From 22 to 30 March, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo, and attended the Fifth BRICS Leaders' Meeting. On the way back, Foreign Minister Wang Yi briefed the accompanying journalists about the president's visit.
This visit marks the beginning of diplomatic efforts by China's new collective central leadership. Russia was chosen as the first stop with neighboring environment and major-country relations in mind. Attendance at the BRICS Leaders' Meeting focuses on the rapidly rising emerging powers in today's world. And visits to three African countries emphasize the developing countries, which are the foundation of China's diplomacy. This journey is a part of the regular efforts to carry out exchanges between countries and to participate in international conferences. More importantly, it reflects the strategic planning of China's new collective central leadership, and speaks volume of the defining nature of China's independent foreign policy of peace and keen awareness of both domestic and international environment. The visit was tightly scheduled with rich programs. The president attended 66 functions, including talks and meetings with 32 heads of state or political leaders, over 20 public speeches on China's foreign policy and major propositions, and over 10 cultural and public diplomacy activities. Despite the long and tiring journey, and against freezing storms or scorching suns, President Xi has completed one stop after another, sometimes working 15 hours a day, with a view to increasing understanding, deepening trust, and promoting cooperation and friendship.
Foreign governments attached great importance to President Xi's visit, and accorded him the highest protocol arrangements and warmest welcome. For the first time, the Russian cavalry and guard of honor welcomed a foreign head of state at the Kremlin. Dancing and singing, the welcoming parade of some African countries stretched from the airport to the residing hotel. The local people were impressed by President Xi's style as an intelligent, learned, pragmatic and friendly leader of a big country. With both history and reality in mind, Pesident Xi discussed the Chinese Dream, the African Dream and the Dream of the World, linking the pursuit of the Chinese people with the aspiration of people of other countires. President Xi also talked about China's development achievements and experience, demonstrating full confidence in our theories, in our path, and in our system. President Xi mentioned a popular Chinese TV series in Africa, bringing the people of China and Africa even closer. Global media followed this visit closely. There have been intensive reports and comments over the past days, triggering waves of "fever" on China, on China-Russia relations and on China-Africa relations.
1. Consolidating China-Russia Good-neighborly Friendship and Deepening Comprehensive Strategic Coordination
President Xi made Russia the first country to visit after taking office. This is not only a common practice the two countries have developed over the years, but also a testimony to the high-level and unique nature of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. The two heads of state met and talked for as long as eight hours, and their exchanges were sincere, pragmatic and congenial. They reached important agreement on strengthening China-Russia all-round strategic coordination and identified the direction and priority for future cooperation, offering important guidance for the furtherance of China-Russia relations.
The visit has strengthened strategic trust and mutual support. The two sides pledged firm support to each other's efforts to pursue development and rejuvenation, uphold their core interests, and independently choose development paths and social and political systems. The two sides agreed to have closer coordination and cooperation on international and regional affairs, uphold the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and promoting greater democracy in international relations. The Ministry of Defence and the Command Center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation opened their doors to a visiting foreign head of state for the first time. President Xi delivered an important speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, expounding on China's position and propositions on major international issues, and was well-received by the Russian side.
The visit has elevated practical cooperation to new levels. As many as 32 agreements, significant in volume and duration, claimed as "contracts of the century", were signed during the visit. Energy cooperation stretches from oil, gas, nuclear power, electricity and coal to new energy and other sectors, and all industries from the upper to the lower stream. The two countries will focus on implementing cooperation on major strategic projects, promote the transformation of cooperation model from pure buying and selling to joint research and development and joint production, and shift the trade mix from energy and resources to a combination of manufacturing, high-technology, and space and aviation. The two sides also reached important agreement on cooperation between localities, opening a new area of mutually-beneficial cooperation between China and Russia. The advantage of a strong political relationship between the two countries is being translated into actual outcomes of practical cooperation in various fields.
The visit has enhanced cultural exchanges and mutual understanding. President Xi and President Putin jointly attended the opening ceremony of "Tourism Year of China" in Russia. President Xi had extensive contact with leading figures of Russia, telling stories, talking about literature, reviewing history, and sharing the future and dreams. Bearing in mind old friends and in order to encourage the young people, he emphasized that cultural exchange was the solid foundation for bilateral relations. President Xi talked to the Russian younger generation on many occasions and hoped that they would carry forward the friendship for generations to come. The two sides agreed to hold the youth friendly exchange year in the next two years, and to significantly increase the number of students studying in each other's country.
2. Carrying forward traditional China-Africa friendship and opening up new prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation
The visit has boosted the traditional China-Africa friendship. The fact that President Xi Jinping has chosen to set foot on the soil of Africa in his first overseas trip shows that China values its traditional friendship with Africa and China-Africa friendship has evolved in keeping with the changing times. In an important speech delivered in Tanzania, President Xi described China's African policy in the new era with four phrases, i.e. "sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith", and reaffirmed to the international community that China and Africa are a community of shared destinies and trustworthy friends and sincere partners forever, and that China and Africa will support and help each other to realize the Chinese and African dreams. When speaking at the Parliament of the Republic of Congo, President Xi gave a vivid account of the friendship between the two countries and between China and Africa with a story of mutual support between ordinary Chinese and Congolese, and stressed that people-to-people exchanges are an important pillar of China-Africa relations. Both speeches received an outpouring of applause from the audience.
The visit has reinforced the commitment to China-Africa cooperation. In the group meeting with African leaders, President Xi stressed that Africa is a continent of hope, and that China supports African countries in exploring development paths that suit their own national conditions and has full confidence in Africa's future. African leaders commended China for taking the right path of development. They said that Africa has a lot to gain from China's experience, and called on China to expand its cooperation with Africa. They refuted the unfounded argument that China is pursuing "neo-colonialism" in Africa, and pointed out that Africa-China cooperation stands for mutual benefit and is thus welcomed by the African people. A revered African leader said in a gathering of over 1,000 people that they would never allow themselves to be misguided by people with ulterior motives, and that the Chinese dream would benefit not only the Chinese people but also Africa and the world at large.
The visit has expanded the breadth and depth of China-Africa cooperation. African leaders said that poor infrastructure condition is the main bottleneck in Africa's development, and that they hope to receive support and assistance from China. To help Africa address its most urgent challenge, President Xi reaffirmed China's commitment to speeding up the building of a partnership on transnational and trans-regional infrastructural development with Africa to promote connectivity between African countries. During President Xi's visit to Africa, the two sides signed more than 40 cooperation documents, including several major projects conducive to the national development of African countries and the well-being of the African peoples. President Xi announced a series of measures to support Africa's development, including aid, investment, financing support and professional training. President Xi stressed that China would keep its commitment in both letter and spirit and with no political strings attached in order to help African countries turn their resource endowment into development advantage and achieve diversified, independent and sustainable development. President Xi attended the inauguration ceremony of the medical, cultural and educational facilities built by China for Africa, and encouraged Chinese enterprises to actively fulfill their social responsibilities and create benefits for the local people.
3. Pooling the strengths of emerging markets and boosting the momentum of BRICS mechanism
In the BRICS Leaders' Meeting, President Xi Jinping articulated China's propositions concerning the future direction, principles and areas of BRICS cooperation, put forward the initiatives of building a global development partnership, strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly participating in the setting of international development agenda, and encouraged the BRICS countries to jointly work towards the goal of building integrated markets in the area of trade and investment, developing multi-tiered network in the financial and monetary fields, strengthening connectivity by land, air and sea in infrastructural development and promoting greater cultural exchanges at the people-to-people level. These important propositions charted the strategic course for BRICS cooperation and received positive feedbacks from the parties.
The meeting delivered a number of substantive outcomes, including the adoption of the eThekwini Declaration and the Action Plan, the signing of several cooperation documents, the decision to set up a BRICS-led Development Bank and prepare for the creation of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement, and the announcement of the establishment of the BRICS Business Council and Think Tank Council. The BRICS countries reached extensive consensus on jointly tackling global and regional hotspot issues, reforming the international monetary and financial system and advancing global development, sending out a positive message of BRICS countries united in cooperation and in pursuit of mutual benefit.
The meeting has strengthened the cohesiveness, developed clearer agenda and advanced the institutional development of the BRICS mechanism, and accelerated the pace of cooperation, thus creating a strong momentum and bright prospect for BRICS cooperation.
Wang Yi concluded by saying that President Xi Jinping's successful visit is of significant and far-reaching importance. It is conducive to maintaining stability in China's neighborhood, strengthening the foundation of China's diplomatic work, facilitating sound interactions between major countries, promoting democracy in international relations and improving the system of global governance. It is a successful practice of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.
The visit has sent out a clear message to the outside world that China's diplomacy is entering a new stage. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the General Secretary, China will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit in conducting diplomacy, and make pioneering and solid efforts to seek a sound international environment for the great renewal of the Chinese nation and make positive contribution to peace and development of the mankind.