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Firmly Uphold and Practice Multilateralism and Build a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind
2021/02/21

By Yang Jiechi

The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated shifts in the international landscape. The world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation. Meanwhile, peace and development remain the underlying trend of our times. People across the world have an even stronger desire for peace, development, cooperation and common progress. With the direction of global development and the future of humanity in mind, General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forward the vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind and foster a new type of international relations. This vision has broadened and deepened the concept and practice of multilateralism in the new era, and gained high acclaim and wide support from the international community. China is a staunch supporter of multilateralism. China is committed to the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law. While remaining strong in its determination to safeguard its national interests and dignity, China is steadfast in promoting the development of multilateralism in the right direction. Under current circumstances, to firmly uphold and practice multilateralism has taken on special and far-reaching significance for world peace and development.

I. The history of evolution of multilateralism

Multilateralism has gone through a historical process of continuous evolution. The end of World War II saw the birth of the United Nations, whose Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 and entered into force on 24 October 1945. The UN Charter, which serves as an important guide for promoting world peace and development, marks an important new start in the development of multilateralism. In the 1950s and 1960s, with the unfolding of national independence movements against imperialism and colonialism across Asia, Africa and Latin America, a large number of developing countries gained independence and joined the UN. This lent a strong boost to the development and progress of multilateralism. On 25 October 1971, the 26th session of the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758 with an overwhelming majority to restore all the lawful rights and interests of the People's Republic of China at the UN. The restoration of China's lawful seat at the UN and the entry of a great number of developing countries are of great historic significance to the development of multilateralism. Over time, the UN has grown into the most universal, representative and authoritative inter-governmental organization. Multilateralism has increasingly gained strength as a symbol for justice, progress and people's well-being. The end of the Cold War ushered in a period of accelerated advancement toward a multi-polar world, economic globalization, IT application and cultural diversity. A growing number of international mechanisms have been established and steadily improved. Multilateralism has become a clear policy choice of countries across the world. In response to the 2008 global financial crisis, the G20 Summit came into being and has since become a major platform for discussions on global economic governance, allowing emerging markets and developing countries to participate on an equal footing in the decision making on global economic governance. In the past several years, though, certain countries, driven by misguided unilateral and protectionist policies, chose to withdraw from international organizations and agreements one after another. Multilateralism suffered a serious setback. In response, members of the international community overwhelmingly voiced opposition and called for efforts to uphold multilateralism and maintain international cooperation.

Multilateralism, which is underpinned by the UN Charter, represents humanity's historical progress from war to peace, from privilege to equality, and from monopoly to consultation. As General Secretary Xi Jinping noted in his special address at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, "Multilateralism is about having international affairs addressed through consultation and the future of the world decided by everyone working together." Countries in the world, bound by a shared future, need to share responsibilities as well as benefits, and all must come together in the trying moments of ours. Such belief is deeply rooted in the traditional Chinese culture, and is reflective of the popular aspiration of people across the world. The multilateralism that China champions is grounded in the UN-centered international system. It is consistent with the vision for a multi-polar world and for a community with a shared future for mankind. To build a community with a shared future for mankind points to the direction and provides guidance for upholding and practicing multilateralism, while the practice of multilateralism brings about global institutional guarantee for building such a community. The call for multilateralism reflects the progress of our times. It serves the interests of all countries and peoples, and sets the right direction for a world undergoing major changes and transition.

II. China's historic and pioneering contribution to the theory and practice of multilateralism in the new era

China is a founding member of the United Nations and a permanent member of its Security Council, and is the first country to put its signature on the UN Charter. Over the decades, China has stood firmly with fellow developing countries in practicing the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China has actively participated in UN-centered multilateral activities, joined an extensive range of multilateral treaties and international conventions, and made an important contribution to upholding world peace, promoting common development, strengthening human rights protection, advancing people-to-people exchanges, conducting counter-terrorism cooperation, and addressing climate change. China has called for building a new international political and economic order that is just and reasonable, and has endeavored to advance the building of a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. All these have gained wide support and acclaim from the global community.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has, based on his in-depth observation and keen insight of the evolving global landscape and international order, has laid out a series of overarching, strategic and direction-setting plans and arrangements in the multilateral field. The core ideas and whole set of propositions have been expounded for the development of multilateralism in the new era. The objective is to build a community with a shared future for mankind and to foster a new type of international relations. The direction is to promote a multi-polar world and bring about greater democracy in international relations. The centerpiece is to uphold the authority of the UN as well as the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The guiding principle is extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance. And the pathway is high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation. On such a basis, we may actively guide the reform and development of the global governance system, and promote the building of an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity. The Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy provides primary guidance for China's diplomacy in the new era. It builds on and further develops the theories on international relations, and opens new vistas for the development of multilateralism both in theory and in practice. Speaking at various major international fora, General Secretary Xi Jinping outlined China's vision on the international order and on global governance, as well as the new concepts on security and development, and the concepts on human rights, on ecological preservation and on civilization. These important propositions explain China's stance and position, and are a strong rebuff to unilateralism and acts of bullying. They effectively counter talks of "clash of civilizations" and of the superiority of one race over another. Clearly, they point the way forward for the transformation of the global governance system and the international order.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has hosted a series of major international events in China, including the G20 Hangzhou Summit, the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China International Import Expo, and the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations. These events have yielded a host of important breakthroughs and injected strong impetus to global governance and international cooperation, thus gaining extensive recognition and support from the international community.

China has played an active part in strengthening a global response to global challenges. In January 2021, at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a special address titled "Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity's Way Forward". In the speech, General Secretary Xi called on the international community to jointly address the four major tasks of our times, and noted that the way out of the problems we face is through upholding multilateralism and building a community with a shared future for mankind. He underscored the need to stay committed to openness and inclusiveness instead of closeness and exclusion, to international law and international rules instead of seeking one's own supremacy, to consultation and cooperation instead of conflict and confrontation, and to keeping up with the times instead of rejecting change. He pointed out that to build small circles or to create isolation and estrangement will only push the world into division and confrontation. We cannot tackle the common challenges facing humanity in a divided world. Humanity has learned lessons the hard way, and we must not return to the old path of the past. General Secretary Xi's important remarks addressed the well-being of the entire humanity. They resonated strongly with the international community, as they pointed the way for overcoming global challenges during the pandemic, lent impetus to international solidarity in challenging times, and made a strong call for upholding and practicing multilateralism in the new era.

In 2020, General Secretary Xi Jinping attended the G20 Extraordinary Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 and the virtual opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, and chaired the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19. In the important remarks delivered on those occasions, General Secretary Xi announced major cooperation measures to fight the coronavirus and called for the building of a global community of health for all. He spelt out China's goals for peaking carbon dioxide emissions and achieving carbon neutrality at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, and announced new measures for nationally determined contributions at the Climate Ambition Summit, thus leading the way to reinvigorated global response to climate change. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, under the initiative and guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping, Belt and Road cooperation has been translated from vision to reality, and is serving as a key platform for building a community with a shared future for mankind.

While striving to promote world peace and development in multilateral institutions, China has stood firm in safeguarding its sovereignty and security, its development interests and national dignity. We actively facilitated the peaceful settlement of key regional issues, including the Korean Peninsula issue, the Iranian nuclear issue and the Afghanistan issue. We have also been deeply involved in rules making in such arenas as the deep sea, the polar region, outer space and the fight against corruption, as well as in international anti-terrorism cooperation. By championing the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS New Development Bank, and the Silk Road Fund, China has created a precedent for the initiation of multilateral financial institutions by developing countries. By setting up the China-UN Peace and Development Fund, the South-South Cooperation Fund, and the Climate Change South-South Cooperation Fund, China has given strong support to other developing countries in peacekeeping, poverty reduction and climate change. Following a targeted approach to development cooperation and foreign assistance, China is helping other developing countries achieve better development. China is committed to enhancing international cooperation and exchanges to support all countries in restoring economic and social development while responding to COVID-19 more effectively.

In recent months, under the personal direction and commitment of General Secretary Xi Jinping, China has made new, major achievements in multilateral diplomacy. In November 2020, China signed with other participants the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which is the most significant outcome of East Asian economic integration in nearly two decades. In December 2020, General Secretary Xi announced with leaders of Germany, France and the EU conclusion of the negotiations on the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment as scheduled, a move widely hailed as a new milestone in China-EU relations. In February 2021, General Secretary Xi chaired the Summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) and delivered a keynote speech. He spelt out principles for China-CEEC cooperation and shared four thoughts of suggestion for moving China-CEEC cooperation forward under new circumstances. His remarks helped build further consensus and add new impetus to China-CEEC cooperation going forward. All the above achievements will contribute significantly to international and regional cooperation and economic recovery in the world.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, more and more Chinese initiatives have become global consensus and turned into concrete actions. This is unprecedented in China's multilateral diplomacy, and marks a major contribution of China to world peace and development. It comes as the result of active and hard work under the direct leadership and guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping. The important visions and major practices spearheaded by General Secretary Xi Jinping are an integral part of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, as they are an integral part of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. They also represent China's major contribution to the innovation of the theory and practice of multilateralism.

III. The current features and future trends of multilateralism

First, despite the serious impact of unilateralism on the existing international system, multilateralism remains the call of the people and the trend of our times. In recent years, certain countries attempted to put unilateralism and bullying practices above the basic norms of international relations, including the norms of sovereign equality, peaceful resolution of disputes and non-interference in internal affairs. They also blatantly put their own interests first and seriously undermined the current international system with the UN at its core. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of countries support the idea and practice of multilateralism, and oppose any single country's attempt to dominate international affairs, dictate the future of others or monopolize the right to development. Multilateralism still enjoys solid foundation and strong impetus.

Second, despite the new complications facing multilateralism, cooperation still holds solid ground and broad perspective. Although countries may have different views on the meaning and priorities of multilateralism, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter remain the greatest consensus of the international community. As the raging COVID-19 pandemic poses serious challenges to all countries, the international community are more determined than ever to fight the coronavirus together. Although populism and de-globalization thoughts are rising, economic globalization remains the overriding trend, and most countries hope to achieve globalization that is more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. No country can stay immune from global challenges like the pandemic, economic recession or climate change. For the international community, cooperation is the most powerful weapon, and the path of multilateralism is the only right choice.

Third, despite a rising clamor for ideological confrontation, the global call for greater solidarity to rise above differences is even stronger. Clinging to a zero-sum mentality, some forces are obsessed with playing up differences in ideology and political system. They seek to create divisions by forming small circles and interfere in others' internal affairs in the name of human rights or democracy. Such attempts have been widely rejected by the international community. To build a new type of international relations, we must choose mutual respect over self-conceit, fairness and justice over narrow self-interest, and win-win cooperation over a beggar-thy-neighbor approach. A prevailing view shared by the international community is that countries should pursue a development path suited to their own national conditions and run their own affairs well before anything else. No country should scapegoat others for its own malaise or draw lines on an ideological basis. It is the shared aspiration of the overwhelming majority of countries to strengthen global governance based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and to work together to reduce the serious deficit in governance, trust, peace and development and promote multilateralism and a global governance system that features greater openness and inclusiveness, fairness and justice, green and sustainable development, and cooperation for win-win results.

IV. This year, China will start a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country and will celebrate the centenary of the CPC. To conduct multilateral diplomacy, we must follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. We need to take into account both the domestic and international imperatives and work on development and security as two priorities. We need to stay focused on the overarching goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, rally more forces for good in the international community, and contribute more to fully building a modern socialist country and to promoting world peace and development.

First, we will follow the strategic guidance of leaders' summits and use "home-ground diplomacy" as major platforms to seek progress in both the theory and practice of multilateralism in the new era. We need to fully expound the significance to the world today of General Secretary Xi Jinping's special address at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, and contribute China's wisdom, visions and solutions in addressing the major issues of our times. Facing the major task of global economic recovery, the G20 must act as the premier platform for international economic cooperation and promote macroeconomic policy coordination among major economies to restore global growth through concerted efforts. It is important to enhance solidarity and cooperation with fellow BRICS countries and jointly support multilateralism. Taking the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this year, we support the SCO in continuing to play its important role in maintaining regional stability and strengthening practical cooperation. We encourage APEC to act on the vision of building an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future and work to deepen economic cooperation in the region. We are making solid preparations for hosting the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference around the time of its 20th anniversary, the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the second UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference in a bid to expanding cooperation in relevant areas.

Second, we will hold high the banner of building a community with a shared future for mankind and firmly uphold the authority of the United Nations.

To build a community with a shared future for mankind serves the interests of all countries and the well-being of humanity. With this goal in mind, we will expand and deepen cooperation with all countries in the world. In so doing, we shall follow the principles of mutual respect, equal consultation, fairness and justice, win-win cooperation and seeking common ground while shelving differences, and strive to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world of lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity. We will firmly uphold the international system centered on the UN, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic principles of international law and basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We will vigorously promote multilateralism and greater democracy in international relations. We oppose hegemony and power politics, and oppose any practice of unilateralism in the name of multilateralism. We see all countries as equal members of the international community, regardless of their size, strength and wealth. We firmly oppose drawing ideological lines. We choose solidarity over division, cooperation over confrontation, and positive-sum over zero-sum practices. We want the world to be a big family, and not divided into small circles.

Third, we will step up coordination and cooperation with other parties within multilateral frameworks to steer forward the reform and development of the global governance system. We are prepared to deepen dialogue with other parties on supporting multilateralism, strengthening global governance and promoting international cooperation, enhance communication and collaboration on COVID-19 response, economic recovery, climate change, environmental protection, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, global security, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, law enforcement and fighting corruption, and work with other parties to promote more dialogue and cooperation within such multilateral mechanisms as the UN, the G20, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, BRICS, the SCO and APEC. We will take an active part in the revision of existing international rules and the formulation of new ones in new frontiers. We will support the WHO in playing a leadership role and work with other countries to build a global community of health for all. We will further boost global cooperation against COVID-19, carry out effective vaccine collaboration, prioritize the needs of developing countries for vaccines, and firmly reject politicization and stigmatization of the virus. We will take an active part in the WTO reform, support the multilateral trading regime, and uphold China's developing country status. We will encourage the IMF to complete its quota reform on schedule, and urge the World Bank to conclude a new round of shareholding review. We will support the development of the AIIB, the New Development Bank and other new institutions, and deepen practical cooperation among their members.

Fourth, we will advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation for win-win outcomes. Following the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the philosophy of open, green and clean cooperation, and a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach, we will continue to improve the mechanisms of Belt and Road cooperation, and advance Belt and Road cooperation through a combination of online and offline meetings and forums. We will actively develop the Silk Road for Health. We will minimize the impact of COVID-19 to keep trade unclogged for countries along the route, and join hands with them to defeat the virus and promote economic recovery.

Fifth, we will advance international cooperation through the new development paradigm we are fostering at home and pursue opening-up in a larger scope, to wider areas and at deeper levels. As China embarks on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country, we will create much more space for global businesses to grow in our country. We will work with all parties to find new drivers of growth for the world economy and share the new opportunities emerging from China's development. We will work with relevant parties for the ratification and entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and actively foster an East Asian economic circulation to facilitate the larger international circulation. We will favorably consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). We will advance China-Japan-ROK cooperation and take China-ASEAN relations to a new height. We will firmly support the greater representation and voice of developing countries in global governance, and we call on the international community to take into due account the impact of COVID-19 and economic recession on developing countries. We will strengthen South-South cooperation in the UN, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum, the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement and other frameworks. We will work with the European Union on the follow-ups of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, and deliver the agreed outcomes of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries. And we will expand and deepen practical cooperation with the United States, Europe, Japan and other parties in such areas as new energy and new technologies.

Sixth, we will firmly safeguard China's national interests in multilateral institutions and work for peaceful co-existence and common development of all countries. We will resolutely defend our national interests and dignity at multilateral fora when our core and major interests are at stake. We will both stand by principles and play a constructive part in the new round of reshaping of international rules. We will take greater initiative to speak up on multilateral platforms for what is right and just. We will better communicate our positions and propositions and tell a good China story. The Chinese people, closely rallied behind the CPC, are steadfast in pursuing socialism with Chinese characteristics. At the same time, we respect the choices of development path made by other people in the world. As General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda, "Each country is unique with its own history, culture and social system, and none is superior to the other. The best criteria are whether a country's history, culture and social system fit its particular situation, enjoy people's support, serve to deliver political stability, social progress and better lives, and contribute to human progress." It is important that countries pursue peaceful co-existence and common development on the basis of mutual respect and expanding common ground while reserving differences. It is also important that countries promote an approach to different civilizations featuring equality, mutual learning, dialogue and mutual accommodation, and encourage more exchanges and mutual learning to inject strong impetus to the progress of human civilization.

China will continue to be a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China will firmly uphold and practice multilateralism and make new and still greater contribution to building a community with a shared future for mankind and promoting world peace and development.

The author is a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.

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