China diplomacy swears by multilateralism

By Zhang Guihong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/19 20:43:39

Photo: IC

Due to recent major changes in US policy toward China, Washington has imposed irrational measures in its exchanges of politics, diplomacy, economy, trade, science and culture with China. Some US allies in the West have also been creating international pressure on China in terms of the issues over Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong. Against the backdrop, multilateralism remains the golden key of Chinese diplomacy.

Adhering to multilateralism has always been a tradition of Chinese diplomacy. It is mainly carried out through participation in international conferences and international organizations. Recently, China has hosted several international conferences while cooperating with international organizations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised China as "a central pillar of multilateralism."

China's multilateral diplomacy began in the early 1970s. In 1971, China returned to the UN. Before that, China opted to cut itself off from the world. But the UN became a window for China to understand the world and vice versa.

Since the reform and opening-up, Chinese diplomacy has undergone major adjustments. One crucial aspect was to strengthen cooperation with international organizations. China successively joined international economic organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank. It began participating in UN peacekeeping operations in the late 1980s. China joined the WTO in 2001, which helped the Chinese economy integrate into the world economy. Cooperation with international organizations has become an important part of opening-up and has played a significant role in China's modernization.

In the 21st century, China's multilateral diplomacy has presented many new highlights. In recent years, China has hosted G20 summit, BRICS summit, APEC summit, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, and created multilateral financial institutions such as the AIIB and the New Development Bank. China has set up joint China-UN peace and development fund and has cooperated with international organizations under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

However, in recent years, multilateralism has encountered major challenges. The UK is divorcing the EU. Trumpism, which is guided by the "America First" policy, has led to US withdrawal from multiple multilateral mechanisms. People began to doubt the role and prospects of multilateralism. 

In the new era, it is necessary to renew the content and meaning of multilateralism. China's multilateral diplomacy also needs to be further strengthened through transformation and innovation.

The first step is to make full use of the characteristics and advantages of multilateralism. Mainly through consultation and coordination, multilateralism reaches consensus, unifies rules, and takes actions to help meet challenges and solve problems. 

The second step is to strengthen interaction and cooperation between multilateral diplomacy, neighboring diplomacy, great power diplomacy, and developing country diplomacy. The multilateral mechanism is an important stage for China to develop relations with neighboring countries and vice versa.

The third step is to promote the transition from multilateral participation to multilateral leadership. With multilateralism, everyone is a participant, but their contributions, roles, and responsibilities vary. Therefore, there is no dominator, there can only be leaders. Through this system, contributions and responsibilities must be translated into voice and influence. 

The relationship between China and the world must be handled with greater confidence and determination. Amid China's continuous development, the international community has reacted differently as some have welcomed and supported it, while others have shown fear and vigilance. 

This poses higher standards and requirements on China's foreign policy and actions. China must achieve high-quality openness under the premise of international principles and rule of law. 

It is necessary to cultivate talent in multilateral diplomacy.

Multilateralism was once an important bridge between China and the world. It is now the main stage for China to display the image and responsibility of a major country representing peace and development. 

It is also a path for China to build a community with a shared future for mankind and a new type of international relations. From the perspective of history, reality, and the future of Chinese diplomacy, multilateralism is the golden key.

The author is professor and executive director of Center for UN Studies at Fudan University.

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