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Chinese consular services expand with the times

2010-12-13 08:03

BEIJING - With more and more Chinese businesses and people going overseas, consular issues are playing an increasingly important role in China's foreign affairs.

Moreover, the notion of "conducting diplomacy for the people" features more prominently in the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during a joint interview with several major Chinese media outlets on Dec 10.

China's overseas interests have expanded exponentially in recent years with more and more Chinese enterprises and citizens going abroad.

In 2009, for example, the number of Chinese citizens who went on tours abroad reached 47.66 million, a rise of 3.95 percent over the previous year - while the rise in 2010 is expected to reach 11 percent.

"One of the key tasks of our diplomatic work is to protect China's interests overseas, which are expanding steadily", said Yang, "so we are expected to improve our capabilities".

Consular affairs include a wide range of issues, most of which are related to people's daily lives - such as immigration problems, the protection of overseas residents and issues concerning diplomatic passports, service passports and passports for public affairs officials. The Department of Consular Affairs is the MFA's institution to specifically manage consular affairs.

"Our foreign affairs offices abroad have functioned very well in consular issues - such as (the) evacuation of Chinese overseas, hostage rescue (situations) and dealing with overseas employment disputes and resolving numerous thorny problems," Yang said.

The basic principle of MFA's work now is to foster cooperation between domestic and international conditions at the same time, according to Yang.

"Talking about a nation's overall economic construction, we have to consider the influence of global economics, and we must also understand our own situation, when we look at the development of economic and political situations around the world."

Yang called on MFA officials to try to get more familiar with China's own conditions and enrich themselves in various related aspects.

To get a deeper understanding of China's own situation, the MFA also needs professionals with different backgrounds, said Yang.

The MFA is equipped with professionals who are familiar with a variety of areas including economics, finance, legal studies and foreign languages.

"We also emphasize the communications among professionals with different backgrounds", said Yang.

Meanwhile, as the MFA has recently undergone a series of personnel changes - which have included the promotion a number of young bureau and ministry leaders - analysts note that economic diplomacy has become a more common characteristic of diplomatic work.

Zhou Yongsheng, a scholar at the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University said: "Politics and security have always been the core of foreign diplomacy, but now economic matters have also taken a front seat."

Citing examples of the Copenhagen Summit and the G20, Zhou said that with individual countries, economic issues are also on the agenda today as part of foreign diplomatic strategy.

Ai Yang contributed to this story.

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