With friendly handshakes, expanded consensus and fruitful results, Beijing’s intensive diplomatic drive in this spring has sent to the world community an unmistakable and uplifting message of dialogue, peace and cooperation, which is vitally important for a world beset by soaring uncertainties and risks.
From late March to early April, leaders from Spain, Malaysia, Singapore, France and the European Union (EU) travelled to Beijing to firm up their partnership with China.
Malaysia and Singapore are China’s neighboring countries and important members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Of the Southeast Asian countries, Singapore has been most involved in China’s reform and opening-up and its interests are most closely integrated with China.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was among the first heads of foreign governments to visit China after the conclusion of China’s annual «two sessions» in March.
During Lee’s China trip which took him to Guangzhou, Boao and Beijing, the two sides agreed to elevate bilateral ties to an all-round high-quality future-oriented partnership.
China and Malaysia enjoy a long-standing friendship. For years, the two sides have worked closely to advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and made joint efforts to build a China-Malaysia community with a shared future.
Beyond Asia, China also attaches great importance to its relations with Europe, as they are two major forces, big markets, and great civilizations in the world.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen were welcomed by Xi in Beijing, soon after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s visit in late March. The visits show that China and Europe are fully ready to maintain and step up dialogues and ties.
Macron’s visit to Beijing came at a time when China’s place on the world stage continues to grow, France Info radio reported.
During the friendly and in-depth talks between Xi and Macron, the two sides agreed that China and France, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and major countries with a tradition of independence, should keep to the overall direction of a comprehensive strategic partnership that is stable, mutually beneficial, enterprising and dynamic, inject new vitality into China-Europe relations, and make new contributions to international cooperation against global challenges.
Many countries have been faced with challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, so they «come to China to benefit from its expertise and experience, and cooperate with it to face these challenges,» said Hadeer Said, professor of international relations at the Cairo-based Institute of Arab Research and Studies.
STIMULATING WIN-WIN COOPERATION
Beijing’s busy diplomatic agenda unfolds at a time when the global economy is struggling with a gloomy outlook with persistent inflation and slow growth projections. The World Bank has warned of a «lost decade» for the world economy, unless policymakers adopt ambitious initiatives.
From the just-concluded Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023 to the third China International Consumer Products Expo, China’s pursuit of high-quality development and high-standard opening-up is not only building up confidence, but has also exerted a pull on global investors amid a flagging global economic recovery and headwinds of protectionism.
China has set its economic growth target at around 5 percent in 2023.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at the recently concluded China Development Forum 2023 that analysis shows that a 1-percentage-point increase in China’s GDP growth leads to a 0.3-percentage-point increase in growth in other Asian economies.
«The economic crisis is still afflicting many countries of the world» due to a decline in global growth rates and the slowdown of international trade, mentioned Said. «These challenges have also affected the investment climate in many countries of the world, while China was one of the few countries in the world that maintained positive growth rates.»
Regional economic integration in Asia has been strengthened over the years, with trade dependence between regional economies standing at a relatively high level and the ASEAN and China remaining as hubs for trade and manufacturing.
China’s unswerving pursuit of high-standard opening up and Chinese modernization will bring new opportunities for the development of other countries.
As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, European businesses have been eyeing more opportunities from broader practical cooperation with China.
In 2022, China-EU trade and economic cooperation remained resilient and dynamic, and the high-level dialogues set the course for China-EU trade and economic cooperation. The total bilateral trade in goods between China and the EU was valued at 821.24 billion U.S. dollars, up 5.6 percent year-on-year.
During his China visit, Macron was accompanied by a strong business delegation, including European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, luxury giant LVMH, and France’s largest electricity company EDF, in an effort to bolster commercial ties.
Macron said at a trilateral meeting with Xi and von der Leyen that the EU and China should work with each other to stay away from the trap of economic decoupling and severing supply chains, carry out mutually-beneficial cooperation on an equal footing, tackle pressing global challenges such as climate change, and keep deepening the EU-China comprehensive strategic partnership.
On Thursday, 36 Chinese and French enterprises inked 18 agreements to expand cooperation in areas including manufacturing, green development, new energy and innovation at a meeting of Chinese and French entrepreneurs.
Airbus and its Chinese partners signed an agreement to expand its A320 family final assembly capacity with a second line at its site in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. The new assembly line will contribute to Airbus’ goal of producing 75 A320 family aircraft per month by 2026 through its global production network.
«We have full confidence in China’s future development. We welcome France to continue to actively participate in the China Import and Export Fair, the China International Import Expo, and the China International Fair for Trade in Services to further expand the Chinese market,» Xi told Macron.
One important reason for political leaders to make intensive visits to Beijing is that «China remains an important enabler and anchor of global economic stability,» said Cavince Adhere, a Kenya-based international relations scholar.
China has created a harmonious development environment for the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large, and promoted globalization and global trade, which are exactly what the world needs nowadays, said Ang Teck Sin, a political commentator in Singapore.
SAFEGUARDING WORLD PEACE
As a latest example of China’s global role as a responsible major country, it successfully facilitated talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume ties after years of rivalry — a boon to the security and stability of the Middle East.
On Thursday, in parallel to the Xi-Macron meeting, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beijing, and witnessed the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The handshakes between the two Middle Eastern countries in Beijing are a victory for dialogue and peace, as well as good news for the world, showing China’s constructive role in promoting peace, experts have said.
Regarding the ongoing Ukraine crisis, China decides its position and policy based on the merits of the matter concerned, upholds objectivity and fairness, and actively promotes peace talks.
It has put forward a 12-point proposal to end the conflict in Ukraine by addressing both the symptoms and the root causes of the crisis, and reiterated the necessity to end the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
China will never handle the Ukraine issue out of selfish interests, but always stands for fairness and justice. All relevant parties should shoulder their responsibilities and make joint efforts to create conditions for a political settlement, Xi said at an informal meeting with Macron in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in south China.
Both Sanchez and Macron expressed their appreciation of China’s constructive role in promoting political settlement of the protracted crisis.
The Singaporean prime minister said Singapore believes that all countries should respect each other, coexist in peace, pursue mutually beneficial cooperation, avoid conflicts and jointly respond to risks and challenges, in correspondence with the idea of a new type of international relations championed by China.
And during their talks with Xi, the visiting leaders voiced their opposition to the Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation.
«China’s idea of being a builder of world peace, contributor to global development, defender of the international order and provider of public goods are consistent with the ideals of the UN Charter,» former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
«I welcome the words and share the approach of President Xi,» said Helmut Scholz, a German member of the European Parliament.
«Those leaders, who have the potential to do so, should now work intensively together to bring lasting peace to the people of the Eurasian continent, and by that to contribute to stabilizing the functioning of a fair and just multilateral order of our world,» Scholz said.