Interaction between development and diplomacy in China

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By Andrestinos N. Papadopoulos, Ambassador a.h.

For us Cypriots, China is not only a friendly country with a rich cultural heritage, but also a strong supporter in the political and economic fields. It suffices to mention the support we get at the UN Security Council, support which is based on principles, and the forthcoming multimillion investment in the old Larnaca airport. Today, China’s international influence is a well established fact and it augurs well for a Cyprus to have such a great friend.
In their wisdom, the Chinese leaders grasped the meaning of the relationship between development and diplomacy with a view to raising their country’s international standing. It all started when Deng Xiaoping inaugurated the “reforms and opening-up“ which marked the transition to a market economy in 1979 and contributed to an extraordinary economic growth. Nowadays, China’s growth and development strategy is at a critical juncture. The slowdown of China’s economy has hit the headlines and many worry that the opening-up is losing momentum. In the new environment China is facing serious challenges, such as rising inequality, environmental degradation, external imbalances and new problems as income disparity, lack of credibility and corruption.
To remedy this situation China’s twelfth 5-Year Plan (2011-2015) has recognised the need to deepen market-oriented reform, change the country’s development model, and focus on the equality of growth, structural reforms, and social inclusion to overcome the rural-urban divide and stem the rise in income inequality. Now, emphasis is placed on the structural transformation of China’s growth model. Noting that nothing is more important to China than stability, the recent annual China Development Forum viewed this transformation as a colossal shift from the all-powered export-and-investment-led growth to a more consumer-led dynamic. Admittedly, China’s economy is under pressure due to the European debt crisis and the contraction of the world markets. For this reason therefore the average annual GDP growth target has been adjusted to 7% for the new 5-Year Plan period.
The difficulties in conducting the reform in a big country of 1.3 bln people are obvious. In order to achieve it one has to bear in mind China’s national circumstances and the fact that to develop socialist democracy you have to do it in a step-by-step manner. The commitment is there, if we take into account the statement made by the Premier Wen Jiabao, when he met the press in March this year. He solemnly confirmed that “as long as I have a single breath, I will dedicate myself to advancing China’s reform and opening-up cause.” As a matter of fact, over the past nine years we have examples of such steps. We mention, inter alia, the amendment of the Constitution so as to incorporate into it that the State respects and protects human rights, the formulation of the property law so as to protect lawful private assets, the amendment of the electoral law so as to ensure equal rights of rural and urban voters and the fact that now the government asserts that it has gained much food for thought from critical comments made by the public on the Internet.
On the basis of the formidable economic growth of the past and the new blueprint for China’s economic and social development, the Chinese diplomacy improved its structure and activities through a better understanding of the interaction between domestic politics and diplomacy. The list of its achievements ensuring a favourable external environment for its development is long.
Good examples are the participation in Summits by President Hu Jintao, premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders with a view to actively guiding the reform of the global economic governance mechanism; efforts to ensure stability, promote development and restructure the economy so as to serve domestic economic and social development; enhancement of friendship and cooperation with major powers (USA-Russia-EU), neighbouring countries (APEC, ASEAN), and developing countries (BRIC, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China-Arab Cooperation Forum); people-oriented diplomacy with a view to actively protecting China’s lawful rights and overseas interests; public and cultural diplomacy (Shanghai World Expo, Guangzhou Asian Games, Asian Para Games), etc.
In general, China made innovations in diplomatic theory and practice with a view to making ever greater contributions to the development of China’s economy and society. It effectively addressed foreign-related sensitive issues and emergencies, it deepened win-win cooperation and expanded political, economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges with countries all over the world, thus playing an increasingly important role in multilateral cooperation and the handling of hot-spot issues.
Indeed, China is a Great Power, and the praise is richly deserved.