Science, Technology, and Diplomacy: China in 2019
Beijing, focused on its path towards progress, has sent out positive signs to the world which, at present, has been threatened both economically and technologically by Trump’s anti-globalization agenda.
The year has come to a close with China’s robotic lunar rover Yutu-2 contributing to the scientific advancement on the dark side of the Moon after the successful lunar landing of the Chang’e spacecraft. Meanwhile on Earth, the government’s goal of fully eradicating poverty by 2020 has signaled that these gargantuan achievements of importance to all of humanity can only be successful in a peaceful and predictable global environment.
Beijing, focused on its path towards progress, has sent out positive signs to the world which, at present, has been threatened both economically and technologically by Trump’s anti-globalization agenda. In reality, China’s momentum transcends the somber warning that was given out by the World Trade Organization, which has gone so far as saying that humanity is going through the least favorable period for world commerce since 1947. This year, however, has demonstrated that China is the leading power in science and the top commercial partner for more than 120 countries, and the second largest commercial partner to the vast majority of the rest.
Science and Technology
Throughout 2019, the trade friction with the U.S. has been a hindrance, which, unless resolved, could lead to an economic and financial divide, with its corresponding technological fragmentation.
At the Davos Forum, which took place in the city of Dalian in July 2019, China committed itself to the pursuit of an increased scientific and technological exchange. At that forum, the stands that showcased digital simulation technology, biometric mirrors, robotic surgery, and mixed reality through the use of 5G technology, stole the spotlight. Amongst the most remarkable innovations within the lines of more advanced research and development were bio-plastics for a circular economy, social robots, and diminutive lenses for miniature devices. Other technologies showcased in Dalian, which received wide attention were certain elements to enhance the safety of nuclear reactors, the storage of DNA data, intelligent fertilizers designed to reduce environmental pollution, collaborative telepresence, advanced tracking and packaging of food, and large-scale storage of public services for renewable energy, apart from other advancements.
In March, Italy and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to jointly advance the construction of the Belt and Raod, which was hailed by the international media as a hallmark in the relationship between China and the rest of the world. It was the first time that a country from the G7 signed a diplomatic memorandum on this initiative.
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made a tour of Europe at the beginning of April, 2019, to participate in the 21st EU-China Leaders’ Summit in Brussels, as well as the eighth leaders’ meeting of China and countries of Central and Eastern Europe in Dubrovnik. China made it clear in 2019 that it is capable of interacting well with the European Union as a bloc, and also with a subset of it (the scheme known as 16+1), while still maintaining its traditional bilateral ties. It’s a flexible framework that is worth mentioning in the context of the joint declaration signed by the European Union and China at the occasion.
In the joint declaration that was adopted at the Summit in Brussels between China and the EU, it was agreed to reaffirm the bilateral relationship started in 1975. Among the 24 points that were subscribed at the occasion, the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement in 2020 is one of the most important, prompting both parts to commit themselves to working intensely and incrementing their liberalization efforts conducive to a substantial access to their respective markets, including the investment sector.
In the meantime, also in April last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over the leaders’ roundtable meeting at the Second Forum of the Belt and Road Initiative for Economic Cooperation in Beijing, which was attended by heads of state and government from every continent. Around that same period, the first annual meeting of the Belt and Road Studies Network (BRSN) – which also took place in the Chinese capital – was another occasion of major significance as it laid the groundwork for a series of meet-ups and exchanges between Chinese and international experts.
The other great diplomatic hallmark of 2019 was the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in October. That month the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China also took place. On this occasion, China’s commitment to resisting unilateralism, protectionism, hegemonism, and power politics with the outmost degree of diplomacy was reaffirmed. In this scenario, Beijing reasserted itself on its support for an international system centered around the United Nations, and encouraged the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank to better align themselves to the new demands of global governance. In November, the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) opened in Shanghai, giving yet another signal of China’s open-door economy towards the world.
Dialogue, Interaction, and Development
In the previous year’s balance, undoubtedly the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations held in Beijing can’t go without being mentioned. At this meeting, which reminded people that human civilization is capable of rising above confrontations, President Xi made four proposals: “We need to respect each other and treat each other as equals; we need to uphold the beauty of each civilization and the diversity of civilizations in the world; we need to stay open and inclusive and draw on each other’s strengths; we need to advance with the times and explore new ground in development.”
In a nutshell, we’ve closed the year 2019 with the extraordinary certainty that ties itself to the lack of progress and innovation. For the past 20 years, despite its great technological prowess, the United States has exhibited an alarming standstill in its life expectancy. This is even more disquieting when compared to other countries in the OECD or China, where, one specific case comes to light. The life expectancy in Beijing is 82 years, while that in Washington is 77. This disparity has been accentuated in the last two years and is the reflection, amongst other factors, of two diverging paths: one that favors cooperation and multilateralism, and another one that is trapped in a dangerous course of isolationism and unilateralism.