By Zhang Chunxiao, Li Sibo, Gao Jianjun & Lucas Liganga(China Features)
Recent years have seen China's increased involvement in multilateral diplomacy, either actively attending multilateral events, or as a trusted host of events such as the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and 2016 G20 summit.
"It can be said that China has always been in the driver's seat when it comes to multilateral diplomacy," said Aziz Mlima, Permanent Secretary of the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He cited China's participation in UN peacekeeping operations, cooperation with other developing countries in the G77, and signing the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) members, some guest countries and international organizations pose for a group photo ahead of the opening ceremony of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 4, 2016. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)
China has used multilateral events to voice its ideas on building a world that is more developed, secure and just. It is also working to this end through individual efforts and collaboration with other countries.
"China is transforming from a limited participant in multilateral diplomacy to a proactive supporter and contributor," said Zhu Shuai, a researcher at the China Center for Information Industry Development under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Zhu attributed the transformation to the country's growing strength, constantly changing security environment and the world's rising expectations of China.
Treating multilateral diplomacy as an important arena of foreign policy, China has at various events offered constructive proposals on topics ranging from international relations to sustainable development, security and climate change.
With the proposals, China seeks to reinforce its role in strengthening international cooperation, maintaining global security and building a fairer and more reasonable international order, said Professor Yang Baoyun, of Thailand's Thammsat University.
In March 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed at the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague "a rational, coordinated and balanced" nuclear security concept and called for a global nuclear security system featuring fairness and win-win cooperation.
Later in May, Xi proposed a new concept of Asian security at a summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, stressing common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security to tackle rising challenges facing the region.
In September 2015, he suggested a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and creating a community of common destiny for mankind when speaking at the annual UN General Assembly high-level debate.
China is the first among world's major countries to set win-win cooperation as its main objective in dealing with ties with other nations, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
At the just-concluded G20 Hangzhou Summit, Xi highlighted equitable and efficient global financial governance, open and transparent global trade and investment governance, green and low-carbon global energy governance, as well as inclusive and interconnected global development governance as priorities for global economic governance.
Xi's elaboration on global governance showed China is committed to contributing its ideas and wisdom to world economic growth, State Councilor Yang Jiechi said after the summit.
Moreover, Chinese leaders have on multiple occasions pushed to align its initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, with the development strategies of other regions.
Many share the idea that the Belt and Road Initiative, with a focus on connectivity and unimpeded trade, could work in synergy with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, the Investment Plan for Europe, and the African Union's Agenda 2063, among others.
"China is making its voice heard in international policymaking. It is getting creative in diplomacy, especially by spearheading new international institutions or assuming bigger roles in existing ones," said Gao Zhikai, of the China National Association for International Studies.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) addresses a meeting of foreign ministers from the BRICS nations on the sidelines of a series of UN conferences in New York, the United States, on Sept. 20, 2016. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday urged the BRICS nations to preserve world peace and help promote global growth. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
PUTTING WORDS INTO ACTION
China doesn't preach – it walks the walk. It has strived to honor its promises through concrete action.
China has sent more than 30,000 military personnel to 24 UN peacekeeping missions, 13 of whom have lost their lives. It is also working to establish an 8,000-strong standby peacekeeping force.
China is now the second largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping and the largest troop contributor among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
China has remained a steadfast climate-change fighter, recently depositing its instrument to join the Paris Agreement with Ban Ki-moon, together with the United States, paving the way for the early entry into force of the climate pact.
At China's suggestion, the first presidential statement on climate change in G20 history was issued at a G20 Sherpa Meeting in April, when concerned parties pledged to promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement by signing the agreement on April 22 or thereafter.
Meanwhile, to boost sustained global development, China has beefed up across-the-board cooperation with other regions through existing mechanisms or by creating new ones.
For example, since the establishment of the 16+1 mechanism in 2012, China and Central and Eastern European countries have witnessed strong momentum in the growth of their cooperation, with trade values hitting 56.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, a 28-percent increase from 2010.
China's Belt and Road Initiative has engaged more than 100 countries and international organizations since it was proposed in 2013, delivering greater-than-expected progress and results.
China invested a total of 51.1 billion U.S. dollars in Belt and Road countries from autumn 2013 to July 2016, accounting for 12 percent of its total outbound direct investment.
The China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank started operating in January, and in June, it approved its first four loans, totaling 509 million dollars, to fund power, housing and transport projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Laos are pushing forward cooperation on a 418-kilometer railway that stretches from the Laos-China border to Vientiane.
Once completed, the railway will greatly improve trade and personnel exchanges with Laos, a landlocked country on the Indo-China Peninsula, and help it achieve the goal of shaking off poverty by 2020, said Khemthong Sanoubane, deputy director of Khaosan Pathet Lao, or the Lao News Agency.
SPEAKING FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Though growing in strength, China is still in essence a developing country, and will, as always, stand up for the interests of developing nations.
"We firmly support the greater representation and say of developing countries, especially African countries, in the international governance system," Xi said at a UN General Assembly debate in 2015. "China's vote in the United Nations will always belong to developing countries."
China's support is not just empty talk.
In September 2015, Xi launched a fund, with an initial contribution of 2 billion U.S. dollars, to support South-South cooperation, and promised that China would do its best to raise its investment in the least developed countries to 12 billion U.S. dollars by 2030.
The same month, China announced the establishment of a 20-billion-yuan (about 3 billion U.S. dollars) China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to help other developing countries combat climate change.
"As a responsible world power, China has taken a lot of concrete actions to put its proposals into practice. Such actions are conducive to world peace and development, and especially enable other developing countries to share the benefits of China's reform and opening up," said Professor Yang Baoyun.
Africa, in particular, enjoys China's unswerving support for its peace and development.
To ensure the smooth implementation of 10 major plans, which China announced last December, to boost cooperation with Africa over the next three years, China has pledged to offer 60 billion U.S. dollars of funding support.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China is committed to working with relevant African countries in developing key regional infrastructure.
Citing China's support for constructing modern ports in Djibouti, a modern Mombasa-Nairobi railway and an expressway in Addis Ababa, Tanzanian diplomat Aziz Mlima said such infrastructure would not only connect the concerned countries with Chinese markets and production chains, but also ensure deeper connectivity between African countries.
China also announced in September last year that in the next five years, it will provide a total of 100 million U.S. dollars in military aid to the African Union to support the establishment of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis.
"China has always been Africa's dependable ally in the international arena," Mlima said, adding wider Africa-China cooperation "will definitely contribute sustainably to bilateral, regional, multilateral and world wellbeing."