Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 9, 2023

Newsline: China seen upping diplomatic offensive with increased budget

After three years of largely self-imposed isolation on the global stage, China is aiming to up its diplomatic offensive and win back lost ground – all while hardening its public stance toward its superpower rival, the United States. Qin Gang, Beijing’s new foreign minister, on Tuesday declared that “China’s diplomacy has pressed the ‘accelerator button,’” citing the country’s recovery from the pandemic and its resumption of international exchanges. That outreach will be boosted by a 12.2% increase in the Chinese government’s budget for diplomatic expenditure this year. It’s a drastic jump from the zero-Covid era that saw China’s borders mostly shut: In 2020, China slashed its diplomacy budget by 11.8%, before a mild 2.4% increase in 2022. This year’s budget, pegged at 54.84 billion yuan (about $8 billion), remains below the pre-pandemic peak, but experts say it marks a significant increase for China to resume and expand its diplomatic engagement with the world. (https://lite.cnn.com/2023/03/08/china/china-budget-diplomatic-expenditure-intl-hnk) In comparison, in the US, the requested 2023 budget for “international affairs” listed on the State Department’s website was $67 billion. And the money will be used not only to fund diplomatic trips. According to China’s Ministry of Finance, the umbrella term “diplomatic expenditure” covers a wide range of areas, from budgets for the Foreign Ministry, Chinese embassies and consulates, to China’s participation in international organizations, foreign aid and external propaganda.

Newsline: Foreign ambassadors were in Turkey during earthquake

Spokespeople for most of the ambassadors in question said they were in Turkey during the Feb. 6 earthquake, which killed more than 50,000 people. A spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office of Germany; Marilyne Guèvremont, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada; and Wouter Poels, a spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told USA TODAY over email that the ambassadors were in Turkey at the time of the earthquake. “Both the Belgian ambassador to Turkey and the Belgian consul general in Istanbul were on Turkish territory that day,” said Poels. “All Belgian diplomatic and consular staff in Turkey were fully operational by 5 am on Feb. 6 to deal with the consequences of the earthquake.” (https://news.yahoo.com/fact-check-false-claim-numerous-160554980.html) Representatives for the French, Italian and Dutch embassies told AFP their ambassadors were in the country when the earthquake struck as well. The U.S. Embassy didn’t respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment and the U.K. Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the record. But U.S. ambassador Jeffry Flake shared a picture on Instagram of a flag at half-staff tagged in Ankara on Feb. 6, and he spoke on CNN from the city early the next morning.

Newsline: South African Parliament Votes to Downgrade Embassy in Israel

South African lawmakers voted Tuesday to downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel, a move welcomed by human rights advocates around the world. The resolution to downgrade the status of South Africa’s embassy in Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv, to a liaison office was introduced by the center-left National Freedom Party (NFP), which hailed the measure’s passage as “a historic moment for our country and a demonstration of our unwavering commitment to justice, human rights, and freedom.” (https://www.commondreams.org/news/israel-south-africa) Holding just two seats in the Parliament, the NFP secured the resolution’s passage with the support of parties including the dominant African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighters, United Democratic Movement, African Independent Congress, Al-Jama-ah, and Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “shameful and disgraceful,” NFP Member of Parliament Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, who introduced the resolution, said after its passage that “this is a moment Madiba would be proud of.” Emam was referring to former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who advocated for Palestinian rights and for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.