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The Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA) was founded on 15 December 1949, the same year as the People’s Republic of China. As the first institute of New China dedicated to people-to-people diplomacy, the CPIFA was established under the proposal of the then Premier Zhou Enlai. Premier Zhou and the then Vice-Premier Marshal Chen Yi have successively served as the Honorary President of the Institute.

The general purposes of the CPIFA at its inception were to study foreign policies and international issues and make suggestions on China’s foreign policy. In pursuance of the above, the CPIFA, in the early years, mainly concentrated on researching foreign policies and international issues that were important, urgent and relevant to China. While airing views on major international issues, the CPIFA also engaged in compiling and publishing documents on foreign affairs and series on international studies as well as holding seminars and lectures on specific topics. At the same time, as host to many visiting foreign delegations, the CPIFA made its share of contribution to the furtherance of mutual understanding, friendship and unity between the peoples of China and other countries. Since 1955, people-to-people diplomacy has become an important task of the CPIFA. 

In order to open new prospects for New China’s diplomacy, the CPIFA has brought into full play the unique role of people-to-people diplomacy to make as many foreign friends as possible, paving ways for the establishment and development of friendly cooperative relations between China and other countries. In the 1950s and 1960s, the CPIFA actively supported and openly endorsed the Third World Countries’ struggle for independence, contributing to establishing and developing diplomatic ties between China and these countries. In the 1960s and 1970s, against the evolving international landscape, the CPIFA worked on people-to-people exchanges with the Western world, serving as bridges for the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and major Western countries. From 1952 to 1968, the CPIFA played an important role in the normalization of China-Japan relations by receiving over 100 Japanese delegations of renowned figures from all walks of life. It also helped pave the way for the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France in 1964 by inviting former French Prime Minister Edgar Faure to China in 1957 and 1963 to discuss the matter with Chinese leaders. After President Richard Nixon’s visit to China, the CPIFA, as one of the main channels for China-US high-level people-to-people exchanges, received the first visiting Speaker of the US House of Representatives, majority leader of the Senate, governor and Chief Justice, helping lay the foundation for the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the US. 

After the introduction of reform and opening up, the CPIFA has conducted more frequent exchanges with world-renowned statesmen, think tanks and international organizations, and built much closer friendly ties with major and neighbouring countries. In this way, an all-round people-to-people diplomacy pattern has been shaped. Along with the development of China's foreign relations, the CPIFA has attached more importance to the researches on international situation and foreign policies. Since 1985, the CPIFA has been editing and publishing an English quarterly journal Foreign Affairs Journal to present China’s foreign guidelines and policies and to illustrate China’s stance and views on major international and hotspot issues.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, the CPIFA has stayed committed to making friends for the country. It has supplemented overall diplomacy by expanding exchanges with world-renowned statesmen, parliaments, think tanks and media organizations, etc. by conducting Track II dialogues, and by actively telling the China story, so as to promote exchanges between China and other countries. The CPIFA also positively engages in public diplomacy by hosting or co-organizing major influential forums such as CICA Non-Governmental Forum, Understanding China International Conference and World Peace Forum, to present China to foreign countries, communicate with the world and contribute to the endeavor of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Over the past seven decades, the CPIFA has hosted over 4,000 foreign political, parliamentary, think tank and media delegations, etc., involving a total of more than 30,000 visitors, the number of which surpassed any other organizations of similar nature in China. CPIFA has also maintained long-standing contacts with renowned statesmen, diplomats, social activists, entrepreneurs, research experts and scholars on international issues from over 120 countries and has conducted over 20 dialogue mechanisms.