Liu Jianchao, the head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is emerging as a key player in China’s foreign policy as he takes on a more prominent role in engaging with foreign parties and governments.
Liu, a veteran diplomat who speaks fluent English, has been meeting with high-level officials from various countries, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an attempt to ease diplomatic tensions and promote China’s interests.
He is also leading major initiatives such as the World Political Parties Summit, where Chinese President Xi Jinping made veiled criticisms of US “hegemony” and “unilateralism” to more than 10,000 delegates from 500 political parties.
Liu’s appointment as the head of the International Liaison Department in June last year was seen as a sign of Xi’s trust and confidence in him. Liu had previously worked as a deputy director of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, and as the party secretary of Zhejiang province, Xi’s former power base.
The International Liaison Department, which oversees relations between the CPC and other political parties around the world, has been expanding its scope and influence under Xi’s leadership. Xi has called for a “new model of party-to-party relations” that would complement and support state-to-state diplomacy.
according to analysts, party-to-party diplomacy gives Beijing a powerful and largely unscrutinized backchannel with political power brokers in other countries. It also allows Beijing to bypass the regulations and controversies that often govern state visits and speak directly and privately with the people in power.
Liu’s department has been particularly active in cultivating ties with developing countries, especially in Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific island nations. Liu has visited several of these countries and opened a party training school in Tanzania to teach rising African leaders how to implement a CPC-style one-party state.
Liu’s diplomatic style has been described as tactful, constructive, and pragmatic. He has shown a willingness to listen to and address the concerns and interests of his counterparts, while also defending China’s position and principles.
Liu’s rise to prominence reflects China’s growing assertiveness and confidence in its foreign policy, as well as its desire to shape the norms and rules of international relations to suit its own agenda.
However, Liu also faces many challenges and uncertainties in his role, as China faces increasing scrutiny and resistance from the US and its allies over issues such as human rights, trade, technology, and regional security.
Liu will have to balance China’s need to maintain stability and cooperation with its major partners, while also advancing its strategic interests and values in a complex and changing global environment.