Sultan M Hali
CHINA’S Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while addressing the Press on the sidelines of the national legislative session, the fourth session of China’s 12th National People’s Congress in Beijing, remarked that China’s busy diplomacy has been “worthwhile and fruitful” in the past years. While responding to a question submitted online by Chinese netizens (citizens online) on diplomacy’s impacts on the lives of ordinary people, Wang Yi declared that without China’s active participation, many problems in the world cannot be resolved. It was the first time that an online question from ordinary people was raised in such a major press conference during annual session of National People’s Congress.
To press home his point, the Chinese Foreign Minister cited 20 overseas visits of President Xi Jinping around the globe in the last three years. He opined that China’s busy diplomacy has benefited the people’s livelihood. Quoting a recent example, Wang highlighted the Yiwu-Tehran railway, which commenced operation four days after Xi’s visit to Iran in January, 2016, which is serving as a cost-effective channel of transportation for over 70,000 businesses in Yiwu and creating more opportunities and better profits for them as well as their Iranian counterparts. Wang opined that China’s diplomacy will get busier and Chinese people can expect more benefits.
China’s twin sessions serve as the best window through which to observe China’s legislative and advisory body. The sessions attended by 3000 Chinese lawmakers and 2000 political advisors from all walks of life cover a number of issues ranging from economic reforms, military spending to foreign policy, which were this year’s main targets. The two sessions comprise the National People’s Congress (NPC) and National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The meetings are held in early March every year. The NPC, the highest legislature is the premier institution through which the people exercise their power. All administrative, judicial, procuratorial and military organs and other state level institutions are accountable to the NPC and supervised by it.
The CPPCC, the top political advisory body, serves as a key instrument for multi party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It allows the leading figures of society, selected from a wide spectrum, to provide inputs. The central government reveals its annual work report which includes the official GDP forecast, as well as major socio-economic policies. The NPC helps to promote the CPC’s leadership, as well as the position of the people as masters of the country and the rule of law all of which are integral to China’s democratic model.
The effective implementation of the CPC’s decisions depends on the NPC system. More than 5000 deputies and members of CPPCC National Committee attend the twin session. Among them are top leaders, renowned economists, entrepreneurs, rural labourers, migrant workers and people from all walks of life. NPC deputies are empowered to submit motions that are legally binding once adopted while members of the CPPCC National Committee put forward non-binding proposals that are considered by lawmakers and policymakers.
China’s democratic practices differ from Westminster style or the US model but are often misunderstood although they have been carefully crafted to suit Chinese culture and society. In the Chinese system, direct elections are used to elect township and county level deputies, while the deputies at the municipal, provincial and national levels are elected by the lower level deputies. Deputies are subject to supervision by the voters in the electoral units that elected them. This year’s NPC is expected to ratify China’s 13th Five-Year Plan proposed by State Council, with discussions focused on economical restructuring. Supply-side restructural reform is major issue at this year’s meetings. China’s leaders have proposed reform to combat an ongoing economic slowdown by cutting over capacity, destocking and reducing costs.
The Chinese Foreign Minister, in his press briefing conversed on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which some naysayers perceive as “expansionism.” Wang Yi dispelled the wrong notion, stating that the mega project is an open initiative, which was proffered by China but the opportunities it has created belong to the world. The Foreign Minister proclaimed that the Belt and Road Initiative, which refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Europe through central and western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe, is a response to the need for development and cooperation among Asian and European countries, and it shows that China is in a rapid transitionfrom a mere participant in international system to a provider of public goods. The reassuring factor brought out by the Chinese Foreign Minister is that while building the Belt and Road Initiative, China follows principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit. Doubting Thomas were informed that it is an open initiative, not some form of Monroe Doctrine or expansionism. The mammoth project, which will benefit two thirds of humanity, has made notable progress over the past years in four areas. More than 70 countries and international organizations have expressed interest in Belt and
Road Initiative and over 30 countries have signed agreements with China to jointly build it. It is encouraging that the financial architecture, which has been established in the form of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, has started operation and the first group of projects financed by the Silk Road Fund has been launched successfully. Communication links humanity and fosters better relations. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor network are already in place.
Capacity building and cooperation with twenty countries emanating from major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics has taken concrete shape since President Xi Jinping assumed the mantle of power. Foreign Minister Wang Yi affirmed that China’s diplomatic efforts serve to facilitate in the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation and establish a community of shared destiny for all mankind, adopting the route of peaceful development. Win-win cooperation and establishing partnership replacing alliances are key to fruitful diplomacy.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.