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China’s Forum Diplomacy in 2020: Agencies of Chinese Multilateralism

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The voices coming from African countries as well as the Middle East in support of China often tend to be ignored. Furthermore, some small pieces of the larger puzzle of Chinese diplomacy are also often under looked, both by scholars and mainstream media. One such area is China’s forum diplomacy with Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. These forums could be seen as agencies for China not only to gather south-south solidarity but also to build political capital from non-western sources. Bloomberg quotedthese forums as China’s fanfare. These forums are a new form of the Chinese approach to multilateralism. Chinese diplomacy has never followed a conventional pattern inside multilateral institutions, as bilateral relations are the main focus even within the realm of multilateral institutions. As Chris Alden and Ana Cristina Alvesargued “Regional forum diplomacy can be seen to be laying the foundation for a parallel international order, one in which Chinese interests hold sway.” These forums held high importance in China’s relationship with developing countries. In 2018, more countries were attending Xi Jinping’s China Africa Summit, than the UN General Assembly that held a few weeks later. Especially, since 2006 Beijing Summit of forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) also decided that political consultations between Chinese and African foreign ministers be held on the sidelines of UN General Assembly sessions held during the year after each Ministerial Conference. The feature has helped to create a bonding between these countries at the United Nations.  

Another such forum is China-Arab States Co-operation Forum (CASCF), the ninth ministerial meeting of which was happened on July 6th virtually. ExtraordinaryChina-Africa Solidarity Summit under the auspices of FOCAC also happened a month earlier. Holding of these forums even under a tight period of China-bashing means Chinese pre-planed diplomacy is still on run.  

CASCF is a formal dialogue initiative between China and the Arab League (AL) countries with 22 members. It was launched in a 2004 visit by then-President Hu Jintao to the Arab League headquarters in Egypt. Scholars like LinaBenabdallah has argued that CASCF tends to draw lower international attention than FOACAC, as it happened at ministerial level as contrary to the summit level of FOACAC.

The ninth ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) took place via video link on July 6, co-chaired by China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates AymanSafadi. Both sides adopted the Amman Declaration and an action plan for the forum to deepen cooperation and ties between China and Arab states.

Along with other declarations such as common development, mutual benefit, and win-win results, strive to jointly build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era, and make contributions to promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. The joint declaration also stated an interesting point that was to foster a “new type of international relations” featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice, and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Which saws Beijing’s effort to draw out political capital from non-Western sources to counter the Western liberal international order.

China also promised to endorse reforms of the UN Security Council to increase the representativeness of developing countries including the Arab nations in the council.  

Arab and African countries perpetually think underrepresented in West lead multilateral institutions. China seems to offer a “democratic platform’’ which defies Western hegemony in multilateral institutions more particularly of the US. This gives China the leverage to indulge itself with these developing countries through the regional forums, which means more than just for economic engagement.   

In the recent Amman declaration like most of the joint declaration between China and the Arab world, the Arab world voiced their support for the one-China principle and hence, opposes Taiwan’s independence in any form and supports the National Security bill.

Arab League countries, along with some other African countries of FOCAC and other countries of developing world from Asia and Latin America such as Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cuba, Venezuela all together 53 countries have supported the National Security Law at the UN human rights council. Critics commented that only 27 “free” countries have criticized China over 53 “unfree or partially free” countries.

These are the same countries Ambassadors of which sent a joint letter to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, where they appreciated China’s contribution to International Human rights cause in late 2019.

Extraordinary China-Africa Summit On Solidarity Against COVID-19 was also held on 17th June. The virtual summit was a joint initiative between the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of South Africa in its capacity as the Chair of the African Union (AU), and the Republic of Senegal in its capacity as the Co-Chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). In his keynote President Xi stated that the summit is a concrete step to deliver the commitment that was made at the 2018 Beijing FOCAC Summit. China also promised to cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020 within the FOCAC framework. The next Forum for Cooperation between Africa and China will be held in 2021 in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.

FOCAC was established in the year 2000. Some Arab and African countries are members of both forums. These forums have a deep impact on China’s diplomacy towards African countries as a whole and it also influences peace and security processes in North African countries. These forums also have their sub forums like in the year 2018; there was a call for China-Africa Peace and Security Forum and China-Africa Law Enforcement and Security Forum.

Even though it is been argued that these forums are China’s effort to integrate with the Middle East for economic reasons, and the success of these forums has been questioned. As EmilianKavalski has argued regardless of these efforts, the conscious and constant manner of interaction with communities of states in the developing world does not necessarily guarantee success. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the effectiveness of these forums as components that challenges the Western idea of multilateralism and the comfort Middle Eastern and African governments perceive to share afore-mentioned platforms with China. 

Jayshree Borah is a PhD candidate at Shanghai International Studies University.

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Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front

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“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst  of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.

To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise,  Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.

The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.

Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.

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Gender Diplomacy: A concern For International Politics

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UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Diplomacy can be defined as an art of interaction between actors (states/ organizations) to achieve mutually benefitted desirable interests of pursuing parties, especially in the international arena of politics. While diplomacy is an integral part of the Liberal school of thought which has primarily dominated world politics, yet the field of diplomacy is itself deprived of liberal virtues of equality and parity. Weighing the balance of ratio between both genders in diplomacy, the dilemma of the day is that females do not reach the level of participation to be in parity with male partakers in diplomacy. Having a statistical outlook at patriarchy-ridden Foreign Services around the globe, female diplomats in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the United States of America, and France makeup to 30%-40% of Foreign Service. While even the developed states have not reached 50% of female diplomats in their respective states, developing states in the South show an even less percentile of female diplomats. South Asian states like Pakistan and India estimate to less than 15 and 20 percent of females in the skill of diplomacy, respectively.

Being an equal sharer in foreign policy-making and policy implementation is a fundamental democratic right of both genders; to serve the country and to shape the future of the land which is their identity, their respect, and their pride. Apart from this that the balanced ratio of diplomatic participants is an integral right, involving women in diplomatic interactions may aid and enhance the pursuance of goals by the states. I would like to back my argument with not only contemporary examples but historical evidence, as well. Turning pages of history back to 400 B.C. where women are named as ‘weavers’ in the writings of Aristophanes to Lysistrate; referring to women’s role as skilled and accomplished diplomats who helped in the resolution of the Peloponnesian war. This act of inter-mingle, unifying, and peace-making through the prowess of consular skill set by then women is explained by Aristophanes in a phrase: ‘Weavers of nations”. This brings me to another point is that in contemporary times as pinpointed by the United Nations, the peace-processes in which women are engagers, 35% of those tend to last for at least 15 years.

While men are more forgoing towards minor details during foreign relation analysis, women tend to put more attention to minute details, which consequently results in the production of best-suited foreign policies. But it is noteworthy that to get potential benefit from this healthy difference in nature between males and females, it is potent enough to bring anequal number of female Foreign Service Officers as compared to male Officers. Having such a salubrious balance of both feminine and masculine characteristics can also equate chances of war and peace, spontaneous and patient decisions, and use of both: hard and soft power. Eventually, this egalitarian level complies with Robert Putnam’s ‘Law of Increasing Disproportion’ which links the rank of authority and the degree of representation of high-status in society. Nevertheless, being an Ambassador, diplomat or even part of Foreign Service is a matter of great esteem and so women in diplomacy, represent women of the society. Linking the argumentative dots mentioned above, the United Nations’ report endorses the importance of the role of women in diplomacy by considering their input as a vital ingredient for stable and secure democracy.

Applying the United Nations’ analysis on the inclusion of women in the artistry of diplomacy on developing states, particularly in South Asia, we tend to project various prosperous benefits of women diplomats in the region, particularly in the context of the two-decades-long conflicts: Afghan-Taliban Conflict and the Kashmir dispute in the heart of South Asia. Women in diplomacy in Pakistan, India, and neighboring South Asian states might weaken the bone of contention between the by-birth rivals: India and Pakistan through conflict transformation strategies. While the involvement of Afghan females in the ongoing and forthcoming Afghan Peace Processes and the future Afghan government can not only uplift the societal status of women in Afghan society but will improve the longevity of sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Eventually, colleen diplomats can help to divert the state-centric state and regional security paradigm of South Asia to human-centric state and regional security, resulting in diversified and proactive approach; fostering fraternal ties leading to paced development in the region and abroad.

To conclude with, as I have highlighted the irony of the hour with an un-equal statistical ratio of gender parity in the course of diplomacy and the importance of achieving this parity by incorporating women in the skilled framework of diplomacy, I would like to propose universally applicable policy measures to acquire this equivalence.  The first and foremost step is to bring awareness in society for the encouragement and acceptance of more female diplomats as opposed to the conventional fields like medical and engineering sciences. Along with this policy changes should be made to ensure equal recruitment of female diplomats, specifically on merit to counter and curtail the patriarchal dominance, mostly due to the might of money. Lastly, a female-friendly environment should be promoted to utilize the feminine potential in Foreign Offices. Conclusively, equal participation of both genders will result in sustainably productive democracies—both, in letter and spirit. Hence, gender equality in diplomacy is essential for the growth and evolution of international politics.

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Сultural diplomacy as an effective instrument of Italian soft power: the INNOPROM case

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Despite the complicated geopolitical rhetoric of European interaction with Russia and economic sanctions, international life continues. In such conditions, culture remains in fact the only instrument for supporting and developing international relations. International cultural relations strive to maintain “neutrality”. In the context of globalization, the blurring of borders, it is cultural policy that can become a point of mutual understanding, finding a common language and preserving existing civilizational layers.

Cultural diplomacy is a state policy aimed, within the framework of foreign policy, at the export of representative data of national culture and at interaction with other countries in the same cultural sphere. The tools for the implementation of cultural diplomacy are primarily used to form a positive foreign policy image of the country, as well as indirectly for the development of intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and conflict prevention and are associated with various areas of human activity: cinema, religion, science, cultural exchanges, literature, theater, etc. much more.

For 2020, Italy was ranked ninth in the National Brands Index and eleventh in the soft power rating of the British agency Portland. Despite the fact that Italy was not included in the “five” leaders, its “attractiveness” for foreigners remains unshakable. At the present stage, the development of Italian culture outside is carried out by the General Directorate for the promotion of the concept “System – Country”, whose functions include: dissemination of Italian culture, language and creativity abroad; organization of cultural events (week of the Italian language in the world, week of Italian cuisine in the world, festivals of Italian cinema); coordination of the activities of cultural institutions and language schools; provision of scholarships and grants; ensuring the country’s participation in the work of various organizations in the field of culture, etc. Thus, Italy actively uses the basic tools of cultural diplomacy (language and culture, education and science, innovation, tourism) to build intercultural relations at all levels.

One of the most effective tools of cultural diplomacy is the holding of international industrial exhibitions abroad. This event always works simultaneously in several dimensions: 1) has a political color (as a rule, politicians solemnly open the exhibition, timed the signing of various bilateral agreements); 2) gathers a large number of representatives of real business (which promotes the national brand of the country, and also develops economic diplomacy); 3) demonstrates scientific and technological achievements (contributes to the activation of scientific diplomacy); 4) conduct a series of cultural events aimed at introducing and promoting national culture.

From this point of view, the Innoprom case is interesting, where Italy is the first European partner country for organizing the exhibition.

INNOPROM is an international industrial exhibition held in Yekaterinburg annually since 2010. This is the main industrial, trading and export platform in Russia. About 80% of the visitors of the exhibition are professional buyers from different countries of the world, specialists from industrial enterprises who make decisions on the introduction of new products and technologies in production. Italy was chosen as the partner country of INNOPROM-2021 – a country in the top ten economies in the world and in the top three of the European Union, as well as one of the main foreign trade partners of Russia. Over the past few years, the country’s industry has reached new heights in such industries as mechanical engineering, metallurgy, chemical, petrochemical, light and food industries.

At INNOPROM-2021, the Partner Country will present the achievements of the Italian industry, innovative developments, investment opportunities and prospects for further cooperation between the countries. The Italian Republic will become the Partner Country of the 11th International Industrial Exhibition INNOPROM. The exhibition will take place in Yekaterinburg from 6 to 9 July 2021, and the theme of the exhibition will be “Flexible Manufacturing”. During a working meeting with the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte confirmed the readiness of the Italian Republic to participate in the INNOPROM 2021 exhibition. and the nature of modern world economic relations, ”said the head of the RF Ministry of Industry and Trade.

At the moment in Russia there are about 500 enterprises with the participation of Italian capital. Italy views Russia as a long-term and reliable partner, and is also interested in the further development of trade, economic and industrial ties.

“In our opinion, this is a confirmation of how strong our ties are,” said Giuseppe Conte at the opening of the Russian-Italian business forum for cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises. More than 100 Italian companies have expressed interest in participating in the exhibition. According to preliminary data, the exposition of the Partner Country will be about 3000 sq. m., and leading Italian companies in the field of automotive, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, etc. will present their stands. As Italian Ambassador to Russia Pasquale Terracciano noted, “Italy is chairing the G20, and in July it will become the first European country to partner with Innoprom. Despite the sanctions regime imposed by the EU, Italy and Russia have a special relationship. The largest industrial companies in Italy (not only manufacturers of luxury and luxury cars) are actively working on the Russian market, and the Italian embassy, ​​which occupies the famous Berg mansion in Moscow, remains, perhaps, the most hospitable». 

The Sverdlovsk region and the Italian republic have been closely cooperating for many years. The Sverdlovsk Region has an Agreement between the Government of the Sverdlovsk Region of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Piedmont Region of the Italian Republic on trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation dated July 22, 2002. In October 2015, within the framework of the visit of the delegation of the Sverdlovsk region to the Italian Republic, a memorandum of intent was signed between the Governor of the Sverdlovsk region (Russian Federation) E.V. Kuyvashev and the President of the region of Liguria (Italian Republic) G. Toti. The cities of Genoa and Turin are twin cities of Yekaterinburg. The city of San Benedetto del Tronto, San Remo are twin cities of the Verkh-Isetsky district of Yekaterinburg. The town of Selva di Val Gardena is twinned with the Kachkanar urban district. The city of Asti is twinned with the urban district of Krasnoufimsk. In 2019, the foreign trade turnover of the Sverdlovsk region with Italy decreased by 30.8%, while exports decreased 57.8%, imports increased by 3.7%. In 2019, for export to Italy from the Sverdlovsk region, mainly metals and products from them were supplied, including ferrous metals and products from them (semi-finished products of unalloyed steel, ferroalloys, sheet products, pipes), aluminum (rods and profiles), copper ( refined, rods and profiles), other metals (titanium, chrome), wood (plywood), mineral products.

On March 18-19, 2021, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Italian Republic to the Russian Federation Pasquale Terracciano arrived on a visit to Yekaterinburg. During a meeting with the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Yevgeny Kuyvashev, they discussed the participation of Italy in the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM-2021 as a Partner Country of the exhibition. During the press approach after the meeting, Pasquale Terracciano named the companies that are planned to be presented at the exhibition. These are, in particular, the international energy group Enel, the oil and gas company Eni, the Leonardo machine-building holding and the car tire manufacturer Pirelli. During the visit, the ambassador had a rich cultural program. The representatives of the delegation visited the Museum of the first President of the Russian Federation B. N. Yeltsin; opened a photo exhibition of the Italian photographer Elio Ciol; visited the Sverdlovsk Philharmonic (as part of the visit to the Philharmonic, the choral singing of the performers was heard, the cultural program of the Innoprom exhibition was discussed with the director of the Philharmonic); visited the Museum of Architecture and Design, where an excursion was held for the guests (issues of preparation for the cultural program of the international exhibition “Innoprom” were also discussed).

Thus, the participation of Italy as a partner country of the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM is the most important effective tool for implementing cultural diplomacy. The event is not limited to an industrial exposition, although this is extremely important for Italian business, but also has a wide range of cultural interaction and drawing attention to the Italian cultural heritage and way of life.

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