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Cyprus-China relations upgraded to strategic partnership

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Ambassador Liu Yantao

By Chris Michael

1. On November 30, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a successful phone call with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. Could you brief us about the conversation between the two heads of state and share your thoughts on the potential impact of this conversation on the future China-Cyprus relations?

The telephone conversation between President Xi and President Anastasiades was a major high-level exchange between the two heads of state in the context of global changes and a pandemic both unseen in a century and a new phase of China-Cyprus relations, summarizing the past and drawing up a blueprint for the future. This landmark event was also the climax of the series of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cyprus.

The two heads of state spoke highly of the development of China-Cyprus relations in the past 50 years, and jointly decided to upgrade the China-Cyprus relationship to a strategic partnership.

Both Presidents agreed that China and Cyprus are friends of political mutual trust, fruitful cooperation, and partners in the joint construction of the Belt and Road. The strategic nature of China-Cyprus relations has grown increasingly prominent. The announcement of the establishment of China-Cyprus strategic partnership on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties is a political decision of great significance made by the two countries in line with the trend of the times, which will inject strong impetus into the future development and open a new chapter in China-Cyprus relations.

In the phone call, President Xi put forward a four-point proposal on the development of China-Cyprus ties at a new starting point. Firstly, the two sides should be committed to treating each other as equals, respect each other’s social system and development path independently chosen by their peoples and respect each other’s core interests and major concerns. Secondly, the two sides should push for deeper and more concrete mutually beneficial cooperation and deepen cooperation in the joint construction of the Belt and Road. The Chinese side is glad to see more high-quality Cypriot agricultural and food products in the Chinese market, encourages Chinese enterprises to take an active part in Cyprus’ green economy and digital transformation as well as its post-pandemic recovery and development, and welcomes Cyprus’s active participation in the Global Development Initiative. The third is to maintain the right direction of the development of China-EU relations. The Chinese side stands ready to have a frank dialogue with the EU side and properly handle their differences. The fourth is to advocate a fair and reasonable international order.

The two Presidents also exchanged views on democracy and other international and regional issues of common interest. President Xi stressed that China is willing to work with the international community, including Cyprus, to safeguard fairness and justice, and promote the democratization of international relations, so that people of all countries can truly enjoy broader and more substantial rights and freedoms.

The conversation between the two heads of state aimed high with a profound theme and rich contents, laying a more solid foundation and a higher platform for the future development of bilateral relations in the new era for brighter prospects. The two countries will, guided by the spirit of the conversation between the two heads of state, build on 50 years of diplomatic relations between China and Cyprus, make full use of the newly established strategic partnership, strengthen strategic communication and coordination, continue to deepen high-level exchanges and political mutual trust, expand exchanges and cooperation in various sectors and at various levels, further strengthen collaboration in international and regional issues, jointly practice true multilateralism, promote the common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom for all mankind, and work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

2. Recently, the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (the “CPC”) convened its Sixth Plenary Session. Could you describe the background, main agenda and significance of this meeting?

The Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the CPC (the “Plenary”) was a crucial meeting held at a milestone moment marking the CPC’s 100th anniversary and the transition from the completion of the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects to the pursuit of the second centenary goal of realizing socialist modernization. The plenary meeting reviewed and approved the Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century (the “Resolution”), which systematically summarized the major achievements and historical experience of the CPC over the past century. The valuable experience was summarized in 10 aspects, including among others, upholding the Party’s leadership, putting people first, advancing theoretical innovation, staying independent, following the Chinese path, maintaining a global vision, breaking new ground, and remaining committed to self-reform. The CPC is a party that is good at summing up historical experience and self-reform, which is the CPC’s secret to leading the Chinese people from one success to another. Such experience is the result of all the struggles, sacrifices and efforts of the CPC in carrying out its aspiration and mission of seeking happiness for the Chinese people and for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation over the past 100 years, which profoundly reveals “why we were successful in the past and how we can continue to succeed in the future”. The Resolution also takes “maintaining a global vision” as a valuable experience, reiterating that China will remain committed to promoting peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, actively participates in the reform and construction of the global governance system, safeguard and practice true multilateralism, promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and contribute to human progress.

The Plenary has established Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This reflects the common will of the Party, the aspirations and the choice of the Chinese people, and is of decisive significance for advancing China’s modernization process in the new era as well as driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation. We believe that the Plenary will make the whole party more united, upright and innovative to mobilize and lead the Chinese people of all ethnicities across the country to better adhere to and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. No hardship can stop the progress of the Chinese people. The historical process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is irreversible.

 3. China has proposed the concept of whole-process people’s democracy on many occasions. How do you understand the essence and meaning of Chinese democracy?

Democracy is a shared value of all mankind and an important concept that the CPC and the Chinese people have unswervingly adhered to. Drawing on the lessons of the past in political development both at home and abroad, the CPC is keenly aware that China’s political civilization and political system must be deeply rooted in China’s social soil. Copying the political systems of other countries will get us nowhere.

Democracy is not exclusive to the Western countries, nor should it be defined or rated by any one or a few countries on its merits and demerits. The term “democracy” originated from ancient Greece, meaning “govern by people” or “people as masters of the country”. The forms of democracy, in this sense, cannot be the same everywhere. Even among Western countries, democratic systems and forms vary from one another. It is undemocratic to use a single yardstick to measure the multiplicity of political systems or examine the diverse political civilizations of humanity from a monotonous perspective.

Democracy cannot be merely ornamental or decorative. The key measurement of a country’s democracy is whether it is run by its people. More specifically, we should be looking at  whether the people have the right to vote and more importantly the right to broad participation; what the people have been promised before the elections and given afterwards; how the government is elected, and more importantly how representative it is of  public opinion; what political procedures and rules are provided by the systems and laws and even more so, whether these systems and laws are faithfully implemented; and whether the rules and procedures for exercising power are democratic and checked by the people. We need to look at the driving forces behind the democratic expressions, and more importantly whether such a form of democracy is conducive to addressing major concerns of the people, including political polarization, gaps between rich and poor, and social division.

China insists on putting the people above all and is committed to a people-centered approach in developing and consummating the whole-process people’s democracy. The whole-process democracy is a complete institution that includes all elements of democratic politics, such as electoral democracy, consultative democracy, social democracy, grassroots democracy, and civil democracy, encompassing the entire process of democratic politics, starting from democratic elections, democratic consultation, democratic decision-making, democratic governance, to democratic oversight. It is an all-inclusive form of democracy that is reflected in each and every sector – whether it’s political, economic, cultural, or social. Being the most extensive, realistic and effective socialist democracy, the whole-process democracy not only has complete institutional procedures but also complete participation in practice. It has achieved democracy both in the process and outcome\, in the procedures and substance, directly and indirectly. It is the unity of people’s democracy and the will of the state. Moreover, this form of democracy has effectively promoted China’s coordinated progress in material, political, cultural-ethical, social, and ecological terms, and brought about the two miracles of rapid economic growth and enduring social stability. It is also reflected in China’s major decision-making when it comes to the national economy and people’s livelihood. In formulating  the “14th Five-Year Plan” and the Civil Code, for  example, the opinions of various parties, experts and ordinary people were widely solicited. This is typical of consultative democracy rather than a simple voting process, through which the concerns of all parties and the general public would be taken into account to the greatest extent. A Harvard poll on China in the past two years show that the Chinese people’s satisfaction with the Chinese government is above 95%. This is the best affirmation of Chinese democracy.

 4. Recently, the United Nations organized COP15 and COP26, two important conferences themed on the ecological environment. China’s actions and commitments have received extensive attention from the international community. Could you provide us with more details?

The COP15 held in Kunming, China in October this year was the first global conference organized by the United Nations under the theme “Ecological Civilization”, during which the Kunming Declaration was adopted. Parties committed to develop and implement a “Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework” that would put biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030 at the latest, towards the full realization of the 2050 Vision of “Living in Harmony with Nature.”

China is listed as one of the 12 countries with particularly rich biodiversity in the world due to its extremely diverse species. China has always attached great importance to the building of ecological civilization. In recent years, it has on the whole controlled the decline in biodiversity through improving environmental protection legislation, intensified oversight, establishment of a national park system, and other measures including a ten-year ban on fishing in the Yangtze River. As the population of wild giant pandas increases, China’s national icon has been downgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable”. The globally observed elephant migration in Yunnan Province not long ago has also highlighted China’s efforts and effectiveness in wildlife protection.

Climate change has become one of the most pressing and biggest global challenges today. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Glasgow Climate Pact reached at the COP26 and the Paris Agreement are of great significance to safeguarding multilateralism and focusing on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. As one of the countries with the most systemic impact in the field of climate change, China plays an important role in global climate change governance and plays a leading role in the global energy transition and green and low-carbon development. Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the 76th UN General Assembly and the COP26 summit that “China will strive to achieve carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. The timespan from carbon peak to carbon neutrality is much shorter than that of developed countries”, which fully shows China’s firm determination.

To this end, China announced that it will stop building new coal-fired power projects abroad, vigorously develop wind power and solar power generation, develop and construct hydropower stations based on scientific planning, and actively promote nuclear power in an orderly manner, thereby formulating a “1+N” policy system to make coordinated efforts to reduce pollution and carbon emissions. On November 10, China and the United States released the “Glasgow Joint Declaration” during the COP26 summit and pledged to continue working together and with all parties to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement. On the basis of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities as well as taking into account national conditions, enhanced actions will be taken to effectively address the climate crisis. In addition, China also announced that it will develop an action plan to achieve significant results in the control and reduction of methane emissions in the 2020s.

Ancient Chinese believe that “successful governance comes from solid action”. Guided by the vision of a community of life for man and nature, China will continue to prioritize ecological conservation and pursue a green and low-carbon path to development, take practical actions to address climate change and restore ecological diversity, making its own contributions to protecting the planet, the shared home for us all.

 

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