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China set to strengthen global role

By Chinadaily | 2017-01-05 |   4438

Experts predict that this will be the year the nation gains greater influence in world affairs. An Baijie reports.

Sweet potato is not only President Xi Jinping's favorite food, but he also sees it as a symbol of China's determination to make a contribution to global economic growth.

"The vines of the sweet potato may stretch in all directions, but they all grow out of its roots. Similarly, no matter what level of development it may reach, China, with its roots in the Asia-Pacific, will continue to contribute to the region's development and prosperity," Xi said in a speech in Lima, the capital of Peru, in November.

The president's remarks came as the global economy continued to struggle as a result of sluggish growth and as many Western countries embraced protectionist economic policies. Making China's mark in global economic governance and shouldering greater responsibility were the defining characteristics of Chinese diplomacy under Xi last year, according to observers.

The experts noted that contributing to world economic growth and offering solutions for global governance will be the guiding principles behind Chinese diplomacy this year. That will be especially true in May, when the country will host a grand summit to boost interconnectivity between potential partners in the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known collectively as the Belt and Road Initiative.

In December, the Financial Times highlighted China's role in global governance, saying: "President-elect Donald Trump wants the US to shrug off its global responsibilities. China may grab the opening to move centre stage."

The article also pointed out that Xi has championed the Paris Agreement on climate change, defended the international community's nuclear deal with Iran and expanded trade liberalization within Asia.

International influence

Su Ge, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the world economy is recovering slowly and with great difficulty, so better global governance is required.

"The deficit of global governance is growing. Western countries' abilities in terms of innovation and the provision of public services have been undermined," he said, adding that China's international influence became more pronounced last year.

Noting that China will hold two diplomatic events this year - the first International Cooperation Summit Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative and the ninth BRICS summit - Su said the country will remain a positive force in the maintenance of world peace, stability and development.

China's continuing efforts to press for sustainable growth and to improve global governance won the support of world leaders when they met for the G20 Summit in the lakeside city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, in September.

At the summit, Ban Kimoon, then-UN secretary-general, praised the efforts of China and the United States in the ratification of the landmark Paris Agreement.

The progress that had been made was a major success, according to Ban who praised the "outstanding leadership" demonstrated by Xi and US President Barack Obama, who handed over legal documents to him on Sept 3 as an indication of their resolve to jointly tackle the global challenge.

"In the past, it was often said that China was a major economic power, but unable to play a global leadership role commensurate with its new status," Paolo Garonna, professor of political economy at the LUISS University in Rome, told Xinhua News Agency during the summit. "Well, all of us in Hangzhou have seen the Chinese leadership in action, in terms of strength and quality, and its ability to deliver results."

Economic hitchhiking

During his five trips overseas last year, Xi made efforts to elaborate on China's views about global governance, and he invited other countries to "hitchhike on China's economic development".

For example, while visiting Serbia in June, Xi said China wants to share its advanced technologies and management experience with the central European country to create job opportunities and improve people's living standards.

During the trip, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, accompanied Xi on a visit to the small town of Smederevo, whose century-old steel mill went bankrupt in 2003. The mill was purchased by China's Hebei Iron and Steel Group for 46 million euros ($52 million) in April. "Thanks to President Xi and the Chinese company for bringing new hope to the 5,000 workers," Vucic said.

In October, during Xi's first state visit to Cambodia, the two countries signed 31 cooperative documents to boost cooperation in areas such as loans, trade deals and the construction of power plants. In addition, China also agreed to import 200,000 metric tons of Cambodian rice.

In early December, in a congratulatory letter to an international symposium in Beijing, Xi said China has actively participated in global governance and promoted inclusive development, creating opportunities for all countries, especially developing economies, to share the fruits of development.

In the coming five years, China's combined import and export volume will reach $8 trillion, while overseas investments will reach $750 billion and the number of outbound tourists will reach 700 million, Xi said, during a trip to South America in November.

Jia Xiudong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said Beijing has provided both capital and projects for countries that want to use China's development to help their own economies. For example, at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September, Xi said China would establish an assistance fund for South-South cooperation, with an initial pledge of $2 billion to support developing countries.

Budapest-Belgrade railway: The project to modernize the Belgrade-Budapest railway was initially agreed in 2013 at the China- Central and Eastern European countries leaders' meeting in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

Laying the path of interconnectivity

During overseas visits last year, President Xi Jinping rarely ate at public activities other than banquets, but he happily bit into a red Polish apple during a ceremony in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, in June.

The ceremony was held to mark the arrival of the first China-Europe Block Train, which transported Chinese-made products, including electronic components, from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China, to Warsaw. Later, the train made the return journey laden with Polish commodities, including agricultural produce such as apples.

The practice of boosting interconnectivity is an important part of China's Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known collectively as the Belt and Road Initiative. In 2013, Xi put forward proposals to create the project, with the aim of building a trade and infrastructure network along the ancient Silk Road trade routes to connect Asia with Europe and Africa. Regions along the route of the initiative are home to 63 percent of the world population and account for 29 percent of the global economy.

China has signed cooperation agreements with 40 countries and global organizations related to the project, according to the Foreign Ministry.

On Dec 3, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a seminar in Beijing that China would hold a summit to aid international cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, adding that it would be the most important diplomatic event the country will host this year.

During his five overseas trips last year, Xi repeatedly called on relevant countries-in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Latin America-to cooperate with China on the project.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the Belt and Road Initiative would allow China to share opportunities with the world, especially with developing countries, under the principle of self-determination, equality and mutual benefits.

"The Belt and Road will be the main theme of Chinese diplomacy in 2017, as the world looks forward to China's solutions to the uncertainties and challenges," he said.

Qamchiq Tunnel: In June, President Xi Jinping attended a ceremony in Uzbekistan to mark trial operations of the longest railway tunnel (19.2 km) in Central Asia.[Photo/Xinhua]

Belt and Road Initiative milestones

September 2013: On a visit to Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping proposes building the Silk Road Economic Belt to boost regional cooperation.

October 2013: Xi puts forward a proposal to jointly establish the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road during his speech at the APEC leaders' meeting in Indonesia.

December 2013: During the annual Central Economic Conference in Beijing, Xi urges the formulation of strategic plans for the Belt and Road Initiative to speed up the process.

November 2014: Xi tells the APEC leaders' meeting that China will offer $40 billion to establish the Silk Road Fund to provide financial support for the Belt and Road Initiative.

December 2016: The Foreign Ministry announces that more than 40 countries and organizations have signed agreements with China to cooperate on the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Colombo Port City project: The project, contracted to the State-owned China Communications Construction Co in 2013 with investment of $1.4 billion, is Sri Lanka's biggest single foreign investment to date.

Gwadar port: In November, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was inaugurated in Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Ethiopia-Djibouti railway: In October, Ethiopia and Djibouti launched the first fully electrified crossborder railway line in Africa. The line links Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, to the Red Sea port of Djibouti — a distance of more than 750km.

Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway: With a length of 150 km, the railway will shorten the journey time from three hours

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