Xi's letters act as keystone of diplomacy

By Mo Jingxi (China Daily) 08:03, December 26, 2023

Correspondence with foreign friends helping build public support for ties

Editor's note: Head-of-state diplomacy leads the way in which China pursues peaceful development and advances the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. China Daily presents a series of stories about interactions between China and the rest of the world, recollecting the country's diplomatic endeavors led by President Xi Jinping over the year.

In the living room of Alifa Chin's house in the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong, one cannot miss the brand-new decorative frames hanging above a wooden sofa that display in three languages a reply letter she received from President Xi Jinping.

The 13-year-old girl was born with the help of Chinese doctors and nurses when the Chinese navy's hospital ship, Peace Ark, dropped anchor in Chittagong in 2010 to provide locals free medical aid for a week. She was named "Chin", Bengali for China, in a show of gratitude and to mark her special bond forged at birth with the country.

Earlier this year, Chin wrote a letter to "Grandpa Xi" to express her gratitude and, to her surprise, received a reply. "You are very welcome to visit China as often as you want to broaden your horizon and make new friends," Xi wrote.

In the letter, Xi told Chin that her story is a glowing example of China-Bangladesh friendship. He encouraged her to study hard, pursue her dreams and carry forward the traditional friendship between the two countries.

In October, Chin made a visit to China and toured several Chinese cities with her parents. "You know what, I saw President Xi in person at a forum in Beijing," she told China Daily, recalling "an incredible year".

"But I didn't get a chance to speak to him," she said, adding that Xi's reply letter and her trip to China have made her more determined about pursuing her dream of studying medical science in China and becoming an envoy for Bangladesh-China friendship.

In addition to the Bangladeshi girl, Xi has exchanged letters this year with many other foreigners who share friendly feelings for China. They include Greek scholars, Arab artists, a Belgian who owns a zoo with pandas, the faculty and students of a Confucius Institute in South Africa, Flying Tigers veterans in the United States and a Cuban scientist.

Through his personal approach, Xi has vividly presented a China that is credible, appealing and respectable to foreigners, and has also conveyed China's vision of pursuing peace, cooperation and development to ordinary people worldwide, experts said.

Xi's correspondence has enhanced the diversity, richness and pragmatism of Chinese diplomacy, they said.

"Relations between nations are not sustainable without public support and President Xi's correspondence is aimed at building public support for relations between China and foreign countries," said Zhu Zhiqun, a professor of international relations and political science at Bucknell University in the US state of Pennsylvania.

Zhu said that when political relations between China and some Western countries are experiencing difficulties, public diplomacy has become increasingly important to fill the gap and promote better understanding between the peoples and the governments.

Days before Xi traveled to San Francisco in November for a highly anticipated summit with US President Joe Biden, he replied to a letter from Matias Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose historic visit to China in 1973 holds great significance in the normalization of US — China relations.

As an active cultural envoy between the two countries, the orchestra has played a positive role in promoting the development of bilateral ties through its 12 visits to China over the past 50 years, Xi said in his reply letter, and called for continuous efforts to strengthen the China-US people-to-people ties.

During the orchestra's 13th visit to China in November, Tarnopolsky said: "We seriously are proud and understand the awesome responsibility of our role as a global ambassador. We are actively making plans to come back to China with the entire Philadelphia Orchestra about a year from now."

Throughout the year, Xi has interacted with China's American friends by replying to the US-China Youth and Student Exchange Association and friendly people from all walks of life in the US state of Washington, the grandson of former US General Joseph Stilwell who gave active support to China's cause of liberation, and Jeffrey Greene, chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation, and two Flying Tigers veterans Harry Moyer and Mel McMullen.

Though the relationship between the two countries has suffered setbacks, ordinary people at various levels are still trying to find ways to promote mutual understanding and friendship, and exchanging letters is one such way, experts said.

Zhang Weiwei, deputy director and associate research fellow at the Department for International and Strategic Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said the information conveyed through public diplomacy activities should be simple, clear and easy to understand in order to better resonate with the target audiences.

"From this perspective, President Xi's reply letters, which have an easygoing tone, have helped elaborate China's diplomatic visions and principles in a clear and explicit manner and in lucid language," she said.

Zhang noted that Xi didn't ignore letters from foreigners who have an interest in China, especially from young people, because they nurture hope and can shape the future of the relationship between countries.

About half of the letters that Xi replied to this year were from young people, including students of the Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

Xi encouraged Hungarian youths to travel around China, learn more about today's China along with its history and culture, and strive to become envoys to carry forward and develop the China-Hungary friendship.

Miao Lu, secretary-general of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, said there is a strong desire in the world today to learn more about China, but some aspects that are not well understood by others are prone to cause misinterpretation or even stigmatization of China.

"The world needs to get a true, multidimensional and panoramic view of China through different voices," she said, adding that Xi's hands-on efforts in explaining China to foreigners is setting a good example for those who are dedicated to strengthening people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries.

Zhu, from the Bucknell University, said the effect of Xi's direct approach to foreign audiences may not be felt immediately, but it is an indispensable building block of a country's diplomacy. "Such efforts should continue," he said.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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