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China's "Cloud Diplomacy" dispels dark cloud of COVID-19 challenges

By Zheng Guichu (People's Daily Online)    08:46, August 06, 2020

President Xi Jinping meets with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen via video link in Beijing, on June 22, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

While the trajectory of the pandemic and its economic and political fallout remain unclear, it can be outlined that COVID-19 has posed unprecedented political and social challenges, ratcheted up the risk of a global recession, and pressed the pause button on interaction between peoples and countries for a while.

Through "cloud diplomacy" in the form of phone calls, correspondence, video summits and conferences, China endeavors to boost international efforts of joint response to the unprecedented global public health crisis, out of the belief that the pandemic will not impede the progress of human civilizations, nor can it arrest the world's determined march towards realizing common dreams of peace and prosperity.

Busy diplomatic agenda on the cloud

President Xi Jinping has held over 60 phone calls with more than 50 foreign leaders and heads of international organizations, including Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Republic of Korea (ROK), South Africa, Ethiopia, Brazil, Chile and the United Nations.

Xi sent messages of sympathies to and exchanged letters with foreign leaders and heads of regional organizations, including the ROK, Italy, Iran, France, Germany, Spain, Serbia, Argentina and the European Union, among others, to extend his sympathy to the people of epidemic-affected countries, express China's support for their efforts in curbing the virus and further strengthening bilateral ties.

Xi has also attended a series of virtual multilateral events, including the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit, the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, and sent congratulatory messages to the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation, and the ninth China-Arab States Cooperation Forum ministerial conference.

Premier Li Keqiang has met, via video link or talked on the phone, with multiple foreign leaders, attended the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19, addressed the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 in a virtual conference, chaired video symposium on New Fiscal Funds to Benefit Businesses and People, and co-chaired via video link the 22nd China-EU Summit with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The Chinese State Councilor and foreign minister Wang Yi has had over 100 phone calls with foreign counterpart, held special foreign ministers' meetings with Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) members, Lancang-Mekong countries, Japan and the ROK, BRICS countries, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization members, addressed the High-Level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation, the ninth China-Arab States Cooperation Forum ministerial conference, the video conference of China, Russia and India Foreign Ministers. Chinese diplomats and missions abroad are actively reaching out to the international community by receiving interviews, making speeches, writing articles and attending international conferences on virtual platforms.

Highlighting solutions to collective victory

Through "cloud diplomacy", China has proposed the world for keeping to the right strategic direction with a broader international vision, for making strategic cooperation with a greater sense of historical urgency, for strengthening connectivity to provide a solid underpinning for the economic recovery, and for learning from each other to make the most of comparative strength and advantages to forge greater synergy and enhance joint strength to make a final victory against COVID-19.

Addressing the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on COVID-19, Xi called on the international community to be resolute in fighting a global war against COVID-19, make a collective response for control and treatment at the international level, leverage and coordinate international macro policies to counteract the negative impact of the contagion and prevent the world economy from falling into recession.

On May 18, Xi addressed the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, calling for a joint effort on the part of all countries to overcome the virus and build a global community of health for all. Six proposals were put forward: to do everything we can for COVID-19 control and treatment, to support the WHO in leading the global response, to provide greater support for Africa, to strengthen global governance in public health, to restore economic and social development, and to strengthen international cooperation.

While hosting the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 on June 17, Xi announced an array of measures to support African countries in curbing the epidemic and promoting socioeconomic development, including cancellation of the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020 within the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Xi sent written message to the High-level Video Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation, stressing that the people and their lives have always been put front and center in China's virus combat. China will do what it can and contribute its share to an early global victory against COVID-19 and to the recovery of the global economy. China will work with its partners to develop the Belt and Road into a model of cooperation, a model of health, a model of recovery and a model of growth.

In his meeting with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen via video link on June 22, Xi pointed out three directions for the two sides to work along: China and the EU have to be two major forces for world peace and stability, two major markets for world development and prosperity, and two major civilizations for upholding multilateralism and improving global governance.

In the Congratulatory Message sent to The Ninth China-Arab States Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference via video link on July 6, Xi emphasized that China and Arabs states need more than ever to step up cooperation to navigate this trying time and move forward together, calling on both sides to increase strategic communication and coordination to deliver more benefits to our peoples. 

A responsible major global player

China will never forget that when China bore the brunt of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in January this year, 77 countries and 12 international organizations donated emergency medical supplies. Leaders of more than 170 countries, heads of 50 international and regional organizations, and more than 300 foreign political parties and organizations expressed solidarity and support for China through phone calls, letters, and statements.

In the face of a growing pandemic spread in the world, China empathized with the world and reciprocated in concrete actions.

China wasted no time in releasing information to the WHO and other relevant countries and regional organizations.

China organized video conferences to share its control and treatment experience.

China conducted more than 70 exchanges with international and regional organizations including the ASEAN, the European Union, the African Union, the APEC, the Caribbean Community, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as well as the ROK, Japan, Russia, Germany, and other countries.

China sent teams of experts to the affected countries, according to consensus built on the video conferences of multi-layered level, mobilized manufacturers to produce, at full speed, protective gear badly needed and shipped medical supplies to the world.

China provided two batches of cash support totaling US$50 million to the WHO, assisted the organization in purchasing personal protective equipment, and in establishing reserve centers of supplies in China. It has also participated in the WHO's "Access to COVID-19 Tools (act) Accelerator" initiative, aiming to speed up the development, production and equitable distribution of new tools.

China announced a series of major measures that China would take in supporting the global fight, including US$2 billion of international aid over two years, the establishment of a global humanitarian response depot and hub in China in cooperation with the United Nations, the establishment of a cooperation mechanism for Chinese hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals, the decision to make COVID-19 vaccine a global public product once it is developed and deployed in China, and the implementation of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries together with other G20 members.

In the spirit of mutual assistance, the Chinese people have worked with the world an epic of international humanitarianism, a manifestation of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Promoting globalization &Enhancing global governance

The outbreak has taken its toll on every aspect of global production and demand, triggered fluctuations on the financial market, and delivered a blow on both the industrial and supply chains. Yet it in no way has reversed the trend of economic globalization.

China stays on the course of enhancing coordination on macroeconomic policies, safeguarding an open world economy, and ensuring open, safe and stable global industrial chains.

Through "cloud diplomacy", China has made clear its belief that the international community should proceed with globalization, safeguard the multilateral trading system, cut tariffs, remove barriers, facilitate the flow of trade, and keep international industrial and supply chains secure and smooth.

China advocates that countries need to implement strong and effective fiscal and monetary policies, better coordinate financial regulations, keep global industrial and supply chains stable, promote trade and investment liberalization, and cast eyes on a "post-COVID-19 era" with a balanced and sustainable growth.

The pandemic has revealed that our global institutions have not kept up with the challenges of our 21century global reality, and has exposed the weaknesses and deficiencies of the health systems and the emergency management system.

The research and understanding of new infectious diseases are to be strengthened. The preparedness and early warning mechanism for joint prevention and control of infectious diseases are to be improved. The dire shortage of international public health resources are to be addressed.

In various occasion on virtual diplomatic platform, China calls on the international community to draw lessons from this pandemic, establish sound mechanisms including financing mechanism, monitoring mechanism, early warning and joint response mechanism, and a mechanism for reserving and allocating resources to build a global community of health for all, and work to increase the voice and representation of developing countries in global governance.

At a time of increasing uncertainties, pragmatic joint efforts could be pivotal to spurring global pandemic control and recovery.

China is working with the world to make progress out of setbacks, to turn crises into opportunities, and in both vision and action, to shape the broader global context for common good. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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