World Expo Diplomacy: A New Starting Point for China’s Diplomacy

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 11:00
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 Time fleets past like a song, turning the dreams of a century into reality. The Chinese people have dreamt of holding the Olympic Games and the World Expo for over a century. Embodying the unremitting determination of the Chinese nation, these dreams have at long last been realized in the first decade of the 21st century. These are two milestone events that mark China’s progression from frailty and isolation to prosperity, strength and openness over the course of over a century. They represent two great strides made by China as it integrates and interacts with the rest of the world in all aspects. They have opened a new chapter in the great development of China’s diplomacy.

 An important diplomatic event to enrich the connotations of our time

 Much like the Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai World Expo is both an important international event that embodies global cooperation, development and progress and a grand diplomatic meeting that commands the attention of the whole world. However, the difference between the two lies in the Expo’s longer duration, greater number of participants and wider scope. As the first developing country to hold a registered international exposition, China has introduced a new proposition for our time in the form of Expo Diplomacy. Representing an integration of summit diplomacy, civil diplomacy, green diplomacy, economic diplomacy and public and cultural diplomacy, the Shanghai World Expo has displayed Expo Diplomacy in all its glory, comprehensively promoting friendly cooperation between China and the rest of the world and substantially enriching the connotations of China’s diplomacy in the new era.

 Summit diplomacy has yielded remarkable results. A total of 246 countries and international organizations have taken part in the Shanghai World Expo. In the four months since it began, the Shanghai World Expo has received more than 50 heads of state and government, and dozens more are expected to travel to China to participate in the event. In terms of the number of participants, scale and the ranking of attending officials, the Shanghai World Expo has surpassed past events. The event represents an important platform for global leaders to strengthen dialogue, showcase national images and promote friendly cooperation. We have made elaborate organizations for the Expo, established multilateral platforms, held bilateral meetings and unfolded intensive and fruitful summit diplomatic activities.

  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (on the left) visits the Russian Pavilion for Russia Day at the Shanghai World Expo September 28, 2010. Medvedev commented that, “The Shanghai World Expo is an international event of the highest importance. We can already see that this event will be a great success.” / Photo by Xinhua reporter Pei Xin

 The opening ceremony was the highlight of summit diplomacy. President Hu Jintao and other state leaders joined more than 50 foreign heads of state and government, speakers of legislative bodies, important royal family members, international organization directors and other foreign guests of honor to witness this historical moment. In the first four days of the event alone, President Hu met with 20 foreign heads of state and government and presided over welcoming ceremonies for seven foreign heads of state who were visiting China on state affairs. The CPPCC National Committee Chairman Jia Qinglin attended the opening ceremony of the Expo Park and delivered a passionate speech. The opening ceremony involved high-ranking dignitaries, a number of large-scale events and complex guest arrangements. However, our thorough planning, attempts to tie state visits with the World Expo where reasonable, smooth and natural reception of guests and meticulous logistical services were met with unanimous praise from the participating parties, ushering in a good start to the diplomatic work of the World Expo.

 National Pavilion Day activities have provided excellent opportunities for high-level dialogue. Since its launch, the Shanghai World Expo has been host to National Pavilion Day activities and Honor Day activities of the various attending countries and international organizations almost every single day. Political leaders have graced these events with their presence in constant succession as we have witnessed highlight after highlight. Chinese and foreign leaders have engaged in dialogue amidst the backdrop of these events, making important efforts to promote development and further bilateral cooperation.

 There was a touching story that took place on the opening day of the Expo. His Excellency George Abela, President of the Republic of Malta, accidentally fell and injured himself in his hotel. Upon learning of the accident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately initiated its emergency response procedures. President Hu Jintao paid a personal visit to the hospital after concluding a busy day of formal commitments, and later arranged for a special plane and an entourage to escort the injured President back to Malta. President Abela was deeply moved, and expressed on several occasions that the actions taken by China demonstrated the friendship of a great nation towards Malta. The response was met with widespread praise among the Maltese media and people. From a certain perspective, this event demonstrated the irreplaceable role that summit diplomacy plays in promoting the friendship between countries and between peoples.

 All-round diplomacy has pressed ahead with great momentum. The participants in the Expo have ranged from neighboring countries to guests from afar, from developed countries from Europe and America to developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America, and from international organizations to state organs. This depth has presented us with the opportunity to engage in comprehensive diplomacy on a number of levels and over a wide scope, thereby allowing us to deepen friendly ties with countries from around the world. 

 “A harmonious world begins with harmony among neighbors!” We have seized on the opportunity presented by the Shanghai World Expo to deepen friendships with our neighboring countries. A total of 22 neighboring countries have taken an active part in the Expo, building distinctive pavilions and exhibition areas that showcase their achievements and display their diverse cultures. Japan has established a non-partisan parliamentary alliance to attend the Shanghai World Expo, displaying the friendship that Japanese politicians have towards China. The Republic of Korea has been involved in exchanges and is continuously expanding cooperation with China as it makes preparations for the International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012, which is a recognized World Expo.

 Promoting the participation of major countries has been an important part of our efforts. Due to such efforts, Russia has decided to build its own national pavilion, thereby breaking away from its tradition of only renting exhibition space. The United States also managed to complete the construction of its national pavilion on schedule. Breaking away from its convention of only participating in World Expo events hosted within Europe, the European Union has also taken an active part in the Shanghai World Expo and sent its best exhibits. The Chinese side offered emergency medical treatment when a member of the European Parliament suffered from a sudden heart attack during a visit to the Expo. The President of the European Parliament wrote a letter to Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) of China, to express his thanks. Premier Wen Jiabao held talks with European leaders who had traveled to China to attend the Expo, playing an important role in promoting Sino-European relations.

 Actively supporting the participation of developing countries and treating all countries as equals, big or small, has been one of our core principles. We helped to build the United African Pavilion, which is the first uniform presentation of African countries at a World Expo and now one of the best received pavilions at the event. We have seen representatives of developing countries moved to tears at the grand opening of their national pavilion. A representative from the Republic of San Marino exclaimed: “Our country has a population of just 30,000, but our national pavilion receives 15,000 visitors every day. We are deeply moved by this level of support.” Built with an investment in excess of one billion yuan, the national pavilion of Saudi Arabia demonstrates the level of importance that Saudi Arabia attaches to its friendship with China.

 Civil diplomacy has stricken deep roots in the hearts of the people. It was once said that amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states. The Shanghai World Expo has created an open stage for exchanges and interactions between the Chinese people and the people of the rest of the world. These interactions have become one of the most unique highlights of the Expo. 

 Interactions between officials and ordinary people have been particularly prominent during the Expo. The Shanghai World Expo has broken away from the practice of limiting national pavilion days and honor days to within the Expo Park by linking the exhibition area to local communities. With the meticulous organization of the Shanghai Municipal Government and the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, more than 100 subdistricts, towns and townships have joined participating countries and international organizations, bringing the leaders and staff members of the visiting delegations into contact with local residents. This has allowed residents to experience the charm of the Expo as a stage for contact with the rest of the world.

 The immense charm of civil diplomacy has been vividly embodied in some of the stories that we have heard about ordinary people during the Expo. Japanese housewife Tomiyo Yamada has become widely known as the “Expo Granny” after visiting 373 pavilions in 38 days. Tomiyo would take the bus to the event every day. When Dragon Boat Festival came, the operators of the bus route invited her to spend the festival with them and make rice dumplings. Both Chinese and foreign volunteers at the World Expo have assumed the roles of “Civil Ambassadors,” enthusiastically spreading friendship wherever they go. More than simply providing foreign visitors with catering and board, the Expo Families in Shanghai have built bonds of friendship between different peoples. They have embodied the Expo’s theme of “Better City, Better Life” outside of the actual event itself. Rich and diverse in form, civil diplomacy leads to emotional bonds that bring people from different countries and different regions closer together. It has bolstered public opinion as a foundation of China’s foreign affairs.

 Green diplomacy has been vividly displayed at the World Expo. Efforts to make the Shanghai World Expo a green and “low carbon” event represent a pioneering undertaking in the history of the Expo and an important step towards developing a low carbon culture. This has promoted international cooperation and provided a rare opportunity for green diplomacy.

 In addition to converging green technologies, the Shanghai World Expo has also provided an important platform for international cooperation in addressing climate change. During the event, leaders from various countries have engaged in extensive and in-depth exchanges on the development of low carbon economy and the realization of sustainable development. Participants ranging from governments to enterprises have identified green development as an important theme, and relevant international symposiums and business talks have been extremely lively. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has decided to publish a report after the Expo which will “introduce the green wisdom gathered at the Shanghai World Expo to every corner of the world.”

 As the host country, China has seized on the opportunity to make environmental protection one of the major topics of the Shanghai World Expo. President Hu Jintao and other state leaders have reached broad consensus with visiting foreign leaders in regard to tackling global challenges such as climatic change. We have attached great importance to the special concerns of Pacific Island nations such as the Republic of Maldives and Micronesia, proposed the strengthening of cooperation, and proceeded to conduct in-depth exchanges with the leaders of European and African countries on cooperation in clean energy and training special talent for the purpose of environmental protection. The calls of the Chinese side have been met with positive responses from all parties. This has served to deepen our consensus and provide greater impetus for international cooperation in addressing climate change. 

 We have expanded and deepened our economic diplomacy. The Shanghai World Expo is being held at a time when the world economy is beginning to recover from the international financial crisis, although the foundations of this recovery still remain weak. China’s robust economic growth, huge potential market and vibrant mode of development are increasingly commanding the attention of the world, and many countries have high hopes for the Shanghai World Expo. We regard the Shanghai World Expo as an important window for economic diplomacy in the new era. Through our efforts to promote the participation of all parties despite the crisis, the scale of the Expo has actually managed to exceed past events. This has not only stimulated China’s economic and social development, but also boosted the economic confidence of the participating countries. We have maintained our commitment to promoting the economy through politics and promoting politics through the economy, made efforts to facilitate exchanges between domestic and foreign enterprises and devoted ourselves to serving the strategy of bringing in and going global. A large number of enterprises such as Huawei have taken an active part in foreign affairs at the World Expo, receiving dozens of foreign leaders and ministers attending the Expo and displaying the spirit of Chinese enterprises. 

 Countries from around the world have also cherished the Shanghai World Expo as an opportunity to strengthen economic ties with China. Various countries have sent delegations comprising key figures to showcase their national strengths and expand economic cooperation with China. Australia has planned to hold nearly a hundred business activities in the course of the World Expo. Dozens of large enterprises from South Africa made a joint appearance at the Expo to seek opportunities for cooperation in the high-tech industry and other fields. A number of regions from Spain have launched road shows in Shanghai and other parts of China to actively create opportunities in the Chinese market. With the support of the government, the Expo has provided a stage on which enterprises are the actors. In addition to expanding economic ties between China and foreign countries, this has also served to strengthen the bonds of friendship that China has with its global neighbors.

 We have realized a leap forward in public and cultural diplomacy. Open for half a year, the Shanghai World Expo has received extensive attention in the Chinese and world media. It has become a platform for public diplomacy with global influence. Moreover, it has become an important channel through which exchanges between China and foreign countries can be promoted and China can be displayed to the world more comprehensively. Many breakthroughs and innovations in public diplomacy have been made. We have arranged for a delegation of 100 journalists from 67 developing countries to visit China and cover the Expo. In addition, we have also invited resident foreign journalists to visit Shanghai and report on the Expo in two groups. The media coverage given by these journalists has been comprehensive in terms of both scope and depth. Some senior Chinese ambassadors involved in the preparations for the Expo have also been interviewed by the media, talking to internet users online and sharing some of the interesting stories that happened during the preparations for the Expo. Chinese embassies and consulates around the world have also helped to ignite global Expo fever by organizing and promoting a wide range of diverse activities such as themed exhibitions, community activities, float parades, and even a special NASDAQ opening bell ceremony in celebration of the Shanghai World Expo.

 The Shanghai World Expo has also been an extravaganza of cultural diplomacy. The gems of different world cultures and civilizations have come together at the Expo, such as the great Chinese painting Along the River during the Qingming Festival, a statue of the Little Mermaid from Denmark, a golden pharaoh mask from Egypt, marimbas from Oaxaca in Mexico and large drums from Burundi. During the World Expo, some 20,000 performances will be staged, allowing Chinese and foreign visitors to experience the diverse cultures of the world from the comfort of the Expo Park. Cultural exchanges represent communications between the minds of countries. In an era in which countries tend to place more of an emphasis on their soft power, cultural exchanges are playing an important and unique role in promoting dialogue between various civilizations, carrying the melody of peace, development and cooperation which characterizes our time, and spreading China’s ideal of peaceful development.

 Drawing on successes and innovating continuously

 The diplomatic work of the World Expo started well. At this juncture, we have already gained a great deal of valuable experience. What we need to do now is to summarize and draw on what we have learned so far, as this will help us to ensure the success of the next phase of diplomatic work in the World Expo.

 First, we have determined our orientation and our direction from the strategic level and with a long-term perspective. In the eight years that have passed since we first made our bid to hold the World Expo, we have witnessed the most profound changes in the international situation since the end of the Cold War. Major events such as the September 11 terrorist attack, the Iraq War and the international financial crisis have acted as catalysts for great adjustments in the world economy, great changes in world systems and great changes in the balance of power. As a country with unmatched economic growth and an ever increasing international standing, China is facing unprecedented opportunities and challenges. At the same time, global issues are becoming increasingly prominent and unconventional security challenges have become intertwined with traditional security challenges, thus adding a greater degree of complexity to our holding of the Expo.

 The CPC Central Committee and the State Council of China have correctly assessed the situation by accurately grasping the historical changes in the international situation and the historical changes in China’s relations with the rest of the world. The central government has linked the holding of the Shanghai World Expo to the overall strategy of the country’s development and to the great cause of promoting world peace and development, displaying China’s firm conviction of promoting its own development through reform and opening up and promoting world peace and prosperity with its own development. This also meets the expectations that the world community has towards China as well as its wishes to strengthen cooperation with China.

 Second, we have conducted rational planning and made overall coordinated arrangements. Foreign affairs involved in the Expo are characterized by a high degree of complexity and present a challenge to our service capacity and guarantee in diplomatic work. We have forged the World Expo as a comprehensive platform for foreign interactions, organically integrated the running of the Expo with the development of foreign relations, and devoted great efforts to promoting bilateral and multilateral interactions in which governmental and non-governmental efforts are made simultaneously and foreign affairs concerning individual countries and regions and foreign affairs in different fields are combined. We have established a foreign affairs coordination group in addition to establishing and improving our mechanisms for coordination and consultation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related departments have dispatched a joint work group that is stationed in Shanghai. They have realized the establishment of organization methods as mechanisms, the standardization of the working process and high efficiency in the implementation of tasks. We have made excellent use of our embassies and consulates in foreign countries, which are both well connected and informed in their respective regions, by integrating them into our domestic initiatives and achieving seamless coordination at both ends. 

 Third, we have had the courage to break away from old practices with new innovations. If we were to liken Olympic Diplomacy to a highly concentrated assault, then it would probably be apt to liken Expo Diplomacy to a protracted campaign. Building on our successful experiences in Olympic Diplomacy, we have accurately positioned the World Expo in consideration of the wider situation, unified international standards with Chinese characteristics, combined bilateral relations with issues regarding development, turned the enthusiasm of participants into a new impetus for diplomatic work and engaged in our work creatively. For instance, we have assisted some countries in building joint pavilions, thus allowing them to return to the Expo after a long absence. We have invited foreign heads of state to interact with the residents of Shanghai and organized joint interviews for journalists from developing countries, thereby creating a new mode of public diplomacy. Chinese embassies and consulates abroad have drawn on their local strengths and characteristics to integrate the promotion of the Expo into Chinese cultural displays, business and investment talks and non-governmental cultural exchanges, thereby significantly enriching the content and forms of these activities. We have established a new post of “Deputy Commissioner General of the Chinese Government for the Expo” and appointed 30 former ambassadors to the position. They have significantly aided communication and coordination in reception work. The World Expo has given birth to a number of outstanding new practices which have become new examples of China’s courage in the innovation of its diplomacy.

 Fourth, we have realized the better integration of foreign affairs work on the local level into the overall diplomatic work of the country. The Shanghai World Expo has involved the full mobilization and test of local foreign affairs work. It has set higher demands on the capacity of local foreign affairs work to serve overall foreign affairs. We have strengthened the political guidance and operational coordination provided to local governments concerning local foreign affairs and given full play to their enthusiasm and initiative, thus ensuring the efficient and smooth completion of various tasks. Under the leadership of the central government and the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee and Shanghai Municipal Government, our foreign affairs workers in Shanghai have overcome all manner of difficulties with a high sense of political responsibility and a sense of mission. They have made a vital contribution to the successful opening of the World Expo and have increased the overall standard of local foreign affairs work. Our coordinated and unified efforts nationwide have allowed us to channel our strengths toward the task at hand. This has played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth implementation of diplomatic and foreign affairs work for the World Expo.

 A new starting point and firm stride ahead

 At a time when the shape of the world and the relationship between China and world countries are undergoing historic changes, the successful hosting of the Olympic Games and the World Expo in China is of far-reaching significance. As we continue with our efforts to ensure the success of the World Expo, we are also affording thought to the changes that these two great events will bring to China and the rest of the world and the path that China’s diplomacy will take. The answers to these questions are becoming increasingly clear to see.

 China’s development has arrived at a new historical starting point. In holding the Olympics and the World Expo, China has demonstrated the progress that it has made over the past century. The dreams of those visionary Chinese personages a hundred years ago to hold Olympics and the World Expo have become a reality in which China has hosted both. History has taken us from the 12 packs of Huzhou silk that represented China in the 1851 World Expo in London to the advanced technologies, green pavilions and ideals of a beautiful life which are being exhibited at the Shanghai World Expo today. All of these things have displayed China as a country with 5,000 years of history that is currently in the process of developing rapidly amidst a reform and opening-up drive, and have presented China as a civilized, open, harmonious and progressive nation. More and more people around the world have begun to objectively view and welcome a peaceful and developing China.

 Holding the Olympics and the World Expo has also provided China with new impetuses for future development. These two great events have promoted China’s economic and social development and stimulated friendly ties with foreign countries. They have provided us with the opportunity to learn, compare and make up ground. As a developing country, China still has many shortcomings, and must learn and draw lessons from other countries. Our field of vision widens as we engage in exchanges, innovations are being forged out of collisions, and dialogue is making the strides of China’s development firmer and more powerful.

 China’s relations with the rest of the world have arrived at a new historical starting point. The Beijing Olympics and Shanghai World Expo have propelled China into an eminent position on the world stage and accelerated the pace of China’s integration into the rest of the world. 

 China’s international standing is rising constantly. The Olympics and the Expo have shown the world what China has, what it strives for and what it has to offer. China has constantly growing strength, broad prospects for development and an active wish to shoulder more international responsibilities within its capacity. As the first developing country to host the World Expo, China is striving for equal treatment for developing countries and its target is to expand North-South exchanges and cooperation. With its continuous development, China will provide an increasing amount of quality public products and make a greater contribution to the world. The Olympics and the Expo have vividly conveyed China’s ideals of peace, development and cooperation and demonstrated that China is an important power in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.

 China’s international image has become more favorable. In holding the Olympics, we have overcome all manner of risks and challenges, dealt a blow to hostile forces and anti-Chinese counter currents, used sport as a means of displaying China’s charm and thereby taken an important step in establishing our image. In holding the World Expo, we have overcome the impacts of the international financial crisis, used an economic platform to display China’s prospects for development and thereby taken an important step in re-establishing economic confidence. The holding of these two great events has demonstrated China’s image as a large responsible country and further enhanced China’s soft power. 

 The pace at which we are becoming integrated into the rest of the world is increasing. In the course of bidding for and making preparations for the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo, we have gone through a process of learning, applying and mastering international codes and rules, and this has brought us closer to the rest of the world. By mobilizing the general public to participate in the events, we have deepened their international awareness and fostered all-round talent with international perspective. These things have helped us to accumulate experience and strengthen our foundations in deepening interactions with the rest of the world.

 The rest of the world has also come to better understand and work with China. We might say that the torch of the Beijing Olympics showed the world a vigorous and passionate China, and in contrast, that the Shanghai World Expo has shown the world a wise and developing China. These two great events have further broadened the prospects for exchanges and dialogue between the Chinese people and the people of all countries of the world and provided a broader scope for exchanges and the sharing of experiences between different civilizations. At the same time, the strengthening of cooperation with China among the international community has gained more momentum.

 China’s diplomatic work has arrived at a new historical starting point. The preparations for these two great events and the holding of the events themselves have spanned the first decade of the new century. This has been a most important period in the course of China’s peaceful development as well as a period in which we have experienced billows in diplomatic work, but marched forward in spite of difficulties and continuously opened up the path for development. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council of China, we have grasped opportunities, met challenges and achieved major results such as hosting world events, overcoming crises, driving forward development and establishing our image, thereby writing a new chapter in the diplomacy of China as a large country with its own characteristics.

 China’s comprehensive diplomatic layout has been improved. Major events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo have deepened China’s friendly ties with countries all around the world. Our summit diplomacy has become more active, our bilateral and multilateral interactions have become more active and effective, our relations with world powers have continuously deepened, our interests have become more closely integrated with those of neighboring countries, our cooperation with developing countries has continued to become stronger and the conditions for China to maintain the overall stability of the international environment have become more favorable. 

 The content and methods of China’s diplomacy have become richer. The holding of the Olympics and the World Expo have enabled both the theory and practice of diplomacy with Chinese characteristics to become richer, the role of diplomacy in serving domestic development has become more clear, our ability to control complex situations has been continuously enhanced, our work in the political, economic, scientific and technological, public and cultural fields has been coordinated more closely, we have realized breakthroughs in the development of our soft power and our capacity to safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests has increased.

(From Qiushi, Chinese edition, No.17, 2010)

Note:  Author: Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

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