China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi Sets the Record Straight

Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s message was consistent that China’s approach to international relations remains centred on promotion of peaceful coexistence, mutual development, cooperative governance, and win-win outcomes.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Published Mar 8, 2024


Paul Tembe

Every year around this time, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) hosts The Two Sessions (Lianghui).

These Two Session represents the PRC’s yearly parliamentary gathering of China’s two main institutional bodies, namely the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC). In these meetings, discussions are held and consensus is reached on the PRC’s policy plans on trade, military, economy, technology, environment and diplomacy.

The formal foreign policy stance of China was laid out on 7 March by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to an audience of domestic and international journalists. What were some of the highlights of Minister’s statements and attempt at setting the record straight? Why should we care in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) what the PRC had to say on geopolitical hot-spots?

No doubt our world is undergoing tremendous colliding conflicts and challenges which threaten the very existence of our lives and livelihoods. While these challenges are undergoing, they also carry with them the seeds to transform our world for the better and positively reogarnise international multilateral institutions. Minister Wang’s message was consistent that China’s approach to international relations remains centred on promotion of peaceful coexistence, mutual development, cooperative governance, and win-win outcomes.

This approach stands in marked contrast to the impotent attitudes adopted by the Global North minority, like the recent Munich Security Conference, to prioritise unilateralism, protectionism, sanctions, martial might, and zero-sum outcomes.

Such stale Cold War notions are relics of the 20th century which are unfit for this century demanding, above all, cooperation rather than confrontation. This is encapsulated in the PRC’s main foreign policy tenet of “building a community with a shared future for mankind”, which was first defined in detail by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

The generation that is existing presently is called upon, according to Minister Wang, to promote and protect this tenet as our collective contribution, to past and future generations, to “act with a stronger sense of historical responsibility”.

Such a responsibility accounts for the reason why South Africa has, once again, approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), “to enforce additional emergency measures against Israel to prevent a famine in the Gaza strip”, a human-caused genocidal calamity that has already claimed more than 30,000 lives.

Likewise, building a community with a shared future, is an existential task to solve the Sudan civil war that has, unfortunately, killed more than 13,000 people and displaced 7.6 million Sudanese.

The message from the PRC is clear and unambiguous that the loss of any live and livelihood matters without qualification and distinction based on superficial categories of geography, race, religion, or gross domestic product. As humanity, we need to collectively and decisively deal with these wars and conflicts since their repercussions affect all of us.

As President Xi has been at pains to elaborate in his metaphorical manner, all of us without exception are “fellow passengers in the same boat”, which we call planet Earth, and as “we brave the rough waters of the global economy and confront the many risks, it is all befitting that we have come together on this ship to chart the course for future development and cooperation”.

To insist on doing the opposite can only lead to more catastrophe and mayhem as witnessed in the Global North minority’s stance in fueling, instead of stopping, the Russia-Ukraine war and the Palestine-Israel imbroglio which are both fought by protagonists with nuclear arsenals. Heaven forbid that the warring parties climb the escalation ladder and resort to the last option, which is mutually assured destruction (MAD), using a global nuclear stockpile, possessed by nine countries, averaging 13,000 weapons.

In his summary of the Two Sessions, Minister Wang also mentioned that the lack of mutual trust and working in complementarity - relying on Cold War attitudes - is a reason Global South majority countries like China and Russia are growing closer together in areas of trade and economic cooperation. In fact, mutual exchanges between these two Asian countries has resulted in bilateral trade reaching a “record US$240 billion, hitting the target of US$200 billion ahead of schedule”.

The only tangible effect of overdependence on using economic sanctions is to increase exponentially the supply of Russian gas to China plus India and promote aggressively Chinese-made automobiles and consumer goods in Russia. The lessons is very clear, using sanctions as a weapon of war can have an opposite effect if they are used not based on tenets anchored in promotion of mutual respect, win-win cooperation and peaceful co-existence. This is a central message President Xi has, all ways, communicated to Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden on various occasions when discussing the importance of multipolarity and inclusive economic globalization.

In the words of Minister Wang, “an equal multipolar world means equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal rules for every nation. Countries should not be categorized according to their strength. Those with the bigger fist should not have the final say”. The principles which should be safeguarded are those not of individual countries or regional blocs, but those of international governing bodies like the United Nations (UN).

The UN Charter should be relied upon to solve Palestine-Israel imbroglio to words towards attaining the two-State solution and avoiding extremists’ ideologies which views other social groups as “animals” and therefore fit for holocaust slaughter. Regarding the Russia-Ukraine war, there is no need to reinvent the wheel since China has already proposed a road-map to peace with its “four-musts”, namely, that:

“China maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected; the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be fully observed; the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be taken seriously; and all efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported”.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi made mention of the importance of the New China-Africa summit. He pointed out that a new meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in autumn in Beijing where Chinese and African leaders will discuss future development and cooperation and hold in-depth exchanges of governance experience.

Towards the conclusion of the press conference Minister Wang cautioned the world on the uses and abuse of the emergent artificial intelligence (AI) uses and potential abuses. Wang pointed out that the global guidance initiative put forward by President Xi Jinping last October has cleared laid out China’s position that states three principles to be met in regards to the developments and use of the AI.

First, is to ensure that AI is the force for good; second, development of AI should be conducive to the welfare of all humanity. It should in line with ethic and norms and conformity with the rules of international laws and in keeping with the trend of human civilization. We need to ensure safety; AI has to be under human control. Lastly, in developing AI, we all need to ensure fairness in the development and use of the AI and no nations should be left behind.

Minister Wang proposed that AI international governance should be setup under the United Nations framework and all countries be able to participate under equal terms. Expressions by Minister Wang Yi in regards to AI ought to be understood within premises that access development and distribution of AI technologies are a universal common and a future cornerstone of building a community of a shared future for mankind.

Tembe is a pragmatic Sinologist and founder of SELE Encounters.