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A year of good outcomes for China's diplomacy

By Wang Zhengxu | Updated: 2023-12-25 08:18
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View of Beijing's Central Business District on March 24, 2018. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency gave rise to both hope and anxieties. Although there was hope because things started returning to normal and there was anxiety due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has been dragging on since February 2022, and the breaking out of the Israel-Palestine conflict on Oct 7.

However, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, in fact the Global South as a whole is looking forward to building upon peace and development to chart a better future.

For China, too, the end of the pandemic brought both challenges and opportunities. US-China relations, for example, are yet to normalize while the Chinese economy faces strong headwinds.

On the other hand, the international community wants China to play an even bigger role in re-energizing the global economy, helping boost the economies of the Global South and build a more stable world order, and tackle global challenges such as climate change.

Did China succeed in overcoming the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities?

After failing to contain China's technological development, the United States is now likely to meet China half way in addressing the issues it sees as impacting bilateral relations.

Also, the US appears to recognize that it is both unjust and impossible to check China's peaceful rise. To be precise, the Chinese people are entitled to a higher living standard and China has the right to become a truly modern economy and society, and the US cannot stop them from realizing their goals.

With bilateral ties normalizing to a certain extent, the two countries' leaders had a summit alongside the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco in November, one full year since they last met in Bali on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. The long gap in the meetings shows the extent to which bilateral ties have deteriorated since the US changed its China policy during the Donald Trump administration.

Yet many view the San Francisco meeting as a sign of the US adopting a more realistic stance — of accepting and acknowledging China's rise. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan later published an article that seems to indicate such a "realistic turn" in the US' stance.

If indeed the US is more ready to acknowledge China's goal of becoming a truly modernized country enjoying growing global influence, it is partly the outcome of China's sustained efforts to push back against the US' bullying tactics.

The San Francisco meeting, however, shows that by demanding fair and equitable treatment, China has prompted the US to change its China policy for the better, however slightly. The dynamics of the Sino-US relationship appear to have taken a new shape, thanks to China's hard and skillful fight-back against US bullying.

China has performed quite well on other fronts, though. It brokered a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the two countries reestablishing diplomatic ties after seven years. Deservedly, China was widely praised for its role in what is regarded as a major development in international relations.

At the initiative of China, the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg saw the formal expansion of the bloc, with the inclusion of Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the possible realization of BRICS currency.

Other multilateral forums including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the UN Climate Change Conference also saw positive results with China playing a key role in the developments.

As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, the Belt and Road Initiative rolled out a new range of proposals to, among other things, achieve common prosperity, transform the energy structure and promote new technology.

Yet China needs to make visa-free travel arrangements with more countries and take measures to make hotels, catering services and other facilities in the country much more "foreigner-friendly". For example, measures should be taken to ensure people visiting China can easily install Alipay and/or WeChat at the airports they land at, so they can enjoy a hassle-free stay in China.

Outbound travel, too, should be promoted by, for instance, making it easier for people to travel abroad.

Fortunately, China is trying to promote friendly ties with countries in its neighborhood including Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, countries that a majority of Chinese people have not visited despite the geographical proximity and low travel cost, which will facilitate overseas travel.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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