As part of China's diplomacy, people-to-people exchanges have played an important role in establishing and deepening bilateral relations with other countries. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the country's leadership launched people-to-people diplomacy, which helped ease the diplomatic blockade imposed by the West on China, strengthen ties with people of and promote mutual trust with other countries, and win international support.
As an important component of China's overall diplomacy, people-to-people diplomacy has played a vital role in consolidating public support and laying a foundation for the development of state-to-state relations.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in late 2012, under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy as part of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China's people-to-people diplomacy has seen further development by expanding and deepening exchanges with other countries' politicians, parliamentary groups, think tanks and media organizations.
China's track-two diplomacy, using bilateral and multilateral platforms, has increased the international community's understanding of and recognition for China's socio-economic system, and thus enhanced mutual understanding and trust between China and the rest of the world.
Over the past 70 years, people-to-people diplomacy has increasingly become an important channel for China to stabilize and deepen relations with other countries, strengthen people-to-people bond, promote cooperation and conduct dialogue on bilateral and multilateral levels, facilitating China's reform, opening-up and economic development, and strengthening its diplomacy.
People-to-people diplomacy is an important outcome of the CPC's efforts to lead the Chinese people in exploring new diplomatic theories and practices. China has established and strengthened win-win cooperation with other countries using official diplomacy. On the other hand, it has also strengthened people-to-people diplomacy, by deepening people-to-people communication and exchanges with other countries.
China is now in its best period of development. In the face of profound changes, and unprecedented opportunities and challenges, there is a need to give full play to people-to-people diplomacy in order to deepen China's relationships with other countries and promote international cooperation.
First, people-to-people diplomacy should be used to enhance other countries' support for China's efforts to build a new type of international relations. As President Xi Jinping said, nongovernmental diplomacy should make pioneering and innovative efforts to conduct friendly people-to-people exchanges in various fields through multiple channels and at various levels. China should also make full use of its flexible, diversified, and wide-ranging people-to-people diplomacy to mobilize and unite all forces to enhance mutual communication and understanding, deepen mutual trust, and consolidate friendship with other countries.
Second, people-to-people diplomacy should defend and promote China's national interests. China is committed to following the path of peaceful development, and safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests. So its people's diplomacy should be aimed at safeguarding not only China's national interests but also public interests.
Also, in the course of promoting people-to-people diplomacy, China should make full use of its unique strengths and resources, find innovative ways and means to safeguard national interests, and develop the expertise needed to defeat the forces that undermine its national interests.
Third, people-to-people diplomacy should be used to promote China's national image. Traditional Chinese culture, and economic development, and the enterprising course of reform and opening-up have all helped China make achievements rarely seen in the world. People-to-people diplomacy should use these as valuable resources to disseminate China's message in a language understandable and acceptable to foreign friends, so the world can better understand China. And by so doing, people-to-people diplomacy can present China's image as a responsible major country, and enhance China's international status and influence.
And fourth, it is imperative that people-to-people diplomacy play a role in multilateral forums to promote China's proposals to address regional and global issues while fostering the idea that China's development and prosperity－and the Chinese Dream of realizing national rejuvenation－is in the interest of the people across the world. With a global and long-term strategic vision and the goal of better serving the Chinese people as well as those in the rest the world, China's people-to-people diplomacy should work to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
The author is president of Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs.