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Promoting China Abroad

— An Interview with Zhao Qizheng, Member of the CPPCC National Committee and Head of Its Foreign Affairs Committee

By staff reporter ZHANG HUA

THE annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is one of the main political meetings in China and is attended by representatives from all walks of life. The major function of the CPPCC is to conduct political consultations and exercise democratic supervision as well as take part in the discussion and management of state affairs. During 2012 National Peoples' Congress (NPC) and CPPCC sessions, China Today held an interview with Zhao Qizheng, member of CPPCC National Committee and head of its Foreign Affairs Committee, on CPPCC's foreign communication, China's public diplomacy and changes in China's international standing and role.

Everything Out in the Open

China Today: What is the difference between the CPPCC and congresses in other countries? Are the NPC and CPPCC influenced by lobbyists behind the scene like other countries?

Zhao Qizheng: The CPPCC is not a legislative body. Its role as a political consultative body means the ruling party and the State Council are obliged to consult the CPPCC about important policies and major elections beforehand. CPPCC participants will follow the implementation and results of these policies and elections and make proposals for amendments if necessary. Relevant authorities must take its opinions seriously and act promptly. This is how the political consultation works at the CPPCC.

As for democratic supervision, it is important that the CPPCC has the right to effectively supervise the behavior of the ruling party and the government. Each member is encouraged to give his or her opinions at the annual session. It is not necessarily to reach an agreement before a proposal is put forward. Some people think the CPPCC has no voice because it doesn't have legislative rights. However, it is this that enables the CPPCC to avoid influence and control by certain interest groups.

There are no so-called political persuaders in China. CPPCC members from the spheres of business, education, sports, culture and art all voice their opinions over the issues in their fields. They are not lobbyists and the comments and proposals they have raised are more profound and tangible than those put forward by political persuaders. This can be considered as one defining feature of the CPPCC.

Express China's Perspectives

China Today: What kind of role does CPPCC foreign communication play in China's diplomacy? What achievements have been made in this respect by the Foreign Affairs Committee? Were there any highlights and changes to CPPCC proposals over China's public diplomacy in recent years?

Zhao Qizheng: CPPCC foreign communication constitutes a significant element of China's foreign affairs. All 59 members of the Foreign Affairs Committee have relevant experience. Some are former ambassadors and diplomats while others are officials, businessmen and social personages who have been extensively engaged in international communication and cultural exchanges.

In the first year of the current Foreign Affairs Committee's term, three groups were set up to analyze public diplomacy, international economy and trade, international politics and the general international situation. It is clear that the CPPCC's foreign communication is a part of public diplomacy. We express China's perspectives on behalf of every group in Chinese society and the will of the people.

In the past four years we have organized a good number of conferences and published the Public Diplomacy Quarterly in order to disseminate the idea of public diplomacy in China. We also wrote and published several books, including Public Diplomacy and Communication between Cultures, which was translated into Japanese as soon as it was published, and well received in Japan.

We also organize various public diplomacy activities every year, such as sending delegations to visit governments, congresses, non-government organizations and enterprises in different countries.

In 2011 the CPPCC's public diplomacy activities reached another peak. We met with heavyweight personages from both foreign governments and the public. For example, we had talks with visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns and Brazilian consul in Shanghai, and held symposiums with American universities including Yale, Harvard and Georgetown, as well as with Japanese and South Korean delegates. We met with non-governmental organizations in the U.S. and the 48 Group Club, a British enterprise association that has a close relationship with China, and exchanged ideas with them. Some countries expressed the desire to purchase the copyright for English editions of the books we have published. Basically, the Foreign Affairs Committee have contributed a lot in promoting China's public diplomacy.

A Driving Force of China's Public Diplomacy

China Today: What contributions have CPPCC members' proposals made to China's public diplomacy?

Zhao Qizheng: The CPPCC is one of the driving forces of China's public diplomacy. There are also a number of organizations doing the job under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but our activities cover a wider range of topics and people. For instance, we teach entrepreneurs the significance of public diplomacy. China's enterprises have experienced setbacks when entering the international market. Sometimes, people and labor unions in host countries suspect that Chinese companies represent the government. We need to make it clear that these companies engage solely in business and will bring benefit to the local population. Public diplomacy endeavors have been helping us achieve success on this front.

In 2012, we will facilitate extensive exchanges with Chinese enterprises planning to enter the international market and those already with operations there. We are determined to improve our work in this regard and bring it to a new level.

China in the International Scene

China Today: The world is undergoing profound changes at present. As a major country in the world, what kind of role is China playing and what efforts is it making to maintain regional stability and world peace?

Zhao Qizheng: China's international standing has been rising fast in the last three decades. Thirty years ago I wasn't concerned with the exchange rate of the Renminbi against the US dollar, since at that time the exchange rate was set by the Chinese government and foreign trade didn't play an important role in China's economy. Now, we are the world's largest exporter and our GDP is the second largest in the world. Our economy is exposed to different international trade influences. When the export market encounters any difficulty, China will be faced with rising unemployment and falling wages. The international environment affects China's development and, vice versa, the effects of what happens in China are felt beyond our borders. The value of the Renminbi can affect another country's economy, for example. What's more, if supply of our export products falls, the world will suffer. In short, China and the world have become tightly integrated. Being a key member of the international family, China is moving to the center of the world's stage.

What dilemmas are we currently facing? As China is growing fast, other developing countries may ask whether China still counts among their numbers. On the other side, developed countries are arguing that China should undertake more obligations since it has the world's second-largest GDP. We are indeed willing to undertake any international obligation that our resources allow. In the past, China did not have the capability to send peacekeeping forces, but now we can afford to contribute more towards peacekeeping, and we send more peacekeepers than any other permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. They are, however, mostly engineering corps who assist locals in finding water resources or overcoming natural disasters. We are not able to undertake the same obligations as rich countries usually do because of our meager per-capita GDP and various difficulties that plague the country.

An ambassador from one European country once told me that he could not understand why China insists on calling itself a developing country even though it successfully held the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai Expo. I told him that in my opinion, great events such as Olympics and Shanghai Expo are like exquisite overcoats that hide tattered clothes beneath. Outside its flourishing major cities, China also has many underdeveloped areas. The ambassador thought my explanation reasonable. When we introduce our country to the world, it is necessary to display both our exquisite overcoats and the rags underneath. Otherwise, how could we reject demands of certain developed countries to fulfill more obligations, or requests for financial assistance from so many developing countries?

VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us