Trade is the plainest and most efficient language of diplomacy nowadays. It is one of the few aspects of state-to-state relations that can bridge cultural and ideological gaps. And in relations with China, the world's No 1 exporter and No 2 importer, trade is bound to be a prominent feature.
While Vice-President Xi Jinping's overseas trip has resulted in a good many business deals with the United States, Ireland, and now Turkey - and for each of these countries, Chinese pledges of collaboration, now honored in the form of business deals, mean a lot - evaluating Xi's visits to the countries in terms of commercial deals alone would be to shortchange their true worth. They are mere tokens of the goodwill China wants to convey, to the host countries and the world at large.
From Washington D.C. to Dublin and Ankara, Xi has been assuring his hosts and the rest of the international community of China's steadfast commitment to being a constructive and responsible presence on the world stage. Economic benefits are only one aspect, or, more precisely, a natural outcome of this.
It is a win-win scenario Xi has been promoting throughout his visits.
"The vast Pacific Ocean has ample space for China and the United States," Xi said in the US.
In Ireland, Xi told his host China is a reliable friend as well as a trustworthy partner that Ireland and the rest of Europe can count on.
To Turkey, Xi brought the Chinese hope for greater strategic cooperation.
Yet despite this country's avowed and proven desire to befriend the rest of the world and peacefully co-exist, there is often a worrying misrepresentation of its strategic purposes. That is why it does not surprise us when China's pledge to be a benign power is met with disbelief. Such skepticism is understandable since the present and previous world powers all have a history of bullying during their rise.
China's strength is exaggerated, sometimes out of all proportion to suit the purposes of others. But given its sheer size, there may come a day when every move the country makes has a global impact. The international community should support China's decision to be a benign power in every possible way because it will ultimately benefit everyone.
It would be unrealistic to expect Xi's visits to dispel all misgivings about China's rise. But the goodwill Xi has displayed is a warm invitation to the rest of the world to join this country's efforts to pursue a distinctive path of harmonious co-existence.