutions – all leading to busy businesses and busy diplomacy.  

And there are many more examples. In short, China’s busy diplomacy means more engagement, closer cooperation and greater constructive efforts to jointly tackle problems, to create and share development chances and to share the benefits of cooperation.

Yes active diplomacy. That’s a major task of the Chinese government set for this year. As Premier Li Keqiang puts it in his government report, China needs to “carry out a new round of high-quality opening up and work to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation.”  

Measures outlined in the report are as follows -- 

To secure solid progress in pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, 

Achieve greater industrial-capacity cooperation with other countries, 

Develop innovative ways to promote foreign trade, 

Make better use of overseas investment, and 

Accelerate implementation of the free trade zone strategy.

Meaning: more talks, more deals, more projects. For that end, there must be pro-active diplomacy of engagement and cooperation for mutual benefits. And has to be constructive in solving trouble, creating opportunities and achieving win-win results, instead of diplomacy of zero-sum games, for we are in the boat, faced with same tidal waves.

2015 saw China busy at diplomatic events. With diplomacy assigned with five big tasks, 2016 will see the country even busier.

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