Global cooperation on public health crises, advancing the reform of
global governance and preserving multilateralism are likely to top
China's diplomatic agenda this year, according to senior diplomats,
scholars and political advisers.
By doing so, the building of the community of a shared future for
mankind will gain greater impetus and, in return, could help the world
grasp more opportunities and minimize the economic and social impacts
amid unprecedented downturns, they added.
The comments came as the world's second-largest economy takes the
lead in the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, seeks to
resume trade and logistics to bolster economic recovery and champions
the authority of leading international organizations to preserve equity
and justice worldwide.
Over the past year, diplomats like Zhang Qiyue, China's ambassador to
Greece, have seen the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt social life and deal a
heavy blow to economic development, causing serious losses globally.
Now, meetings with leaders and officials are high on Zhang's agenda
to discuss ways to synergize needs to bolster the joint fight against
the virus and chart new ways of revitalizing two-way exchanges in areas
such as investment, trade and education.
Like many of her colleagues, Zhang, a member of the 13th National
Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, is
tracking the health of Chinese citizens working or living in Greece and
listening to their appeals for help.
"It is believed that surviving the ordeal brought by this
once-in-a-century epidemic will prompt all countries to learn from their
experiences, draw lessons and improve their governance capacity in an
all-around way. Based on this view, I am full of hope for this new
year," Zhang said.
She noted that both China-Europe relations and ties between China and
Greece "have forged ahead by conquering vast challenges" posed by the
pandemic in the past 12 months.
"The past year has made us deeply aware that unity and cooperation is the only way to tackle common challenges," she said.
Early in January last year, China quickly shared the genetic sequence
of the novel coronavirus with the world, and global COVID-19 vaccine
research and development advanced at unprecedented speed, achieving
China also joined the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access distribution plan that will promote research and development worldwide.
"The mutual support of medical supplies, the joint development of
testing reagents and the sharing of diagnosis and treatment formulas
between China and other countries have adequately illustrated the
importance of international cooperation in the fight against the
pandemic," Zhang said.
Xie Fuzhan, a member of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC and
president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "In the era
of economic globalization, public health emergencies such as the
COVID-19 pandemic will never be the last one, and the mechanism for
cooperation to deal with global challenges is in dire need of being
It is possible for the world to build a broader cooperative mechanism
and a network of trust as long as major countries bear in mind the
community with a shared future for mankind during the global virus
fight, translate compassion for people into action and do their utmost
to defend vulnerable groups and countries on the frontiers of health,
Xie told a symposium in Beijing recently.
"Doing so could allow the international community to give better play
to the role of the World Health Organization and promote the
construction of a global community of health for all," he said. Xie
added that this doesn't even include reform of the World Trade
Organization and the international financial and monetary system, and
further exploring the rules of global governance.
Xie said attention should be paid to the equality issue in the
process of economic recovery, as there is a risk that the gap between
developed and developing economies could widen.
China is expected to participate more proactively in multilateral,
bilateral and regional cooperation, and to achieve a higher level of
win-win collaboration with other countries, he said.
Setting the agenda
Many deputies of the National People's Congress and political
advisers have expressed the hope that China can be more deeply involved
in the reform of global governance in the post-pandemic era and make its
voice better heard.
Zhang Yuyan, a member of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC and
director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World
Economics and Politics, said taking part in strengthening the global
public health system is still a top task for the country's future
engagement in global governance, which China has long been working on,
such as its cooperation with the WHO.
Other issues high on the agenda for improving global governance
include WTO reform and climate change discussions, Zhang Yuyan said.
As the one of the major diplomatic events that China will host
(mainly offline) since the start of the epidemic, the annual meeting
marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Boao Forum for
Asia will focus on global governance.
Themed "A World in Change: Join Hands to Strengthen Global Governance
and Advance Belt and Road Cooperation", the annual conference of the
leading dialogue platform will be held in Hainan province, from April 18
to 21, hosting prominent officials, entrepreneurs and scholars.
While most of the gathering this year will be held offline, some
events will be made available both offline and online to suit the needs
of participants, given travel restrictions worldwide, organizers said.
Li Baodong, a member of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC and
secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia, said the event "has
developed into a high-end political and business dialogue platform with
extensive international influence", playing an important role in
promoting the process of globalization and regional integration.
Li, a former vice-foreign minister and a top diplomatic expert in
multilateral affairs, said the world is undergoing remarkable changes
that have not happened in a century, and the COVID-19 pandemic has
brought unprecedented challenges.
"But we believe that any great voyage will inevitably experience ups
and downs, and as long as we unite as one, work together in the same
boat, strengthen confidence and direction, and continue to innovate and
develop, we will surely usher in a better future," he said.
According to an article by senior diplomat Yang Jiechi in People's
Daily last month, also high on the agenda for China's preparations are
the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on
Biological Diversity, as well as the second United Nations Global
Sustainable Transport Conference.
This year, China's diplomacy "should support the WHO to play a
leading role, join hands with other countries to build a global
community of human health, and further promote global cooperation in the
fight against the pandemic", said Yang, a member of the Political
Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of
the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central
Yang underlined the need for effective international cooperation on
vaccines, prioritizing developing countries' vaccine needs and
resolutely opposing politicization and stigmatization in the name of the
To jointly build the Belt and Road Initiative during the pandemic,
Yang said it is necessary to hold meetings and forums online and
offline, promote the construction of the Health Silk Road, secure trade
along the routes, minimize the pandemic's impact and promote recovery.
Bracing for more growth
China's cooperation with various regions of the world is likely to
embrace further growth this year, as trade with regions such as
Southeast Asia and Latin America registered increases and a slew of
changes in trade structures last year, despite the severe global
economic downturn, observers said.
Trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
grew by 7 percent year-on-year, while Latin America's exports to China
grew by 0.1 percent, the General Administration of Customs said.
Qiu Xiaoqi, a member of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC and
vice-president of the China Public Diplomacy Association, noted that
Latin America's exports to the United States and the European Union fell
by 14 percent and 13 percent respectively last year, while the region's
trade with China has increased slightly amid the pandemic and resultant
This "highlights the economic complementarity between China and Latin
America, and is also a very important driving force for Latin America's
economic development", said Qiu, a former ambassador to Bolivia, Spain,
Brazil and Mexico.
China is Latin America's second-largest trading partner, and Latin
America is one of the regions with the fastest growth in exports to
China, according to Qiu, who noted the growing diversity of bilateral
trade amid the pandemic.
As the two sides in the past focused more on such products as
manufactured, mechanical, electrical and resources-related items, many
new goods have entered bilateral trade since the pandemic started and
"exports in the medical sector increased rapidly". "This is a positive
change," he said.
"It can be said that China has played an important role in ensuring
the sustainable supply of medical supplies in Latin America and in
fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been widely praised and highly
appraised by the governments and people of Latin American countries."
The past year has made Zhang Qiyue, the ambassador, realize that "the
world economy has strong resilience" and that China has become an
engine of global economic recovery.
"The new development paradigm and new development philosophy sought
by China is bringing the world fresh opportunities for further
cooperation," she said.
In Greece, the Port of Piraeus, a key hub run by Chinese businesses,
maintains its status as the largest port in the Mediterranean and the
fourth-largest in Europe.
In July, China became the EU's largest trading partner. On Dec 30,
the two sides announced that negotiations on the China-EU Investment
Agreement had ended on schedule.
"This landmark agreement is also of great significance in promoting
the global economic recovery, and the lasting prosperity of trade
between China and the EU has played an important role in reining in the
pandemic and in restoring the economy in Europe," Zhang Qiyue said.
"Promoting economic globalization is still the common choice of the vast majority of countries," she noted.
"Even for trade between China and the United States, the (annual)
total volume has increased by 5.8 percent to $524.3 billion. These
convincing facts effectively negate theories that preach decoupling."
Looking ahead, Zhang Qiyue said 2021 is "a very important year for China".
During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), the realization of a
series of economic and social development goals "will inject strong
impetus into China's sustained and strong economic growth and its
continuous release of market potential, while bringing great
opportunities to the world", she said.
"China's middle-income group means a population of more than 400
million and a vast domestic market, and with a major victory in poverty
alleviation the market's potential will be further inspired, and China's
cumulative commodity imports are expected to exceed $22 trillion in the
next 10 years," Zhang Qiyue added.
"China will comprehensively raise its level of opening-up to the
outside world and promote trade and investment liberalization and
facilitation. These measures will make China the market of the world; a
market of sharing and a market for everyone."