Neighborhood diplomacy sees benefits for all

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily) 08:34, January 03, 2024

People hold the national flags of China and Vietnam to welcome the arrival of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chinese president, in Hanoi on Tuesday. [FENG YONGBIN/CHINA DAILY]

China's open, transparent approach gives strong impetus to cooperation

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.

China valuing its neighbors is not an empty slogan, as President Xi Jinping met with leaders or senior officials from neighboring Asian countries in each of the 12 months of the past year.

Beijing's great focus on its neighbors could also be seen in the fact that two of Xi's four trips abroad last year were to neighboring countries — to Russia in March and to Vietnam in December.

China's neighborhood diplomacy has secured more opportunities in the post-pandemic era to spur mutually beneficial pragmatic cooperation and economic growth with Asian countries in the past year, observers said.

As a host nation, China greeted a number of leaders from neighboring countries at bilateral, international and regional-level events, giving a strong impetus to bilateral and regional cooperation.

Vice-Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said at a seminar last year that head-of-state diplomacy "plays an irreplaceable, leading role" and "navigates and charts China's relations with its neighbors".

China is now the largest trading partner of 18 neighboring countries, according to the Foreign Ministry.

In 2022, the total annual amount of commodity imports and exports between China and its neighboring countries exceeded $2.17 trillion.

Xu Liping, a senior researcher on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's neighborhood diplomacy policy "is open, transparent and could stand the test of history".

"Beijing is action-oriented and fully sincere in developing its friendly relations with its neighbors", and its clear policy gesture and emphasis on neighborhood diplomacy could help minimize misjudgment and misunderstanding and advance political mutual trust, he added.

Last year also marked the 10th anniversary of Xi proposing the landmark concept that guides the nation's neighborhood diplomacy — "amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness".

When celebrating this concept in October, Xi and senior Chinese diplomats highlighted Beijing's fresh pledge to jointly advance Asia's modernization with neighbors and to build on "Asian values" featuring peace, cooperation, inclusiveness and integration.

Beijing also issued a policy paper titled "Outlook on China's Foreign Policy on its Neighborhood in the New Era", the first official document focused on elaborating China's neighborhood diplomacy policy.

Acting on the concept of "amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness", China has played a key part in maintaining peace and stability in Asia, and in the last year, it worked on constructively mediating a temporary cease-fire in Myanmar and promoting a political settlement to the Afghanistan issue.

China has also contributed to the latest progress in China-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral cooperation and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, experts noted.

Zhang Jie, a veteran researcher at the Institute of Asia-Pacific and Global Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said this evolving concept helps China and neighboring countries direct more focus on development, so they could reach more consensuses.

"Also, it is extremely relevant to global pursuits for openness, inclusiveness, connectivity and common prosperity," she added.

Bearing fruit

More than 10 years ago, Kazakhstan and Indonesia — China's close neighbors by land and sea — witnessed President Xi for his first time put forward the initiative to co-build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, respectively, in September and November of 2013.

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, and China's joint efforts to build the Belt and Road with its neighbors yielded new fruit.

Yasiru Ranaraja, director and co-founder of Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka, an international development organization in Sri Lanka, said, "In the last 10 years, the redirection of investments under the BRI, which included Hambantota Port, Colombo Port City and Colombo Port, is a testament to the visionary leadership not only for Sri Lanka but also for regional development."

"The critical infrastructure assets constructed under the BRI are expected to drive long-term economic growth," he added.

In October, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway — China and Indonesia's BRI flagship project — went into operation, making the Southeast Asian country the second in the world to have a high-speed railway, with a maximum speed of 350 kilometers per hour.

Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Lu Kang said in a local media opinion piece last month that he is pleased to hear that the number of tourists in and around Bandung has risen rapidly, and retail stores have emerged around several high-speed rail stations, boosting the incomes and employment of local people.

Stressing that Asia is the region with the greatest economic dynamism and potential in the world today, Lu said, "We will never allow Cold War thinking, bloc-based confrontation and external interference to undermine the hard-won development environment in Asia, and we must always put the future of Asia's long-term stability in our own hands."

In recent years, neighbors such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Mongolia and Malaysia have each signed up to building a bilateral community of shared future with China, and observers have taken the number of such countries as a key indicator for evaluating China's mutual trust with its partners.

Vietnam joined this group during Xi's state visit in December, as it agreed to work with China to build a community of shared future that carries strategic significance.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters last month that this "marks the full coverage" of building a community of shared future between China and Indochina Peninsula countries and "is another important step in promoting the building of a global community of shared future".

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said that in the future, China will "deepen its friendship, cooperation and integration of interests with neighboring countries" and carry forward Asian values, providing a fresh boost to the region's unity, openness and progress.

"We are ready to deliver more benefits to neighboring countries through Chinese modernization, jointly advance the modernization drive in Asia, and build a peaceful, safe and secure, prosperous, beautiful, amicable and harmonious Asian home with other countries in the region," Mao said at a news conference last week.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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