Serving the Country and Contributing to the World: China’s Diplomacy in a Time of Unprecedented Global Changes and a Once-in-a-Century Pandemic
– Address at the Symposium on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations in 2020
H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Beijing, 11 December 2020
Experts and Friends,
Good morning! It gives me great pleasure to join you again at the turn of the year to take stock of the international developments and China’s foreign relations. Let me first take this opportunity to thank you for your support to China’s diplomatic work. As always, I look forward to your insights and suggestions.
The year 2020 is a watershed in human history. The sudden onslaught of COVID-19 has triggered a global crisis, putting a halt to cross-border travels and shifting global growth into reverse gear. Anachronistic practices of unilateralism and protectionism have been on the increase, driven by resurgent power politics and Cold-War mentality. Human development is confronted with unprecedented risks and challenges in an increasingly fluid and changing world. At the same time, the evolution of the international order is speeding up. A new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation is gathering momentum. Humankind as a whole has gained a more profound appreciation of the need for health and safety, peace and development, win-win cooperation and for embracing a shared future. The world will never go back to where it was; humanity is pondering on and exploring the future. All countries must make the consequential choice between solidarity and division, between openness and isolation, and between cooperation and confrontation.
The year 2020 is a milestone in China’s national development. Facing the devastating impact of COVID-19 and an increasingly complex international environment, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, the entire nation has rallied together behind a common purpose. China was among the first to contain the virus, to carry out international cooperation against COVID-19, to reopen the economy safely, and to restore economic growth. The country is on course to fulfill the historic mission of ending extreme poverty within the set time frame, secure decisive achievements in finishing the building of a moderately prosperous society, and realize the first centenary goal. The successful Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee set out a great vision for China’s development in the coming five years and beyond. It marked the beginning of a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country, provided strong impetus to overcome challenges on the way forward, and charted the course toward the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The year 2020 is a groundbreaking one for China’s external relations. With a global vision and strong sense of responsibility as leader of a major country, President Xi Jinping has engaged in intensive head of state diplomacy. He held 84 meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders and heads of international organizations, and attended 22 important diplomatic events, including “cloud diplomacy” through the innovative virtual platform. This has helped build global consensus on COVID-19 and point the way forward for China’s foreign policy. Guided by the President’s diplomatic engagements and focusing on joint response to COVID-19, we in the diplomatic service have forged ahead to meet the challenges head on. We have taken proactive steps to stay ahead of the changing circumstances, in an effort to serve the country and contribute to the world. We have fought the novel coronavirus and the “political virus” at the same time and made new contributions to safeguarding national interests and global stability. Our efforts and achievements are reflected in the following eight areas:
First, we have carried out robust international cooperation against COVID-19.
Over the past year, we in the diplomatic service have actively contributed to the fight against COVID-19 both in China and globally, promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind with concrete actions as a major, responsible country.
Domestically, we have fully engaged in COVID-19 containment. In the early days of the epidemic, we helped secure lifesaving medical supplies globally to address the pressing need back home. With infections rising globally, we worked with fellow Chinese home and abroad to build a strong line of defense at our borders and preserve the hard-won gains in containing COVID-19 at home. As the economy gradually reopened, we took innovative approaches to establish “fast tracks” and “green lanes” for the flows of people and goods, which has helped to keep industrial and supply chains stable and open and bolster domestic economic recovery and social development.
Internationally, we have actively promoted anti-COVID-19 cooperation. Since the very beginning, China has worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international community in an open, transparent, science-based and responsible manner. Being the first to report cases to the world, China has since then publicized key information including the genome sequencing at the first opportunity, firmly supported the leading role of WHO, and provided funding to WHO and the UN COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. We have organized over 100 expert video meetings to share experience with other countries without reservation. Through opening an online Knowledge Center for China’s Experiences in Response to COVID-19 which is accessible to all countries, we have published eight versions of diagnosis and therapeutic solutions and seven versions of prevention and control protocols. We have lunched the largest global humanitarian campaign since the founding of New China. We have provided assistance to over 150 countries and nine international organizations and sent 36 medical teams to 34 countries in need. Leveraging our strength as the largest manufacturer of medical supplies, we have provided countries around the world with over 200 billion masks, 2 billion protective suits and 800 million testing kits. We have also actively advanced collaboration on the R&D of drugs and vaccines, promoted joint prevention and control with other countries and called for the enhancement of global public health governance, with a view to jointly building a global community of health for all.
Second, we have further expanded opening-up and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Over the past year, the global economy has faced the deepest recession since World War II precipitated by the pandemic. As the world’s second largest economy, China has deepened reform and opening-up across the board and actively pursued mutually beneficial cooperation to provide impetus and confidence for the global recovery.
China has accelerated reform and opening-up endeavors across the board. The Foreign Investment Law and its implementation regulations came into effect. The items on the national negative list for foreign investment have been further cut to 33, and down to 30 for the pilot free trade zones. A master plan has been drawn up for the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port. Measures for further reform and opening-up in Shenzhen and Pudong have been rolled out. And more pilot programs have been conducted for creative promotion of trade in services. With these steps, China has opened its door even wider to the world. We have set out to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. Our purpose is to vigorously expand domestic demand and form deeper and broader connections between domestic and international circulations. This will provide greater market opportunities for the world and broader space for international cooperation. This will also open up new dimensions in China’s win-win strategy of opening-up and speed up the process toward a new, higher-standard open economy in China.
Despite the challenges, China’s mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries has continued to move forward. In the first three quarters this year, China’s economy resumed positive growth, with an uptick in total trade in goods and notable increase in paid-in foreign investment. China is expected to become the first major economy to register positive growth this year. This is a hard-won achievement that will provide an important underpinning for global recovery. The Belt and Road cooperation has shown strong resilience and vitality under COVID-19. In the first eight months this year, China’s trade with Belt and Road partners reached RMB5.86 trillion yuan, and Chinese companies made 30 percent more non-financial direct investment in Belt and Road partner countries year-on-year. As of early November, the China-Europe Railway Express had completed more than 10,000 services and transported at least 50 percent more freight than last year. The Express has been compared to a steel camel fleet that vigorously supported joint COVID responses by countries along its routes. The High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation yielded productive outcomes. Participants agreed to work toward a Health Silk Road, adding another building block toward high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. We have successfully held the third China International Import Expo attended by over 3,600 companies from more than 150 countries and regions. By holding the Expo, China has shared with the world the benefits and opportunities generated by its economic recovery and opening-up, and shown itself to be a market for the world, shared by all and accessible to all.
Third, we have provided strong support for global stability.
Over the past year, China has made active efforts to develop its relations with other major countries and foster a framework of major-country relations featuring overall stability and well-balanced development.
President Xi Jinping has had four phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin this year, providing guidance for the continued growth of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era. The two countries provided each other with anti-epidemic supplies and medical assistance, and jointly promoted international cooperation against COVID-19. Practical cooperation between the two sides has continued to deepen. Steady progress was made in several major projects. The Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation was officially launched. The two sides have worked in concert to defend the victorious outcomes of World War II and uphold international fairness and justice and firmly supported each other against foreign interference and stigmatization, acting as important players in safeguarding global strategic stability.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between China and the EU. Chinese and EU leaders have agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation, deepen strategic mutual trust, firmly uphold multilateralism, and jointly meet global challenges. In the first three quarters, China became EU’s largest trading partner for the first time. The two sides signed the agreement on geographical indications, a demonstration of their shared commitment to intellectual property protection. The two sides decided to establish two new high-level dialogue mechanisms, one on environment and climate and the other on digital cooperation, and build partnerships for green and digital cooperation. Closer partnership between the two sides in these areas will add new dimensions to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. Negotiations toward a China-EU investment treaty has entered the final phase, with both sides working to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year.
This year has witnessed the most challenging situation facing China-US relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties over four decades ago. As the world needed solidarity and cooperation the most, the United States headed down the path of unilateralism, which has become the most disruptive factor in the international system. Out of their self-interests and political bias, some people in the United States have sought to smear and suppress China, impose unjustified sanctions, and even stoke ideological confrontation in an attempt to plunge the world into a new Cold War. These unpopular moves should stop now. Otherwise, they will damage US credibility, jeopardize world peace and stability, and will ultimately be rejected by people of the world and by history. The China-US relationship is showing a complexity that goes far beyond the bilateral scope; it has in fact become a matter of going for multilateralism or unilateralism, progress or retrogression, and justice or hegemony. What China defends is not only its own legitimate rights and interests, but also the common and long-term interests of all countries. What China safeguards is not only the political foundation underpinning China-US interactions, but also the basic norms governing international relations applicable to all countries. What China advocates is not only its own legitimate propositions, but also fairness and justice of the world.
Fourth, we have made solid progress in building a community with a shared future with neighbors.
Over the past year, following the neighborhood diplomacy guideline that advocates amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, China has proactively conducted cooperation with neighboring countries in COVID response and many other areas. Such cooperation has contributed to broader converging interests and closer people-to-people ties, making solid strides in building a community with a shared future.
After the new Japanese government was formed, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reached a new, important common understanding on steadily improving and growing China-Japan relations. The two countries will support each other in hosting the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, and earnestly build a China-Japan relationship that meets the call of the new era. China values peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation with its important neighbor India. The two countries have kept strategic communication. China has resolutely and appropriately handled the boundary disputes, in an effort to steer China-India relations in the right direction. China and the ROK have worked effectively together in various areas, including COVID response and economic reopening, taking the strategic cooperative partnership to a new height. President Xi Jinping paid a visit to Myanmar on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of China-Myanmar diplomatic relations. The two sides reached important consensus on building a China-Myanmar community with a shared future, heralding a new chapter in the millennial “pauk-phaw” ties.
China has facilitated substantial progress in Asia-Pacific cooperation. At the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts to build an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future, charting the direction for cooperation in the region. Premier Li Keqiang attended the leaders’ meetings for East Asian cooperation, and witnessed the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which launched the process of setting up the world’s most promising FTA covering the largest population and biggest economic aggregate. China also announced that it will favorably consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), giving a strong boost to the confidence of countries concerned in building the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. China and ASEAN have made the historic breakthrough of becoming each other’s largest trading partners. The two sides have proposed the establishment of the China-ASEAN Liaison Mechanism for Public Health Emergencies and a medical supplies reserve endeavoring to make China-ASEAN relations a fine example of the most successful and dynamic regional cooperation. China, Japan and the ROK have strengthened cooperation in revitalizing regional economic activities and steadily advanced the trilateral free trade negotiations, elevating regional economic cooperation to a higher level. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has deepened cooperation in containing COVID-19, safeguarding regional security and promoting economic growth. China and the five Central Asian countries have launched the “Central Asia Plus China” (C5+1) foreign ministers’ meetings as a new framework for strengthening China-Central Asia relations.
China has been actively exploring approaches with Chinese features to resolving hotspot issues. While firmly upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an important accomplishment of multilateral diplomacy, we have joined the international community in opposing US moves inconsistent with Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear issue. China has put forward a constructive proposal of building a new platform for multilateral dialogue for the Gulf region. China has continued to advocate the phased and synchronized approach to achieve the two goals of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of a peace mechanism, with the ultimate aim of realizing enduring peace and security in the peninsula. China has facilitated consensus-building on Afghanistan’s national reconciliation and among regional players on the Afghan issue, and supported advancing the intra-Afghan talks. China has mediated between Bangladesh and Myanmar in addressing their disagreements, and assisted in maintaining overall stability in northern Myanmar.