The year 2021 was special for China in many ways. It celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, implemented the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), largely succeeded in containing the COVID-19 pandemic at home, and continued to contribute to world economic growth and global recovery.
The year also saw China helping improve global governance, overcoming difficulties, and elevating diplomacy to greater heights, pointing to the greater role the country is set to play in 2022.
Contributions to combat pandemic, climate change
With the pandemic continuing to rage in different parts of the world in 2021, China launched emergency global humanitarian campaigns. Up to now China has provided more than 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for more than 120 countries and international organizations.
China's vaccine supplies and donations have helped many developing countries and international organizations to fight the pandemic, which demonstrates China's strong opposition to the "vaccine nationalism" being practiced by some advanced economies and its resolve to boost global cooperation.
The past year also saw China intensifying its climate actions. For example, it took various measures to ensure its carbon emissions peak before 2030 and it realizes carbon neutrality before 2060. While the number of wind farms and production of solar photovoltaic panels increased in China, the cost of renewable energy reduced due to handsome investments in the sector－the highest in the world for several years－a trend which is likely to gain strength in 2022.
China has also provided proposals and made strenuous efforts to improve global climate governance, while setting new carbon emissions reduction goals in 2021. And at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in December, China announced measures for peaking carbon emissions and transitioning to green development.
Among China's major diplomatic work last year was helping Africa fight against the pandemic and overcome the pandemic's economic and social impacts, which have exacerbated Africa's problems of extreme poverty, food crisis and regional conflicts.
In this regard, the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Dakar, Senegal, in November yielded agreements and projects including deepening cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, sending emergency supplies and medical teams to Africa, and helping run nearly 400 aid projects to support the continent's economic recovery.
In fact, the China-Africa strategic and cooperative partnership has become an example for South-South cooperation.
Multilateral cooperation improves global governance
The pandemic has coincided with major global changes. But the existing global governance mechanism is not strong enough to cope with the intensifying global frictions and diverse issues, and effectively contain the pandemic and ensure steady global economic recovery.
As for the United States' role in global governance, while previous president Donald Trump pursued unilateralism and withdrew the US from international organizations and pacts such as the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement, causing irreversible damage to the global governance system, incumbent President Joe Biden, despite partly repairing the damage caused by Trump, is still focused on geopolitics and competition for power.
By contrast, China has been safeguarding multilateralism, participating in global governance and taking measures to address global challenges with the ultimate goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind. As a responsible global power, China wants global governance to be fair and equitable.
China is also working to develop major-country relations, and enhance mutual understanding with other countries while striving to maintain Sino-US relations by balancing competition with cooperation. On the other hand, China and Russia have deepened their comprehensive strategic cooperation in all areas and at all levels with the aim of promoting global peace and strategic stability.
When it comes to China-European Union ties, the two sides have enhanced strategic mutual trust, are upholding multilateralism and free trade, and combating climate change. Indeed, China-EU cooperation has strengthened in the digital, green development and other emerging areas.
Moreover, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, which came into effect on Jan 1, will boost regional cooperation and trade.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic ties, and maintaining sound and stable relations with Japan (and the US) will be critical to China's peaceful rise.
But by passing the Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which disregards facts, hypes the "China threat" theory, even lobbies for decoupling between China and the US, the US Congress has chosen to intensify strategic competition with the aim of checking China's rise.
China can still balance ties with the US and Japan
And since Japan, as an ally of the US, is under pressure to take sides, it would be immature to predict a drastic improvement in Sino-Japanese ties this year. However, there is room for China to maneuver its relations with the US and Japan. The pandemic and rising inflation have had a serious impact on the US with no let-up in sight even at the beginning of this year. The US can, to a large extent, offset the impact by cooperating with China, especially because the two countries have a lot of common issues to tackle including the pandemic, climate change and global economic slowdown.
As for the RCEP, as the world's largest free trade agreement, it is expected to increase trade and investment between China and Japan, and help improve their overall relations. More important, China will continue to make efforts this year to develop a new model of major-country relations and improve relations with other countries, including the US.
The author is the executive director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies and dean of the Institute of International Relations of Nanjing University.
The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.