Xi hosts world leaders amid Olympics
High-level attendance shows China’s capacity of unity
Published: Feb 06, 2022 12:46 AM Updated: Feb 06, 2022 12:47 AM
President Xi Jinping gives a toast at a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 5, 2022 to welcome foreign dignitaries who attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games the previous day. Photo: Xinhua

President Xi Jinping gives a toast at a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 5, 2022 to welcome foreign dignitaries who attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games the previous day. Photo: Xinhua

On the first day of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Saturday, while the athletes were in the heat of the competition, President Xi Jinping was also busy warmly welcoming the heads of state and officials from international organizations, as the Beijing Winter Games also serve as a major platform for advancing multilateralism, shining a light on cooperation rather than confrontation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Giving a toast at the beginning of a banquet at the Great Hall of the People Saturday noon, Xi, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, extended a warm welcome to all the distinguished guests and sincerely thanked all governments, peoples and international organizations that care about and support the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

The Olympic Movement has carried humanity's aspirations for peace, solidarity and progress since ancient times, Xi said. "We shall keep in mind the original aspiration of the Olympic Movement and jointly uphold world peace," Xi said, calling for upholding mutual respect and equality and working together for a world of durable peace. "We shall promote the spirit of the Olympic Movement and meet the common challenges facing the international community through solidarity," he said, highlighting the need to practice true multilateralism and work together to build an international family of harmony and cooperation.    

He also called for staying true to humanity's common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, promoting exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations, and working together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.   

At least 32 foreign heads of state, heads of government, members of royal families and heads of international organizations came to attend the Winter Olympics, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on January 28. 

Such a high level of attendance by foreign leaders at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics - an unprecedented offline gathering of top leaders since the pandemic started - underscores China's capacity to unify others amid a challenging time, which also signals the widely shared support and expectations of the global community for the Games, experts said. 

President Xi meeting with world leaders shows that the Beijing Winter Olympics has provided a stage for multilateralism, which is the most inclusive and peaceful platform to promote mutual learning and understanding among civilizations, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Saturday. 

It presents the openness of China and the country's attitude of embracing the world with its broad mind and positive development direction, Li noted.

"The Olympics are also about the world being more united. The Beijing Winter Olympics have delivered the message to unite together to create a better future for mankind," Li said.

Though there were hypocritical and mean voices about the Olympics before, they could not stop athletes and people around the world attending the feast of sports, he said.

President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also made speeches at the banquet, saying that they will never forget the extraordinary and splendid opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. 

Guterres expressed gratitude for China's firm support to the UN and multilateralism, for which partnership with China is a major pillar, during a meeting with Xi.

Uniting the world through peaceful and healthy competition is the mission of the Olympic Movement, which should also become the goal of all countries, they said. They hope that the international community will take the Beijing Winter Olympics as an opportunity to rise above differences and work together for a shared and better future.

Besides multilateral cooperation, Xi had bilateral meetings with presidents from countries in Africa, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. 

Xi met with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, and statements issued after the meetings indicate that China-Central Asia cooperation and relations will be elevated to a new level.

Experts believe that the concentrated meetings with Central Asian countries' leaders at the Beijing Olympics reflect China's determination to place Central Asia in its strategic direction of stability.

Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Saturday that China's cooperation with Central Asia is based on full respect for the independence and autonomy of Central Asian countries, and that China regards them as equal partners.

Zhu pointed out that under the framework of the unprecedented China-Russia ties, it provides a model for maintaining stability in international society, especially for promoting cooperation and equality across Central Asia. "But it's under the premise that it should be in line with the interests of Central Asian countries," Zhu stressed.

Eyeing mutually beneficial development, China and countries such as Ecuador and Qatar vowed to advance cooperation in energy, infrastructure and the Belt and Road fields, further facilitating trade and investment.

Only solidarity and enhanced cooperation will help us tackle all kinds of pressing challenges, Xi told UN chief Guterres on Saturday.