US & Russian ambassadors to face off in China's World Peace Forum
Livestreamed on Independence Day, no less! British & French envoys also up. What else to watch?
Mark your calendar: Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China, will face off with Andrey Denisov, the Russian ambassador, at 11:15-12:45 (GMT+8), Monday, July 4, in Beijing. Tsinghua University, the host, will livestream it via its accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Also on the stage will be Caroline Wilson, the British ambassador, and Laurent Bili, the French Ambassador.
Jia Qingguo 贾庆国, Member of the Standing Committee of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a Professor at Peking University, will appear as well, supposedly as the representative of the remaining Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council.
They form a panel moderated by Yan Xuetong 阎学通, dean of Tsinghua University's Institute of Modern International Relations and the de-facto organizer of the World Peace Forum, where he is the Secretary General.
Last year, the WPF also held a panel consisting of envoys of the P5, where the U.S. was represented by the charge d’affaires, William Klein, and China was represented by Yu Hongjun 于洪君, former vice-minister of the international department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
The South China Morning Post’s Kinling Lo wrote that up in How a peace forum in China became an international war of words. (Well, this year there’s an ongoing war in Europe…)
Top diplomats from the UN’s “Big Five” powers erupted into a war of words over global governance during a Beijing conference on the weekend, reflecting bigger ideological battles on the international stage.
On one side were envoys from China and Russia; on the other were representatives from France, Britain and the United States. In a rare appearance in front of hundreds of diplomats, academics and students in the Chinese capital on Sunday, they traded accusations and hinted at diplomatic infractions.
“If somebody gives me just one example of the Communist Party of China imposing its ideology on anybody outside Chinese borders, I would be very grateful,” Russian ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said.
Denisov’s statement was challenged by the French ambassador to China, Laurent Bili, who said “nobody would have questioned the idea of China wanting to impose its model” until last year when, he said, there had been concerns in his country about China’s threats to freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, British ambassador to China Caroline Wilson gave a more direct shot from the stage.
“We were one of the first countries to recognise China in 1950 but we were not seeking to impose our own model on the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party, not then and not now. Equally, we hope China is not trying to impose its own model on other people,” she said.
But what impressed me most at the time was, after the heated exchange in front of hundreds and perhaps many more watching afar, Denisov, the veteran China hand from Russia, led the conference hall in giving a round of applause to the United States, because the day was Independence Day.
I wonder if we would see that this year.
Despite being outnumbered by the Western ambassadors, Denisov is a formidable opponent. His robust defense of China in Chinese last year made national headlines here. But Wilson, the UK ambassador, speaks perfect Chinese as well.
Also on the agenda this year is a panel under the theme “European Security Order” by Dominique de Villepin, former French Prime Minister, Igor Ivanov, former Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Nicolas Chapuis, the departing EU Ambassador to China.
That will take place 14:00-15:30 GMT+8, Sunday, July 3.
Several former senior U.S. diplomats will appear (via video, apparently) from 09:00-10:45 GMT+8, Monday, July 4: Daniel Russel, J. Stapleton Roy, and Susan Thornton. They will be joined by Wang Jisi 王缉思 of Peking University who visited the U.S. earlier this year, and Wu Xinbo 吴心伯 of Fudan University, a darling of Chinese media on U.S. matters. The panel, chaired by Tsinghua’s Da Wei 达巍, is themed “Stabilizing China-US Relations in an Unstable World.” (Good luck with that.)
Tang published Coevolutionary Pragmatism. Approaches and Impacts of China-Africa Economic Cooperation last year at Cambridge University Press and will on Sunday, July 3, chair a panel on “China-Africa Cooperation: New Areas and New Avenues.” The timing is 16:00-17:45 GMT+8.
The World Peace Forum describes itself as “held under the approval of China’s State Council” and “positioned to be a non-governmental high-level global forum.”
Co-hosting with Tsinghua is the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs. Last year, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered the opening speech in last year’s opening ceremony. This year will be Wang Xiqin, President of Tsinghua, on Sunday, July 3 morning.
But Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister, will still deliver a speech immediately after that. Last year, if my memory serves me right, Rudd took a swipe at the description of Australia as “gum stuck at China’s shoe” by Hu Xijin, the former chief editor at Global Times. I always wonder what insults are meant for.
With China and Australia carefully approaching each other now that there is a new government in Canberra, especially after Chinese ambassador Xiao Qiang’s recent speech at the University of Technology Sydney, I wonder if Rudd will send a more positive signal, even if very cautiously.
I recall a European diplomat saying he didn’t go last year because he couldn’t find the names of a current Chinese official on the agenda. There appears to be no current Chinese official for this year as well.
For the detailed agenda and who’s who, see below.