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Opinion
A Venue for Dialogue
China takes the G20 Summit as an opportunity to advance bilateral and multilateral diplomacy
By An Gang | NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 15, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders of the Group of 20 members, some guest countries and international organizations walk into the venue of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, on September 4 (XINHUA)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Beijing on August 30, starting his seven-day trip to China, which coincided with the most important diplomatic event of the year—the G20 Hangzhou Summit.

In 1970, when Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, served as Canadian prime minister, Canada officially established a diplomatic relationship with China. Once Justin Trudeau came into office, he began to change Canada's policy toward China, which was developed under the previous administration. Prior to the current period, China-Canada relations were regarded as a lost decade.

The Canadian prime minister now seeks an active engagement policy with China. During his visit, the leader had in-depth talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. The two countries have now announced 17 cooperation documents, including establishing an annual premier dialogue mechanism. Canada has also applied for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and has agreed to strengthen cooperation with China to tackle global climate change issues.

Justin Trudeau's visit was only the start of China's diplomatic endeavors. All in all, from August 31 to September 6, Xi had 27 bilateral meetings with the leaders participating in the G20 Hangzhou Summit, showcasing China's endeavor in creating an expansive network of friends.

China has played an active role in setting the agenda of the G20 Hangzhou Summit in an effort to promote an open and inclusive international economic order. It also displays China's leadership role in participating in global governance as well as its dedication to helping create a "community of common destiny" for the whole world.

During the series of bilateral talks, building the foundation for the "community of common destiny of the whole of mankind" was always given priority by President Xi. He told the leaders that mutual understanding and support are needed on issues related to each other's core interests and major concerns. And, integration of strategic development plans of all countries should be further enhanced, such as China's Belt and Road Initiative, Russia's Eurasian Economic Union plan and Australia's northern development strategy. This aims to combine their respective advantages and requires pragmatic projects to be conducted in the fields of infrastructure construction and industrial production cooperation.

In his keynote speech delivered at the B20 Summit on September 3, Xi for the first time proposed building a cooperative and win-win global partnership.

In meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Xi called on both sides to adhere to the core issue of political mutual trust and to achieve more substantial results on anti-terrorism and security cooperation. Xi also expressed his appreciation for Turkey's affirmation that it will never allow any activities that could undermine China's security to take place on Turkish soil.

Global partnership

Xi's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama received the most attention. China was most concerned with building balanced and stable relations between major powers. Xi and Putin reiterated that China and Russia will enhance all-round strategic cooperation, and firmly support each other's efforts to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. Putin particularly stressed that Russia is willing to work with China to transform bilateral political mutual trust and people-to-people friendship into greater impetus for economic cooperation and to expand cooperation in trade, investment, finance, energy, technology, science and other areas, so as to bring more tangible benefits to the two nations.

During talks with President Obama, Xi affirmed that building a new type of major-country relations between China and the United States has led to a series of concrete achievements in bilateral ties. He reiterated the strategic significance and global influence of China-U.S relations and pointed out that bilateral common interests far outweigh their differences. Xi also stated that China-U.S. cooperation could be beneficial to both countries as well as the world.

Obama stressed that the United States welcomes China's contributions to global development and its peacekeeping undertakings. The United States is willing to work with China to carry out law enforcement cooperation in cracking down on transnational crimes and other issues, discuss the establishment of a stronger relationship with China in economy, trade and investment, and strengthen cooperation with China in more extensive areas including promoting regional and global security.

China-U.S. coordination is crucial for deepening bilateral collaboration on global governance. After the Xi-Obama meeting in Hangzhou, China released an outcome list of the meeting from the Chinese side with affirmation from the U.S. side. The document listed 35 important points of consensus reached by the two governments, showcasing the specific progress made by bilateral cooperation, including refraining from competitive devaluations and promoting comprehensive cooperation between the existing and new international financial institutions. Other agreements revolved around working together to support economic development in developing countries with the help of international financial institutions and strengthening cooperation in the fields of cyber-security and outer space.

In addition, as an important bilateral event during the G20 Hangzhou Summit, President Xi, President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon jointly attended a ceremony to mark the two nations joining the Paris Agreement. China and the United States' taking the lead to approve the agreement has sent a positive signal to the international community to jointly cope with global climate change issues.

In the past two years, China-U.S. relations have encountered some difficulties, resulting in the deepening of mutual distrust. In their meeting, both presidents exchanged their views on polemic topics such as Taiwan, Tibet, human rights and the South China Sea.

The two sides agreed to handle and control these problems in constructive ways. Obama noted that with regard to the Taiwan issue, the United States pursues the One-China policy without any change and opposes any practice of seeking "Taiwanese independence."

The Xi-Obama meeting in Hangzhou carries special significance for China-U.S.

relations. The past eight years have shown that despite a bumpy trajectory, both countries have stayed on the right track through dialogue and cooperation.

As the U.S. general election looms on the horizon, China-U.S. relations are likely to enter a new political cycle. It is generally acknowledged that regardless of who wins the general election, the new U.S. president is more likely to take a tougher stance on China. Friction caused by bilateral trade and maritime issues is likely to grow, increasing volatility between the two nations. Both countries should therefore insist on building a stronger relationship in the future.

Fast Asian ties

Reducing conflicts and pushing for the settlement of regional problems were on the top of President Xi's agenda during bilateral meetings with other world leaders at the Hangzhou Summit. In the past three years, the security situation in East Asia has become more and more complicated as a result of disputes in the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, and the East China Sea. This has disrupted regional economic recovery and collaboration efforts, and has even affected the East Asian cooperation mechanism led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Using the Hangzhou Summit as a platform, China launched a new round of diplomacy with its neighbors. During the summit, President Xi made efforts to improve the regional political and security environments.

In meetings with leaders of China's neighbors, including Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand and Laos, Xi stressed that Asian countries should give priority to economic development, improvement of people's lives and maintaining stability. Xi also reiterated China's firm stance to be a good neighbor, friend and partner of all Asian countries.

Xi told South Korean President Park Geun Hye that the interests of both sides are always focused on realizing common development and promoting regional peace. In talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Xi emphasized that China and Japan should properly handle the East China Sea issue. This should be carried out via strengthened communication through dialogue and consultation and in line with the four-point agreement to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region.

Japan should exercise caution in its words and deeds on the South China Sea issue, so as not to disrupt the improvement of China-Japan relations. Abe stated that Japan attaches importance to its relations with China and that the two countries are neighbors who cannot be parted. Japan is willing to establish mutual trust with China and strive for the improvement of bilateral relations.

As Singapore has taken over as the coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore is willing to promote the mutually beneficial cooperation between ASEAN and China.

The G20 leaders will meet again in Germany's Hamburg next year, and the multilateral platform will continue to serve as a place where leaders of the world's top economies meet and enhance communication.

The author is an op-ed contributor to Beijing Review and a researcher with the Pangoal Institute

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan

Comments to liuyunyun@bjreview.com

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