E-diplomacy in a month; dialing in to Xi’s vision for post-pandemic world


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BEIJING: In June 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping made four overseas trips to five countries in just one month, setting a record in the diplomatic history of the People’s Republic of China.
This June, conventional face-to-face diplomacy has been put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, but with a virtual summit and a meeting attended, telephone conversations with foreign leaders conducted, letters written and speeches made, Xi’s diplomatic schedule remained tight.
During the month, Xi interacted with a long list of foreign leaders from countries in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific islands, in which he called for solidarity against the pandemic, efforts to support economic recovery, and building a global community of health for all.
During the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 held on June 17 via video link, Xi said solidarity and cooperation are “the most powerful weapon” against COVID-19.
In phone conversations and letter exchanges with foreign leaders, Xi urged countries to coordinate efforts and support each other in fighting the common enemy of humanity.
With a “people first, life first” principle and a cooperative mindset, he also vowed China’s support for other countries.
“China will continue to offer firm support for Costa Rica’s fight against COVID-19 as the coronavirus disease outbreak remains serious in Latin America,” Xi told his Costa Rican counterpart Carlos Alvarado on June 5, in one of those conversations.
With openness, transparency and a sense of responsibility, China has pursued and promoted international cooperation in its COVID-19 response and has done everything to the best of its ability to support the international fight against the outbreak, Xi said in a congratulatory letter to the China-Arab States Political Parties Dialogue Extraordinary Meeting held on June 22.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China has been particularly concerned about the needs of developing countries. At the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 held on June 17, Xi pledged to continue providing material assistance to African countries, dispatch medical experts, start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals.
Few signs show that the COVID-19 pandemic is ebbing, as the global caseload has surpassed 10 million, and countries like the United States is reporting over 50,000 new cases a day.
The pandemic has also plunged the global economy into a deep recession. The International Monetary Fund has projected a global contraction of 4.9 percent this year.
In the face of the gloomy prospects for the pandemic situation and the global economy, Xi has been communicating closely with world leaders, looking to common development plans to drive economic recovery in the post-pandemic world.
In his video conference with President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on June 22, Xi said China and the European Union should serve as two major forces to maintain global peace and stability, pointing to the direction for China-Europe relations in the post-pandemic period.
“Our two major economies should play the role as dual engines of the world economy, drive the recovery of global economy, jointly support a scientific and orderly resumption of work and production, strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, and keep global industrial and supply chains stable and smooth,” Xi said.
Regarding China-Africa cooperation, Xi said greater priority needs to be given to cooperation on public health, economic reopening, and people’s livelihood.
Coordination and openness are frequently mentioned in Xi’s interaction with foreign leaders, as countries are struggling to ease lockdowns and phase in economic recovery.
For instance, he suggested China and Tajikistan coordinate efforts to contain the pandemic and promote bilateral trade, and be open to new ideas to ensure the implementation of key projects in the joint construction of the Belt and Road.