Visitors look at the Bellevue Palace illuminated by light projection of the German word meaning "sticking together" in Berlin, capital of Germany, on December 17(XINHUA)
With the COVID-19 pandemic fast changing the world, humankind has suffered a major setback in 2020. Faced with unprecedented changes, risks and uncertainties, people are forced to rethink the path into the future.
In this year, choices of solidarity or division, openness or isolation, cooperation or confrontation were made. At a time of crisis, some buried their heads in the sand, playing the blame game while ignoring the truth.
The vast majority of countries, however, chose friendship and cooperation in the battle against the pandemic, believing that crisis could entail opportunities if the right response is made.
This fully shows that the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind has taken roots and people from around the world have come to the understanding that the concept offers a fundamental action plan to help address global challenges.
The number of COVID-19 cases reported worldwide has reached about 77.9 million as of Wednesday, with over 1.7 million coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. With rocketing cases and deaths of COVID-19, uncertainties and risks keep rising.
The World Bank's Global Economic Prospect report in June suggested that COVID-19 has triggered the deepest global recession in decades, forecasting a 5.2-percent contraction in global gross domestic product. The forecast envisions a 7.0-percent contraction for developed economies, and shrinking per capita incomes in most emerging and developing economies.
Massive wealth has evaporated under the impact of the pandemic. Trade and investment declined, financial markets reeled in turmoil, and recovery is lacking momentum.
The pandemic highlighted the need for policy action to cushion its consequences, protect vulnerable populations and improve countries' capacity to cope with similar future challenges, said the World Bank report.
Some countries, however, chose to turn a blind eye to the challenges, instead of joining hands with others to fight the common enemy. Some chose to withdraw into national isolation, stoking unilateralism, protectionism, populism and hegemonism.
The United States, in particular, withdrew from the World Health Organization and the Open Skies Treaty, interfered with the selection process of the director-general of the World Trade Organization, wielded unilateral sanctions against other countries and exercised long-arm jurisdiction, harming the international multilateral system with the United Nations at its core.
"The COVID-19 pandemic provides overwhelming evidence that we need more—and more effective—multilateralism, with vision, ambition and impact," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres via video earlier this month at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.
"We need more international cooperation and stronger international institutions," he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech calling for global solidarity and a sense of urgency to confront COVID-19 at a UN General Assembly special session at the UN headquarters in New York, on December 3(XINHUA)
The pandemic is a sober reminder that the world is an interconnected global village. Lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing policies have cleared once-crowded beaches, airport hubs and shopping malls. But connections and cooperation between countries, economies and civilizations have continued via virtual means such as online diplomacy and video conferencing.
Medical workers transport a patient outside a hospital in New York, the United States, on December 8(XINHUA)
This year, Guterres issued an urgent appeal for a global ceasefire to focus together on the true fight against COVID-19, and announced a $2 billion Humanitarian Response Plan to help the "Ultra-Vulnerable."
High level meetings were convened by the African Union, the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), respectively, to emphasize solidarity as a weapon against the pandemic. Leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) members vowed to "rise to the challenge together," sending positive signals amid efforts to stabilize global economy.
As the crisis continues, many countries have worked together as never before to overcome difference and confront the common enemy. But anti-science and buck-passing attempts by some countries have not only weakened their own disease control and prevention, but also wrecked havoc to international cooperation, while the rest of the world have reached consensus on the importance in safeguarding multilateralism to resist the impact of the pandemic.
In November, 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including ASEAN's 10 member states and China, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's biggest trade pact, injecting a big new impetus into concerted efforts to enhance regional and global economic stability, and facilitate regional economic integration, multilateralism and free trade.
As the first major economy to register positive economic growth this year, China has effectively contained COVID-19 and restored normal production. During the National Day Golden Week holiday in early October, more than 600 million domestic trips were made. And in the Double 11 (November 11) online shopping festival, 675 million parcels were processed across the country in one day.
Tourists enjoy their time in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, on October 5, the fifth day of National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday(XINHUA)
From the resumption of Belt and Road projects to the arrivals of China-Europe freight trains that carried medical supplies and protection devices, from the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor to China International Import Expo and China-ASEAN Expo, China has brought along vitality, providing and building new platforms for global recovery.
An expanding domestic demand in China will not only boost Chinese economic growth but also create more opportunities for other countries, thus driving a faster global economic recovery, said Chen Gang, assistant director of the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore.
"China's share of the global economy and its contribution to global economic growth will continue to rise this year," Chen said.
The pandemic is reshaping the world. It has revealed the limitations of the current global governance system and called for improvement and innovation. Challenges ranging from COVID-19 to climate change, from inequality to racism, from rising unemployment to worsening poverty have kept on reminding the international community that they are indeed a community with a shared future.
"We are all indeed fellow passengers in the same boat," said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2018 APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea.
Last month, while addressing the 12th BRICS summit via video link, Xi made similar remarks, saying BRICS countries are all "passengers in the same boat."
"When the wind is strong and the tides are high, we must be even more focused on the direction. We must keep pace, and work as a team to break the waves and navigate steadily toward a brighter future," he said.
This year, at a series of multilateral meetings, Xi shared thoughts with world leaders on global governance, and offered China's proposals and contributions to the resolution of global challenges.
While addressing the G20 Riyadh Summit via video link, Xi stressed the need to strengthen the UN-centered international system, to improve the governance architecture for economic globalization, to work together to foster an open, fair, just and nondiscriminatory environment for building the digital economy, and also highlighted the importance of building up capacities for tackling global challenges.
Despite challenges and risks, as Xi said at the BRICS summit, "we remain convinced that the theme of our times—peace and development—has not changed, and that the trend toward multipolarity and economic globalization cannot be turned around."
As the pandemic lingers on at the end of the year, the world should know better which way to go. Efforts to enhance cooperation, defend multilateralism and free trade and safeguard world pace and stability will pave the way for the recovery the world needs most in the post-pandemic era.