Home OPINIONS China’s inspired foreign relations breakthroughs in 2023

China’s inspired foreign relations breakthroughs in 2023

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The year 2023 witnessed major and profound evolution in international relations, as well as solid progress in Chinese modernisation. It was also a year of progress and harvest for China’s diplomacy.

During the year, China made new contributions to maintaining world peace and promoting common development. Early this month, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi addressed a Symposium on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations in Beijing.

China’s head-of-state diplomacy has been immensely successful, achieving new milestones in major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. In 2023, President Xi Jinping was personally involved in the planning and execution of major diplomatic actions. He chaired two home-ground events, attended three multilateral summits, made four important overseas visits and held more than 100 meetings and phone calls.

Over the past year, big strides were made in building a community with a shared future. 2023 marked the 10th anniversary of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind put forth by Xi. This is a decade of hard work and progress: Building a community with a shared future for mankind has developed from a conceptual proposition to a scientific system, from a Chinese initiative to an international consensus, and from a promising vision to substantive actions. It has been included in resolutions of the UN General Assembly for seven consecutive years.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held, taking Belt and Road cooperation to a new stage of high-quality development. 2023 marked the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) put forth by President Xi Jinping. Ten years on, Belt and Road cooperation has expanded from physical connectivity to institutional connectivity and people-to-people bonds. It has created the largest platform for international cooperation with the broadest coverage in the world. For participating countries, BRI sets them on a road to cooperation, a road to opportunity and a road to prosperity.

Last October, the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was held in Beijing. It was the most important diplomatic event hosted by China in 2023. In his keynote speech at the Forum, Xi Jinping gave a summary of the experience drawn from BRI’s success over the past decade, reaffirmed China’s commitment with the announcement of eight major steps, declared a new stage of high-quality development for Belt and Road cooperation, and called on all countries to jointly pursue global modernisation.

Over 10,000 delegates representing 151 countries and 41 international organisations came to the BRF with the hope for friendship, cooperation and development, and returned with 458 important outcomes and US$ 97.2 billion worth of cooperation documents. Belt and Road cooperation will surely provide enduring impetus for world economic growth and common development across the globe.

The BRICS mechanism achieved a historic expansion, adding new strength to unity and cooperation in the developing world. In the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, BRICS countries have made dedicated efforts to promote global growth and improve global governance. After a year of preparation and consultation, leaders of the five BRICS countries made a political decision on expansion at the Johannesburg Summit in 2023, and officially welcomed new members to the BRICS family.

The expansion marks a milestone in the development of the BRICS mechanism, and ushers in a new era of strength through unity for the Global South. The expanded “greater BRICS” will surely play a stronger role in shaping a more just and equitable global governance system, and increasing the representation and voice of the Global South in international affairs.

Fifth, a successful China-Central Asia Summit was held, creating a new platform for good-neighbourliness and friendly cooperation in the region. China and the five Central Asian countries, connected by mountains and rivers, have always been friendly neighbours. China hopes to see, more than anyone, a stable, prosperous, harmonious and interconnected Central Asia. At a key moment in the evolving international landscape, Xi and the heads of state of the five Central Asian countries gathered in the historical city of Xi’an, the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, for the inaugural China-Central Asia Summit. This was an event that carries great historical significance and practical relevance.

Sixth, China facilitated the historic reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, setting a new example of political settlement of hotspot issues. Xi had in-depth communication with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran, persuading the two countries to let go of past grievances and meet each other half way. With strong support from China, the trilateral Beijing Agreement was reached, and Saudi Arabia and Iran announced the restoration of their diplomatic ties, setting off a “wave of reconciliation” across the Middle East.

We are glad to see that Syria has rejoined the family of the League of Arab States; Qatar, Syria, Iran and Türkiye have restored diplomatic ties or normalised their relations respectively with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, with Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, with Sudan and with Egypt; and the people of regional countries are taking the future of the Middle East back into their own hands.

The Saudi Arabia-Iran reconciliation was a major victory for dialogue and peace, and a useful practice of the Chinese way of settling hotspot issues. China has always been an active, goodwill and reliable mediator.

We do not believe in force being omnipotent, nor do we seek selfish geopolitical gains or impose our will on others. We have always supported the people of the Middle East in independently exploring their development paths, and supported the countries there in resolving differences through dialogue and consultation.

I want to emphasize that China will continue to be a promoter of security and stability, a cooperation partner for development and prosperity, and a supporter for strength through unity in the Middle East, and will make greater contribution to reconciliation, peace and harmony in the region.

These six highlights encapsulate the unforgettable moments of China’s diplomacy in the past year and constitute the new chapters of China pursuing win-win cooperation with the rest of the world. They demonstrate distinct Chinese characteristics, style, and ethos, and speak to China’s enhanced international influence, stronger capacity to steer new endeavors, and greater moral appeal in the new era.

Over the past year, when faced with major issues concerning the future of humanity and the direction of world development, China has all along stood firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress in its diplomacy, and made decisions that can stand the test of practice and time.

First, we firmly choose cooperation over confrontation. Relations among major countries bear on the stability of the world. The Chinese side believes that major countries must have commensurate vision and shoulder due responsibilities. It is to this end that we are always ready to do more, and to strive for more positive results, to unequivocally oppose major-power competition and confrontation, and to unswervingly promote sound interactions with other major countries.

China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership entered its 20th year. Last year, President Xi Jinping held in-depth exchanges on multiple occasions with leaders of European countries, such as France and Germany, and EU institutions. Fruitful results were achieved in high-level dialogues in strategic, economic and trade, green and digital areas.

How China and the United States interact with each other affects the future of humanity and our planet. At the beginning of last year when this relationship went through serious difficulties, China stated its solemn position, urging the U.S. to change its wrong perception of China and reinstate a reasonable and pragmatic China policy. After painstaking efforts, the two sides managed to rebuild communication and dialogue and stabilized bilateral relations from further deterioration.


Stephen Ndegwa
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