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East Asia

The Taiwan Saga

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Authors: Amit Kumar & Dr. Katja Banik

The storm that has been gathering over the South China Sea in recent years has now reached Taiwan’s shores. The question is whether Taiwan, alone or with the backing of other democracies, will be able to withstand China’s strong will for reunification. The relations between China, Taiwan and the United States is at its lowest point in the region’s history. For China’s president, Xi Jinping, Taiwan is now the last bastion of resistance in his quest for national rejuvenation. Is the reunification of Taiwan with China – like German reunification – the key question for the Chinese people?

Endangered peace

With unprecedented numbers of planes breaching its air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Taiwan expressed alarm over China’s rising military intimidation as an act undermining regional peace. The ADIZ overlaps with China’s air defense identification region. The US opposes China’s “provocative” behavior and is committed to protecting Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and helping it defend itself against China. The US-China relationship is severely strained, and neither country can mediate on the Taiwan issue since, for China, the Taiwan question is a purely national matter According to Chinese observers, the dialogue between Xi and Biden is limited due to the differences between the countries over Taiwan, which makes Taiwan one of the key deciding factors for world leaders seeking to establish their hegemony and credibility (value of their words).

Biden’s pledge to defend Taiwan if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attacks the island state demonstrates the US commitment to and the strategic importance of Taiwan. Meanwhile, Beijing has warned that the US’s intervention in Taiwan poses “game-changing and significant threats.” While some experts foresee rising tensions between China and Taiwan in the coming years, the main conflict could be between the US and China, with Taiwan serving as a litmus test for a restructuring of the global order.

While the US supports Taiwan’s pro-independence administration, China’s expanding influence is endangering the country’s sovereignty. In 2018, Xi stated that “Taiwan would face the wrath of history” if it chose to secede. In this perilous circumstance, and with Xi under pressure to deliver on his promise, China could have no choice but to annex Taiwan – even if it provokes a major conflict with the US.  In response to China’s aggression, Japan’s defense minister cited Russia’s annexation of Crimea as an example of how quickly China may move in. Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also warned that a full-scale invasion by China is highly likely.

While the rest of the world is observing the situation in the South China Sea and waiting to see what happens to Taiwan, the ramifications are far-reaching, since Taiwan has emerged as one of the geopolitical theatres which is masking a significant worldwide transformation towards a new global governance with more authoritarian structures.

Afghanistan today – Taiwan tomorrow?

The United States’ disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a power vacuum in the region, allowing China to extend its agenda and grand strategy. Critics argue that withdrawal from Afghanistan has dealt American credibility a staggering blow. Since isolating its friends in Afghanistan, the United States’ commitment has been called into doubt, as has its ability to demonstrate its trustworthiness. Without wasting time, Beijing lashed out against Taiwan, claiming that the US will desert it in a crisis due to its shattered credibility: Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow! Globally, both national players along with globally active companies and non-governmental players like lobbyists are all putting pressure on today’s liberal international world order.

The increase in Islamic extremism, authoritarian governments and military coups has posed a challenge to democratic principles and ideals, underlining the United States’ retreat from liberal international standards. The reputation, strength and influence that the United States possessed across the whole spectrum of international affairs – bilateral, multilateral and international institutions such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization and World Health Organization – are on the decline. The old-world order is at an end – the future is still in the stars.

In terms of politics and diplomacy, the United States’ once-vast sphere of influence is rapidly dwindling. Due to strong economic relations, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are closer to China than the United States. The EU and its member states as well as many Asian nations that were formerly considered US allies are now preferring to remain neutral in the US-China confrontation. Over the previous two decades, the United States’ engagement with Middle Eastern countries has earned it a negative reputation. Many post-Cold War conflicts initiated by the United States have been blamed on democracy.

Both the United States and democracy appear to be dwindling in relevance today. Should the United States fail to protect Taiwan if it is invaded by China, the United States will lose its status as the defender of the democratic world, and democracy will be perceived as incapable of self-defense. All other developing and developed nations will look to China for moral and material assistance, as well as the prospect of a restructured world order led by the Communist Party of China. This will set in motion a chain reaction that will lead to the establishment of authoritarian rule over democracy.

The US is fully cognizant that the stakes in terms of risk and reward are at an all-time high.

For China, what is at stake is its newly conceived ambition. For Xi, his tenure as “lifetime” president is at stake. To considerable surprise, the 6th Plenum of the 19th CCP Congress did not endorse Xi Jinping’s life tenure, referring to him instead as the “Core of the Leadership.” China has had a meteoric ascent in global politics and is tempted to establish itself as a Middle Kingdom. China’s emergence as a competitor to the United States has undermined the latter’s position, as the countries’ codependency has decreased, and the world now views China as a genuine rival to the US. China’s governance model is also under rigorous study, as its miraculous rise, poverty upliftment and standard of living have astounded the world. The COVID pandemic, however, has tarnished China’s international reputation, but the country has quickly made up for it through vaccine diplomacy. While democracy is fading, Chinese authoritarianism is gaining popularity beyond the country’s borders.

On the economic front, China is outpacing US investments in numerous locations throughout the world, most crucially, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China’s investments are free of any strings and entail no direct engagement in domestic politics. With growing financial clout, Beijing has been able to expand its influence by strategically placing its key officials in influential agencies and international organizations, such as UNCTAD, WTO and WHO. China has also replaced the US as the top trading partner of its key allies. A hidden truth is global capitalism is not China’s enemy but its ally. Without the prosperity and stability delivered by global trade and investments, Beijing would not be in the position to modernize its military or use its investment and foreign aid to expand its influence overseas. Beijing’s geographical assets are at an all-time high. From defense to technology, it is a frontrunner in critical technical components and is making progress in other essential civilian and military technology. Further, with its dual-circulation strategy, China is reducing its dependency to a strict minimum. Thus, there is no sphere in which the United States is unchallenged.

China understands that Taiwan is a zero-sum game. If China succeeds in gaining control of Taiwan, its influence and might would grow exponentially, while the United States’ sphere and strength will shrink proportionally. China will be viewed as a more credible and capable global actor which delivers on its promises. This will pave the way for China to rewire the international system to reflect Chinese characteristics and values. China is aware that the United States stands between it and the Middle Kingdom’s splendor. Hence, Taiwan is a key that will open the door for China to the Pacific trade route, realizing the Middle Kingdom’s vision and paving the way for Xi’s “lifetime” presidency.

Modus operandi

To demonstrate its credibility and sustain the status quo in the region, the United States’ role in safeguarding Taiwan is becoming increasingly vital.

As a result, the US is prepared to counter China’s aggressiveness on all fronts. Apart from the trilateral military alliance AUKUS, it staged one of the largest military drills since the Cold War with Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom. Taiwan has confirmed the training of American soldiers alongside Taiwanese forces on its soil, reiterating the US commitment to Taiwan. Along with increasing Taiwan’s modern combat capabilities, the US is also upgrading the military forces of its allies, such as Japan and Australia, who would be called upon to defend Taiwan in a conflict. Finally, a bill has also been introduced in the US Congress to provide $2 billion in military funding until 2032.

The United States seems to be lobbying for Taiwan to be admitted to the United Nations through its broad network of allies. Washington is forming an alliance with democratic nations to condemn Chinese aggression, generate global support and boost their relationship with Taiwan. This prompted the European Union’s first official visit to Taiwan, where a delegation communicated the message “You’re not alone” and offered to integrate Taiwan into the global system, which would ease tensions rather than fuel them. Furthermore, Taiwan was invited to join more than 100 other countries in the Biden administration’s “Summit for Democracy” (December 9-10, 2021). The invitation was a significant victory for Taipei at a time when Beijing is intensifying its drive to keep Taiwan out of international organizations. To keep up with Washington’s lead, New Delhi is strengthening its relations with Taipei by negotiating agreements to create semiconductor manufacturing plants in South Asia.

China sees US meddling as an attempt to westernize the region and destabilize the communist regime. Beijing is utilizing every tool at its disposal to subdue Taiwan, from military threats and intelligence theft to economic pressure and disinformation warfare. Experts argue that Taipei’s recent ADIZ invasion constituted electronic warfare. According to Taiwan’s National Defense Report 2021, China’s grey-zone threats include cyberwarfare and cognitive warfare in an attempt to conquer Taiwan without actual combat. China is trying to prevent any foreign military action within the first island chain. It is increasing military activity on Taiwan’s Pacific coast to sever links between the United States and Japan. If Taiwan loses its ties to the United States, it will collapse. As a result, even if the United States has a more capable military than China, we should not dismiss China’s strategies to seize Taiwan.

Xi Jinping has repeatedly warned the United States against ganging up on China, and military maneuvers, claiming that they would jeopardize the peace and stability of the Taiwan Straits. Beijing has also cautioned the United States to keep away from Taiwan, which it regards as part of mainland China. Beijing’s diplomatic dexterity is strengthening its strategic ties with Russia, Pakistan and Iran, which will advocate and stand up for China’s agenda. Without a doubt, Beijing will modify its tactics every day to invade Taiwan without having to go to war.


Taiwan is still an integral part of the United States’ commitment to safeguarding democracy and sovereignty. But for how long and at what price?

Taiwan is also seen as an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which dislikes Taiwan’s democratic nature. However, Taiwan’s president seized on the country’s impassioned feelings and said she would do everything in her power to protect the country’s freedom and democratic way of life. Bearing that in mind, Taiwan is unquestionably on the verge of a formal declaration of independence. Taiwan’s independence might have a major influence on Chinese stability, particularly in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. The South China Sea crisis has now boiled down to the question of Taiwan’s status in the world: Is it an independent country or an extension of mainland China? The progression of events in determining this question would eventually unleash one of the profoundest global transformations the world has ever seen.

The Taiwan saga could have three potential outcomes: First, China and the US go to war, which is very improbable since China understands it cannot squarely confront the US because defeat is certain. In this event, the United States will re-establish its hegemony and credibility. The world will once again look to the United States and its liberal institutional ideals, and China will suffer a significant setback as a rising force.

Second, China delves deep into Sun Tzu’s wisdom to devise strategies, ploys and shrewd maneuvers to divert the attention of the United States and its allies – in order to take over Taiwan right under their noses, which will be tough but not impossible. If China is successful in doing so, it will deal a significant blow to the US’s reputation and credibility. It will also establish itself as a more credible partner than the US, eventually causing the world to shift East rather than West – until the next superpower competition.

Third, China, the United States and Taiwan reach an amicable agreement on Taiwan’s position. The solution would ideally safeguard the US’s reputation, retain Taiwan’s independence and democratic way of life, and fulfil Chinese authorities’ demands that Taiwan not declare itself fully independent of China. If such a solution were found, it would be a win-win situation for all three parties. However, even in this instance, China would declare victory by leveraging its propaganda apparatus to best effect.

Regardless of the outcome of the Taiwan question, the world is clearly in a process of deep transformation. It is not up to the world’s leaders, not up to China, the US, Taiwan, or the EU to decide about a new world order.

It is up to us – to the peoples of the earth, to every single person – to take responsibility, to accept the preciousness of our own cultural heritage and thus make the world a better and more human place, one in which everyone can live in the spirit of peace and sovereignty.

Amit Kumar is a doctoral candidate at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, in Pilani, India. His area of specialization is China Studies. He worked as a Project Assistant at the Centre for African Justice, Peace, and Human Rights, in The Netherlands. In addition, he is an Adjunct Researcher at The MirYam Institute in New York. He also works for The Defence Horizon Journal in Austria as an Associate Editor. He tweets at @budpolitician

East Asia

Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 22, 2023. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria.  Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004.  According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.  This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time.  Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime.  Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.

 Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions.  We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.

  China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”.  In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.

  According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas  Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.

  China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .

   Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.

   We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa. 

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East Asia

China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation

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President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.

This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.

Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.

Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.

Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.

China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.

Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.

Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.

Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.

China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.

Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.

Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.

As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.

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East Asia

China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20



Image source: X @narendramodi

The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.

The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.

 Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.

The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.

Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.

China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.

To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.

The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.

Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.

All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.

Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.

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