Highlights of China’s diplomacy in 2021: Key relations and stance

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at a commemorative meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the People's Republic of China's lawful seat in the United Nations, in Beijing, October 25, 2021. /Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at a commemorative meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the People’s Republic of China’s lawful seat in the United Nations, in Beijing, October 25, 2021. /Xinhua

Despite the inconvenience caused by a prolonged pandemic, China played an active role on the world stage this year. Chinese leaders and diplomats proposed solutions to global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change at virtual meetings and exchanged views with politicians from countries across the world. They also stressed China’s stance on issues concerning its core interests and expounded some key concepts that the country advocates.

Here are some highlights of China’s diplomatic activities in 2021.

‘Common values of humanity’

The phrase “common values of humanity” was frequently used by Chinese leaders in 2021.

“We should vigorously advocate peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are the common values of humanity, and work together to provide the right guiding philosophy for building a better world,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his speech at a conference in October marking the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations.

At the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ASEAN Plus Three or 10+3) in August, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said all sides should jointly build a foundation of common values in East Asia, and jointly pursue humanity’s common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom.

Xi-Biden talks on Taiwan question

During his virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in November, President Xi ascribed the new wave of tensions across the Taiwan Straits to repeated attempts by the Taiwan authorities to look for U.S. support for their “independence” agenda as well as the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China.

“Should the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence’ provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures,” Xi warned.

Biden reaffirmed the U.S. government’s long-standing one-China policy and stated that the U.S. does not support “Taiwan independence.”

Three bottom lines on China-U.S. relations

Wang Yi drew three bottom lines on China-U.S. relations during a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Tianjin in July.

The U.S. must not challenge, slander or attempt to subvert the path and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, must not attempt to obstruct or interrupt China’s development process, and must not infringe upon China’s state sovereignty or damage China’s territorial integrity, Wang stressed.

Xi, Putin hail ‘model’ bilateral ties

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. President Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement in June, officially deciding to extend the pact.

During a virtual meeting in December, the two leaders praised “model” China-Russia relations and pledged to cooperate more on safeguarding the two countries’ core interests and upholding international fairness and justice.

Contributions to global vaccine cooperation

President Xi proposed a six-point Global Vaccine Cooperation Action Initiative when delivering a speech at the 16th Group of 20 (G20) Leaders’ Summit in late October. The initiative called for vaccine R&D cooperation, fair distribution of vaccines, waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, smooth trade in vaccines, mutual recognition of vaccines and financial support for global vaccine cooperation.

To date, China has provided over 1.6 billion doses of vaccines for over 100 countries and international organizations, Xi said. In total, China will provide over 2 billion doses to the world in the whole year, he added, noting that China is conducting joint vaccine production with 16 countries.

Opposing politicization of COVID-19 origins tracing

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu in August made a statement on a report on the origins of COVID-19 compiled by the U.S. intelligence community, calling it a “mendacious report made up for political purposes.”

“Without providing any evidence, the United States has cooked up one story after another to defame and accuse China. The aim is to use origins tracing to shift blame onto China and spread the political virus,” Ma said.

He stressed that U.S. attempts to politicize origins tracing have met widespread opposition from the international community.

Slamming ‘lies’ over ‘forced labor’ in Xinjiang

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in March slammed some foreign companies for banning cotton from northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region citing the use of “forced labor.”

Hua said the allegation of “forced labor” in Xinjiang was “nothing but malicious lies concocted by a few anti-China forces in an attempt to smear China, undermine security and stability in Xinjiang, and frustrate China’s development.”

Urging Taliban to fight against ETIM terrorists

Wang Yi met with the Afghan Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin in late July, less than three weeks before the group took control of Kabul. Wang urged the Taliban to make a clean break with all terrorist organizations, including the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and resolutely fight against them.

Baradar said the Taliban would never allow any force to use Afghanistan’s territory to harm China’s interests.