China’s special envoys raise hopes for peace

"China will continue to make relentless efforts to facilitate a proper resolution of the Palestinian question at an early date", Zhai Jun noted.


A sculpture of doves of peace flying into the sky [Photo/IC]

April 10, 2023

BEIJINGPresident’s vision guides mediation efforts to promote dialogue worldwide

In light of China’s recent mediation success in getting Saudi Arabia and Iran to sit together for a landmark dialogue last month and to resume their diplomatic ties on Friday, many policy observers have pointed to the extensive peacemaking efforts made by Chinese diplomats — particularly special envoys — who have traveled across the globe in recent years.

March, for example, witnessed packed schedules and travel by envoys representing the Chinese government or the Foreign Ministry and focusing on specific regions or issues, such as the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

They made footprints in destinations including Central and West Asia, North Africa and the Pacific Islands, where hot spot issues or the dire need to galvanize local development are high on the regional or global agendas.

In one of the latest developments, Zhai Jun, the Chinese government’s special envoy on Middle East issues, met with a group of Beijing-based diplomats from Arab states and the League of Arab States on Friday in Beijing.

“China will continue to make relentless efforts to facilitate a proper resolution of the Palestinian question at an early date,” Zhai said.

At the heart of the Chinese envoys’ discussions with foreign peers is Beijing’s overarching blueprint for peace — the Global Security Initiative, which was proposed by President Xi Jinping in April last year, officials and experts said.

Beijing’s expanding lineup of special envoys and its efforts to send them worldwide are among China’s practices in carrying out the Global Security Initiative and building a community with a shared future for mankind, analysts added.

The initiative “offers insights for promoting political settlement of flashpoints such as the Korean Peninsula issue and for coping with global security challenges”, and it “speaks volumes about China’s sense of responsibility to world peace”, said Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese government’s special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs.

China welcomes other countries joining in the initiative and will work with European countries and the international community to build a more peaceful, more secure and better world for all, he said in a speech on Thursday during a visit to Brussels, the home of the European Union’s headquarters.

Observers said that through efficient, practical face-to-face discussions, negotiations and mediation by China with other countries, the China-led initiatives and proposals are not simply political gestures, but blueprints that are constantly being perfected, improved and rolled out, one after another.

“Mediating for peace and promoting dialogue has always been a pivotal guideline of China’s diplomacy,” said Su Xiaohui, an associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.

Amid numerous conflicts such as the Ukraine crisis, there has been suspicion and pessimism around the world, as some question the efficacy of mediation and special envoys’ mediation trips, she said.

“So China’s mediator role in facilitating Saudi Arabia-Iran’s repair of ties has injected more confidence and faith into the global community and convinced more people that an issue could and should be fundamentally resolved through diplomatic, peaceful approaches,” she added.

The locations of the mediation efforts made by Chinese special envoys have shown great flexibility, as envoys either meet diplomats at home or travel outside China to discuss matters as needed.

Qian Bo, the Chinese government’s special envoy on Pacific Island countries’ affairs, traveled to Guangzhou, Guangdong province at the end of February for a ceremony marking the launch of the China-Pacific Island Countries Center for Disaster Risk Reduction and Cooperation.

Last month, he flew to the Pacific region to meet with leaders and senior officials of countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

Also high on the Chinese envoys’ agendas are detailed proposals made by Beijing in recent years for political settlement of specific issues.

The proposals include the five-point proposal, unveiled in 2021, on realizing peace and stability in the Middle East, the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa released last year, and the position paper on a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis issued last month.

Xue Bing, the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for Horn of Africa affairs, visited Ethiopia and the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa last month.

An important task of the visit was “to maintain close communication with countries in the region on behalf of China” on advancing the implementation of the Outlook for Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa, and to “support countries in the region in realizing development through solidarity as well as stability and prosperity”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

The Chinese envoys don’t speak only with those who are directly involved in a certain issue or in a specific region. In many cases, they might speak to a third country or an international organization engaged in or interested in their area of expertise, and the meetings’ wide-ranging agendas will also cover international and regional issues of mutual interest, according to the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Due to China’s objective stance in handling various hot spot regional or global issues, the Chinese envoys are often welcomed by both parties that have strained relations.

For example, Zhai, the special envoy on Middle East affairs, visited both Palestine and Israel during his trip to the region last month.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Zhai that “Palestine highly appreciates China upholding a just position on the Palestinian question”, and he said he expected China to “continue to play a constructive role in promoting a fair and early settlement of the Palestinian question”.

Special envoys from China and other countries are also joining forces and making their contacts more productive.

In June last year, the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy on Afghan affairs, Yue Xiaoyong, chaired a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, gathering special envoys or special representatives of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Russia.

As a major step showing the progress of their coordination, a regular meeting mechanism was established among them, and the mechanism’s first meeting was held last month in Tashkent.

What China has advocated is common, sustainable security, while some other voices in the world seek security at the cost of other nations, said Wu Sike, China’s former special envoy on Middle East affairs.

“The world knows clearly which security outlook aligns with the trend of the times and can enable more cooperation and play a role as catalyst for resolving global security issues,” he added.

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