China is indispensable. That seems to be what the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated when explaining about the complexity of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue after the breakdown of the Kim-Trump Summit. The same fact also applies to many other hot-button issues, be it the recent conflicts between India and Pakistan, the future of Afghanistan, or the ongoing crisis in Venezuela…
As the second largest economy in the world and one of United Nation's Permanent Five of the Security Council, China's diplomatic role has been in spotlight, and that times under a microscope. To be frank, it is often not just pure appreciation but also some caution, concerns, misunderstandings and even some accusations.
Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi, as China's top diplomat, knows all these challenges well. At the annual media conference, he talked gracefully and explained patiently to defuse misconceptions, with numbers, case studies, a better look at history.
He described the Belt and Road Initiative not as a debt trap or geopolitical tool but an economic pie; and relations between China and the U.S. not a zero-sum game, but inseparable relations 40 years in the making. But he was also firm in saying that China does not believe in becoming a "silent lamb" when the legal rights of its citizens and corporations are violated, he did say that China does not seek to be assertive or become a hegemonic power as some other countries did in history.
It is quite a delicate balance, one would say. A challenging tightrope for China to walk now. In hindsight China's diplomacy since the founding of the PRC 70 years ago, was never as it is today. It's come close to the center of the global stage, borrowing Wang Yi's words. Just like what China experienced at the early stage of reform and opening-up, it has never been here before and China has to be both confident and hit a learning curve, all the time, every step of this journey. But one would never be able to be smart enough on its own, something China understands well. State Councilor Wang Yi said it many times during his annual press conference that China welcomes constructive advice.
No one should expect that goodwill and friendly intentions would always be welcomed. At a time of the dramatic change in the world, when parties rush to protect their own biggest interests, often at other's expenses, China is sophisticated enough to face challenges of misperceptions and even provocations. But according to Wang Yi, China, as a country in great transformation, is far from cynical or indifferent. Take relations between China and the U.S. as the biggest example.
State Councilor Wang Yi warned against the danger that the political motives of some could hijack the future of arguably the most important bilateral relations in the world. He also asked all to look at the relations in retrospect: 40 years of cooperation, though with frictions from time to time, underpinned with coordination, cooperation and stability. But attempts to de-couple the two economies also exist. Yet, the State Councilor asked: who wants to decouple from opportunities, the future and the rest of the world? China, working with many others around the world stand for all these.
It takes two to tango. Despite the eloquency of China's top diplomat Wang Yi, how should partners map out their own roads, and along the way, interact with China? That is a choice all are making even now while I am talking. Particularly with the external pressures some countries already have come to feel over the past few months.
We can learn from Ancient Greek Aeschylus, who said happiness is a choice that requires effort at times. The choice to be made by all is not the kind one had to make during the Cold War era, either you are my enemy or you are a friend. It's one every country has to make about their own future. It would be a convenient choice, to become indifferent to the problems of disruptions they created, or to step forward and make rational choices for the long term, to make the world more inclusive and to be set free from the Cold War mentalities.
The options are all open now. It is not late to work together for the better.
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