Speech at the Opening of the Symposium on International Developments and China’s Diplomacy in 2016
Foreign Minister Wang Yi
3 December 2016
Before we even notice it, we are now approaching the end of 2016. I still remember that I said at last year’s symposium that 2016 would see accelerated adjustment and transformation of the international architecture from a new starting point. Looking back today, that assessment has been proven correct on the whole, with some changes even more dramatic than expected. The world economy remains sluggish. Brexit has caught everyone by surprise. The Middle East is mired in aggravating tension. And there is growing backlash against globalization. All these taken into account, I would encapsulate the world situation in 2016 with two words, “volatility” and “turbulence”. We are seeing a more volatile and turbulent world, one with greater uncertainty and instability that the international community finds deeply unsettling. On the other hand, we must also recognize that this is the unavoidable result of the realignment and transformation of the international architecture. It brings about not just new challenges, but also new opportunities. For countries around the world, what matters most is how to seize the opportunities, overcome challenges and make the international architecture more peaceful, stable and equitable, and better serve development and prosperity of our world.
For China’s diplomacy, 2016 can be summed up as an important year in which China has blazed new paths and made new progress. Facing the complex and fast-changing international situation, under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core and guided by the foreign policy it sets out, we have forged ahead and overcome various difficulties. We have secured a sound external environment conducive to China’s development amidst the grim world situation, and elevated China’s standing, influence, and institutional rights in the changing international system. In 2016, China is more proactive, more enterprising, more confident and more mature in the diplomatic arena. It has made steady progress in developing a distinctive diplomatic approach befitting China’s role as a major country with a series of important achievements that have made the Chinese people proud and also won international admiration.
First, we have demonstrated a keen sense of responsibility in shaping the reform of global governance system.
Over the last couple of years, economic growth in the world, advanced countries in particular, has remained anemic. Yet all this while, the Chinese economy has maintained a steady medium-high growth rate. Therefore, more people are looking to China to play a greater role in driving the recovery and growth of the world economy and moving forward the reform of global governance system. Bearing in mind China’s domestic and international interests, the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core has worked earnestly and proactively to live up to these expectations. The Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee has had two group study sessions on global governance in less than 12 months, and decided to act along the trend and seize the opportunity to help shape the international order toward greater justice and equity.
We have successfully hosted the G20 Hangzhou Summit. The Summit, chaired by President Xi Jinping, took place at a critical moment for the world economy, global governance and institution-building of the G20 itself, hence was looked upon with high hopes by the international community. As the host, China actively encouraged parties to make innovation and structural reform the new pathway to re-energize the world economy. This has increased the international visibility of China’s vision for innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, enhanced the relevance of China’s reform and opening-up experience to other countries, and pointed the way forward for the world economy and global governance. For the underlying problems holding back global growth, we offered a multi-pronged “Chinese prescription” that addresses both the short-term and long-term issues, injecting strong momentum into global growth.
Under China’s thoughtful and diligent presidency, the Hangzhou Summit has set a record in the G20 history in terms of the number of participating developing countries and the distinctly pro-development agenda and outcomes. For the first time in the G20 history, innovation features as a core outcome; development takes a prominent place in global macro policy coordination; a framework for multilateral global investment rules is established; a presidency statement on climate change is issued; and green finance is put on the G20 agenda. The Summit has produced 29 important outcomes, leaving an indelible China mark in the G20 process and a milestone in its history.
At the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) in Lima, President Xi directly addressed such major challenges as anti-globalization, protectionism and fragmentation of regional cooperation. With a keen understanding of the historical trend and speaking for the urgent need of the times, President Xi underscored the importance of rejecting all forms of protectionism, demonstrating with concrete actions the Asia-Pacific’s unwavering commitment to and confidence in economic globalization and steering economic globalization toward greater inclusiveness and shared benefits. He called on all parties to translate consensus into action, realize the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) at an early date, deepen economic integration, enhance connectivity, support reform and innovation, and strengthen cooperation for win-win results. President Xi’s important views are consistent with the consensus of the AELM in Beijing and the outcomes of G20 Summit in Hangzhou and instrumental in calming nerves, boosting confidence and building consensus in the world. China has championed and worked for the adoption of the Lima Declaration on FTAAP at the AELM in Peru. The document established the guiding principles, key areas, reporting mechanism and basic framework for FTAAP. It not only helped maintain the momentum of FTAAP but also injected fresh vitality to the process.
Climate change, an issue of global nature, is something China takes seriously. With President Xi sending his special envoy to a high-level signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement, China has played a pioneering role all the way from Paris to the UN Headquarters in New York. On the sidelines of the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the presidents of China and the US deposited the instruments of joining the Paris Agreement, thus demonstrating the leadership of the two countries on climate change. While attending this year’s UNGA session, Premier Li Keqiang chaired a roundtable on sustainable development, where he released China’s national plan on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, making China the first country to do so. Premier Li also envisioned for the first time a path of sustainable development featuring economic prosperity, social progress and sound environment, setting an example for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by individual countries.
Second, we have seized opportunities to maintain stability and promote cooperation in our neighborhood.
When it comes to our neighborhood, the most notable achievement we have made this year is without doubt the turnaround in China’s relations with the Philippines. The confrontational approach taken by the previous Philippine government in the last couple of years on its relations with China has plunged the bilateral ties to rock bottom, which is not in the Philippine people’s interest. It also hampered the efforts of the countries in this region to maintain peace and stability. After assuming office, President Rodrigo Duterte chose China as the destination of his first state visit to a non-ASEAN country, demonstrating his commitment to growing friendly relations with China. China also responded with open arms for friendship and cooperation with the Philippine people. President Xi warmly received President Duterte and the two sides reached important agreement on improving and growing bilateral ties in all respects. This commendable turnaround in China-Philippines ties marks the return of the South China Sea issue to the right track of dialogue and consultation and the complete failure of certain countries’ ruse to make use of the issue to mess up the region. It has also removed stumbling blocks to deeper cooperation between China and ASEAN countries.
This year, we have enhanced exchanges and cooperation with some of our major neighbors. President Xi’s successful visit to Cambodia has opened a new chapter in the history of friendship between China and Cambodia. Though small in size, Cambodia has defied power politics and pressure, upheld justice and stayed committed to friendship with China. We cherish and set great store by this valuable friendship. President Xi’s visit to Phnom Penh has sent a clear message of China’s full support for its old friend. It will have positive and far-reaching ramifications that go well beyond the bilateral scope. President Xi’s visit to Bangladesh, the first by a Chinese head of state in 30 years, has taken the mutual trust and practical cooperation between China and Bangladesh to a higher level and made China the first strategic partner Bangladesh has chosen for itself. Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit to Laos has consolidated the strategic trust and deepened the traditional friendship between China and Laos. Our proactive engagement with the new government and other parties in Myanmar has promptly ensured the stability of China-Myanmar relations amid drastic changes in Myanmar’s political landscape. The first visiting foreign minister received by the new government in Naypyidaw is from China, and the first non-ASEAN country State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi visited is China. The new government in Sri Lanka has come to regard China as a sincere partner that is indispensable for its national development. The two sides have reached solid agreement on closer, mutually beneficial cooperation, thus removing obstacles one by one and bringing major cooperation projects back to the right track.
We have worked to build various mechanisms in our neighborhood. President Xi attended the SCO summit and used the SCO’s 15th anniversary as an opportunity to call on all parties to promote the Shanghai spirit and take the SCO to a new stage of development with greater unity and coordination. Premier Li Keqiang attended the East Asian leaders’ meetings, including a commemorative summit on the 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. At the commemorative summit, Premier Li outlined new steps for practical cooperation and opened a new chapter in China-ASEAN relations. We officially launched the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism. This mechanism and the resumed China-Japan-ROK cooperation, covering the south and north of our region respectively, will work in parallel and create new engines for regional cooperation in East Asia.
We will continue to play our constructive role in hotspot issues in our neighborhood and do our best to maintain stability in our neighborhood and the whole region. We will stay committed to the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and stick to dialogue and negotiation as the way to solve the nuclear issue and maintain peace and stability on the Peninsula. This position is aboveboard and rock firm. Committed to breaking the vicious cycle on the Peninsula, we have proposed the dual-track approach of denuclearization on one hand and replacement of armistice with a peace treaty on the other, in the hope of finding a breakthrough to restart the Six-Party Talks. This suggestion makes every sense and can stand up to scrutiny. Being firm in safeguarding our legitimate interests and strategic security environment, we oppose the deployment of THAAD on the Peninsula under the pretext of the nuclear issue. We staunchly support political reconciliation in Afghanistan, take an active part in the Istanbul Process and work for the issue’s resolution through our own channels and the quartet mechanism involving China, the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Third, we have made proactive efforts to ensure stability in major country relations.
This year is a US election year. The implication of the elections on future China-US relations is a subject of intense interest not just in China but also in the global community. Amid heightened misgivings and growing noises on China in the US, President Xi and President Obama met again during the G20 Hangzhou Summit. Following their previous meetings at Sunnylands, Yingtai and Blair House, the two presidents had another long conversation by the West Lake to continue their candid exchange and strategic communication, which helped to increase trust and reduce misgivings. The two sides reached 35 outcomes of cooperation. The success of the meeting fully shows that the common interests between the two countries far outweigh their differences, and their coordination and cooperation is much more important than competition or friction. Moreover, it has exerted a far-reaching influence not only on greater stability in China-US relations, but also on peace in the Asia-Pacific and the world at large.
The two presidents met again during the APEC meeting in Lima last month, during which they reviewed the experience of China-US relations over the years, and agreed to ensure continued sound and stable development of China-US relations along the right track.
Soon after the result of the election came out, President Xi had a telephone conversation with President-elect Trump. President Xi highlighted the importance of cooperation between China and the US as the largest developing country and the largest developed country. He said that there are many areas where the two countries need to and can cooperate. China is ready to work with the US to advance bilateral relations toward no-conflict, no-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and bring more benefits to the two peoples and people of other countries. President-elect Trump said that China is a great country with enormous potential and bright prospect, and he believes that relations between the two great countries will get better and better. This conversation was a good beginning, and augurs well for the future development of China-US relations.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The Chinese and Russian presidents met five times this year, which enabled them to update their strategic planning for the development of bilateral relations in a timely way. The two sides issued a joint statement on strengthening global strategic stability, and maintained close coordination on major international and regional issues. Steady progress was made in cooperation on major projects in energy and aviation and on the development of the Russian Far East, and greater synergy is being forged between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union. This has elevated the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination to a higher level. Smooth progress in China-Russia relations and their all-round cooperation in recent years has not only brought benefits to the two countries and peoples, but also added strong positive energy to regional stability and world peace. China-Russia strategic coordination has gone far beyond the bilateral scope and has become a cornerstone for global peace and stability.
President Xi visited Central and Eastern Europe twice in the year, and Premier Li attended the Riga summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC). These well-coordinated diplomatic efforts have helped to build momentum and lay out a new blueprint for China-CEEC cooperation. China successfully hosted the 18th China-EU summit, and new progress was made in exchange and cooperation mechanisms with France and Germany. The new British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed Britain’s renewed commitment toward building a “golden era” for UK-China relations. We have reason to believe that China-UK cooperation will continue to move forward and bring pleasant surprise with its progress.
Against the backdrop of overall slow-down in the BRICS economies and pessimistic voices on BRICS cooperation, President Xi laid out in detail the achievements and experiences gained in BRICS cooperation over the past decade at the BRICS summit in Goa. This has bolstered confidence and unity among BRICS members, outlined a bright prospect and provided strong impetus for BRICS cooperation.