Last month, the Communist Party of China (CPC) held its 20th National Congress, an event of great significance in the sense that it charts the course for the country’s domestic and foreign policies for the next five years and beyond. With new tasks and objectives set, China is now embarking on a new journey. Where is China headed? What does it mean to the world? These are questions that matter to countries across the globe.
In the past week, China’s top leadership provided the answers. From 14 to 19 November, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Indonesia and Thailand back-to-back for the G20 summit and the ensuing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting, and met with over 20 world leaders face-to-face, calling for concerted efforts to promote global development and strengthen global governance. In a world mired in uncertainties and instability, the messages from China are reassuring.
China is committed to promoting global development through its own development.
In his conversations with world leaders, President Xi articulated China’s central task for years to come, which is to achieve national rejuvenation through a Chinese path to modernization. It will be the modernization of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development.
With over 1.4 billion people, China will provide a super-large market. To date, the size of middle-income group in China has already exceeded 400 million and it will continue to grow, considering the country’s emphasis on delivering prosperity for all. The enormous buying power of the Chinese people, together with the government’s commitment to opening the market wider, will give a strong boost to economic development elsewhere.
The positive spillovers will not be limited to the economic field. China’s focus on ecological conservation and environmental protection is already paying off, driving the low-carbon transition at home and green development across the world. With culture and education being one of the pillars in China’s modernization drive, international exchanges in these areas will grow and nurture a climate of mutual understanding and friendship among nations.
All this will be premised on a peaceful environment. China has all along made it clear that it will not repeat the beaten path of traditional powers in advancing its modernization. Instead of seeking hegemony and exploiting latecomers, China is embracing a vision of community with a shared future among all countries.
China is committed to strengthening global governance through multilateral cooperation.
The G20 leaders and APEC economies gathered at a time of fragility and momentous changes. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet. The geopolitical situation remains tense. Global recovery is being hampered by the crippling food, energy and financial crises. Some have opted for decoupling and severing supply chains, with the talks of “friend-shoring” or “reshoring”.
China’s answer to the challenges of the times is an unequivocal stand with peace, development and win-win cooperation, and for upholding true multilateralism and open regionalism to revitalize global governance. President Xi called on world leaders to replace division with unity, confrontation with cooperation, and exclusion with inclusiveness. Solidarity and common development are the only right choice to make.
China’s proposals were incorporated into both the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration and the APEC Leaders’ Declaration, pooling consensus and building confidence for international solidarity and cooperation. In addition, the announcement of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2023 is much welcomed, as it will inject fresh impetus to global development.
China is committed to a healthy and stable relationship with the United States.
The China-U.S. relationship is one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world. With global challenges and crises compounding one another, it is high time that the relationship be brought back on track. The bilateral summit between President Xi and President Biden in Bali, the first face-to-face meeting between the heads of state of the two countries over the past three years, offers a golden opportunity to shape the future of this relationship, and has naturally become a focus of international attention.
The strategic role of head-of-state diplomacy in developing bilateral relations is irreplaceable. The two presidents aimed to set the course and establish the parameters for the relationship, and spent more than three hours laying out their strategic intentions and key concerns and discussing issues of great significance to the bilateral ties and the global community. They agreed to prevent the relationship from derailing and getting out of control, to find the right way for two major countries to get along, to work out the principles or strategic framework for the relationship together, and to make sure that their consensus on managing and stabilizing the relationship is truly implemented.
The special timing and significance of this meeting cannot be overstated. It is a strong action taken at the head-of-state level to stabilize relations and prevent conflict. The common understandings reached thereof, if delivered, will kick start a process of “building bridges”, recalibrate the relationship and finally bring it back on track. This is undoubtedly great news for the international community, and will have a profound impact on the international landscape.
China is committed to strengthening friendship with its neighbors.
Choosing Indonesia and Thailand as the destinations of the first presidential visit after the Party Congress speaks volumes about how much China values its relations with neighboring countries.
Indonesia is a major developing country, a key emerging market and the world’s most populous Muslim country. It is also where President Xi first proposed the initiative on building a 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Earlier in the year, the two countries had agreed to work toward a bilateral community with a shared future. During this visit, the two sides built on that consensus and signed a new action plan on their comprehensive strategic partnership for the next five years.
China values the geographical proximity, cultural affinity and people-to-people bond with Thailand. Marking the tenth anniversary of their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership this year, China and Thailand launched the process to build a community with a shared future for enhanced stability, prosperity and sustainability.
These fruitful results reveal the depth of friendship between China and its neighboring nations. They are also evidence that China’s efforts to promote a community with a shared future for mankind are turning from ideal into concrete policy and action.
China is committed to working together with partners around the world.
Fostering partnerships, not alliance, has been a key objective for China’s diplomacy. The plurality of China’s bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting suggests that it is no lip service. President Xi found time to converse with friends both old and new, and exchanged views with leaders of both the developing world and the developed Western nations.
With the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and other neighboring countries, China would continue to deepen their friendship and cooperation. It seeks to increase understanding and trust with France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, to name just a few. It also commits to strengthen ties with the United Nations, and to work together on operationalizing the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI).
With regard to the Ukraine crisis, China voiced its unequivocal support for peace. As President Xi stressed, there is no winners from conflict and war and no simple solution to complex issues, and confrontation between major countries must be avoided. China always makes objective and fair judgment based on the merit of the matter, and works to bring parties together for peace talks.
The productive leader-level talks demonstrate that partnership is always possible through dialogue based on mutual respect and equality, even though views and positions may differ. More and more countries have come to realize that China’s development means the growth of the force for peace and progress, and that China is a friend and partner they can trust and work with.
As China’s first presidential trip overseas after the CPC’s 20th National Congress, President Xi’s visit provides a crucial indication for the direction of China’s diplomacy on the new journey. From Bali to Bangkok, China has shown confidence, responsibility and consistency in its foreign policy. The world can rest assured that China on its new journey will continue to be an opportunity for peace, development and progress.