Remarks at Seminar on New China’s People-to-People Diplomacy

By Li Zhaoxing

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA), I am delighted to join you at the Seminar on New China’s People-to-People Diplomacy. Let me begin by congratulating the Institute on its 70th birthday. As you all know, the CPIFA, established in the same year as the People’s Republic, is New China’s first institute dedicated to people-to-people diplomacy where Premier Zhou Enlai and Vice Premier Chen Yi once served as Honorary President.

In its early years, the CPIFA’s main mission was to break the blockade of Western countries through people-to-people diplomacy and open up new prospects for New China’s foreign relations. Since reform and opening-up, as China’s engagement with the rest of the world in different areas flourishes,the Institute has conducted deeper and broader people-to-people exchanges. There are more frequent contacts with prominent political figures, closer links with major and neighboring countries, and substantial exchanges with foreign think tanks and academics. The CPIFA has also played a unique role when state-to-state relations encounter difficulties. It has been a valuable complement to official diplomacy. 

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the CPIFA has, under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, further deepened and broadened external exchanges, actively shared China’s stories, promoted the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and contributed to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind in an effort to foster new dimensions for all-round people-to-people diplomacy. 

Over the past 70 years, the CPIFA, with the country’s overall foreign relations in mind, has leveraged the unique advantage of people-to-people diplomacy in flexibility and wide coverage to make new friends and cement old ties. It has done a tremendous amount of valuable and commendable work to build and grow China’s diplomatic relations with other countries, enhance understanding and friendship with other peoples, foster a peaceful and amicable international environment, and garner popular support for state-to-state relations. 

The CPIFA is one of the people-to-people diplomacy agencies that have received the most foreign dignitaries and prominent figures across social sectors. It is no overstatement that the Institute has friends all over the world. It has maintained longstanding contacts with Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Ernesto Zedillo, Hamid Karzai,Yukio Hatoyama, and many other well-known political figures. It has established over 20 track II dialogue mechanisms with other countries including, among others, the US, Germany, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India. It has hosted or sponsored 10-plus big international seminars and conferences. And it has been actively engaged in public diplomacy, multilateral people-to-people diplomacy, and situation research. 

As Honorary President of the CPIFA, I feel immensely proud of the Institute’s achievements. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be directly involved in the Institute’s external work, and witnessed how its people-to-people diplomacy has expanded and grown. I met with visiting former political leaders, and delegations of young politicians, and participated in a host of bilateral and multilateral events, such as the China-France Young Leaders Program, the China-ROK Elite Forum, the International Conference on Belt and Road and Macao’s Development, and the Trilateral Commission. With its commitment to such people-to-people exchanges, the CPIFA has played its part to enhance communication, understanding, friendship and cooperation, and contributed its share to China’s overall foreign relations. As a “veteran” on the diplomatic front, I feel privileged that I can still play a role in people-to-people diplomacy and contribute my humble part to the deeper understanding and trust between China and the rest of the world. 

What the CPIFA has achieved in the past 70 years would not be possible without the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the hard work of the staff of several generations at the Institute, and the vigorous support of people from various sectors. The valuable experience of the Institute merits a careful review to provide reference for the future. At a time of major changes in the world and a new era in China, people-to-people diplomacy has entered a new historical stage. Facing new opportunities and challenges, the CPIFA must take its 70th anniversary as a new starting point and, under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, carry forward its fine traditions, forge ahead with a pioneering spirit, and break new grounds in people-to-people diplomacy with a view to making its contribution to advancing major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era and to building a community with a shared future for mankind. 

I sincerely wish the CPIFA greater success and new glories.

Li Zhaoxing is Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Honorary President of CPIFA.