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Thursday, January 5, 2017, 09:08

China set to strengthen global role

By An Baijie

Experts predict that this will be the year the nation gains greater influence in world affairs. An Baijie reports.

China set to strengthen global role
(Front L to R) Indonesian President Joko Widodo, French President Francois Hollande, China’s President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Jacob Zuma arrive for the opening ceremony of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou on Sept4, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP)

Sweet potato is not only President Xi Jinping's favorite food, but he also sees it as a symbol of China's determination to make a contribution to global economic growth.

"The vines of the sweet potato may stretch in all directions, but they all grow out of its roots. Similarly, no matter what level of development it may reach, China, with its roots in the Asia-Pacific, will continue to contribute to the region's development and prosperity," Xi said in a speech in Lima, the capital of Peru, in November.

Experts predict that this will be the year the nation gains greater influence in world affairs

The president's remarks came as the global economy continued to struggle as a result of sluggish growth and as many Western countries embraced protectionist economic policies. Making China's mark in global economic governance and shouldering greater responsibility were the defining characteristics of Chinese diplomacy under Xi last year, according to observers.

The experts noted that contributing to world economic growth and offering solutions for global governance will be the guiding principles behind Chinese diplomacy this year. That will be especially true in May, when the country will host a grand summit to boost interconnectivity between potential partners in the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known collectively as the Belt and Road Initiative.

In December, the Financial Times highlighted China's role in global governance, saying: "President-elect Donald Trump wants the US to shrug off its global responsibilities. China may grab the opening to move centre stage."

The article also pointed out that Xi has championed the Paris Agreement on climate change, defended the international community's nuclear deal with Iran and expanded trade liberalization within Asia.

International influence

Su Ge, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the world economy is recovering slowly and with great difficulty, so better global governance is required.

"The deficit of global governance is growing. Western countries' abilities in terms of innovation and the provision of public services have been undermined," he said, adding that China's international influence became more pronounced last year.

Noting that China will hold two diplomatic events this year - the first International Cooperation Summit Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative and the ninth BRICS summit - Su said the country will remain a positive force in the maintenance of world peace, stability and development.

China's continuing efforts to press for sustainable growth and to improve global governance won the support of world leaders when they met for the G20 Summit in the lakeside city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, in September.

At the summit, Ban Kimoon, then-UN secretary-general, praised the efforts of China and the United States in the ratification of the landmark Paris Agreement.

The progress that had been made was a major success, according to Ban who praised the "outstanding leadership" demonstrated by Xi and US President Barack Obama, who handed over legal documents to him on Sept 3 as an indication of their resolve to jointly tackle the global challenge.

"In the past, it was often said that China was a major economic power, but unable to play a global leadership role commensurate with its new status," Paolo Garonna, professor of political economy at the LUISS University in Rome, told Xinhua News Agency during the summit. "Well, all of us in Hangzhou have seen the Chinese leadership in action, in terms of strength and quality, and its ability to deliver results."

Economic hitchhiking

During his five trips overseas last year, Xi made efforts to elaborate on China's views about global governance, and he invited other countries to "hitchhike on China's economic development".

For example, while visiting Serbia in June, Xi said China wants to share its advanced technologies and management experience with the central European country to create job opportunities and improve people's living standards.

During the trip, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, accompanied Xi on a visit to the small town of Smederevo, whose century-old steel mill went bankrupt in 2003. The mill was purchased by China's Hebei Iron and Steel Group for 46 million euros ($52 million) in April. "Thanks to President Xi and the Chinese company for bringing new hope to the 5,000 workers," Vucic said.

In October, during Xi's first state visit to Cambodia, the two countries signed 31 cooperative documents to boost cooperation in areas such as loans, trade deals and the construction of power plants. In addition, China also agreed to import 200,000 metric tons of Cambodian rice.

In early December, in a congratulatory letter to an international symposium in Beijing, Xi said China has actively participated in global governance and promoted inclusive development, creating opportunities for all countries, especially developing economies, to share the fruits of development.

In the coming five years, China's combined import and export volume will reach $8 trillion, while overseas investments will reach $750 billion and the number of outbound tourists will reach 700 million, Xi said, during a trip to South America in November.

Jia Xiudong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said Beijing has provided both capital and projects for countries that want to use China's development to help their own economies. For example, at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September, Xi said China would establish an assistance fund for South-South cooperation, with an initial pledge of $2 billion to support developing countries.

China set to strengthen global role

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