China calls for greater global unity to prepare for post-pandemic headwinds
By Wen Qing  ·  2022-01-24  ·   Source: NO.4 JANUARY 27, 2022
President Xi Jinping delivers a special address to the 2022 World Economic Forum virtual session from Beijing on January 17 (XINHUA)

'Facts have shown once again that amid the raging torrents of a global crisis, countries are not riding separately in some 190 small boats, but are rather all in a giant ship on which our shared destiny hinges. Small boats may not survive a storm, but a giant ship is strong enough to brave a storm." This is how Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of solidarity during the crisis currently faced by humanity as he spoke at the 2022 World Economic Forum (WEF) virtual session via video link from Beijing on January 17.

He called on the international community to foster new opportunities amid crises, open up new horizons on a shifting landscape, and pool great strength to go through difficulties and challenges.

After two years of COVID-19, the world is still feeling the effects of the pandemic, including a weak economic recovery and global inflation. Faced with the added challenges posed by the Omicron variant, organizers of the forum have postponed its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to summer, and hosted the virtual event, known as the Davos Agenda, from January 17 to 21.

Bleak prospects

"Everyone hopes that in 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the crises that accompanied it, will finally begin to recede," Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, said. "But major global challenges await us, from climate change to rebuilding trust and social cohesion. To address them, leaders will need to adopt new models, look at the long term, renew cooperation and act systemically. The Davos Agenda 2022 is the starting point for the dialogue needed for global cooperation in 2022."

The WEF published the Global Risks Report 2022 on January 11. It said 84 percent of experts interviewed by the report team were concerned about the global outlook and only 3.7 percent of respondents remained optimistic.

Considering the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and other uncertainties, the Word Bank also downgraded its 2022 global economic growth forecast to 4.1 percent in January, 0.2 percentage point lower than the previous projection in June 2021.

"The Omicron variant is driving a new wave of the pandemic across many nations, with confirmed cases hitting record highs," Xu Mingqi, Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Center for International Economic Exchanges, said. "Therefore, these countries have had to reinstate control measures such as restricting public movement, in turn slowing down production, services, consumption and other economic activities. This is undoubtedly detrimental to global economic recovery."

In his address, Xi pointed out that the future of the global economy largely hinges on the future of its major economies. "If major economies slam on the brakes or take a U-turn in their monetary policies, there would be serious negative spillovers. They would present challenges to global economic and financial stability, and developing countries would bear the brunt," he said.

U.S. inflation reached its highest level in nearly 40 years in November 2021, with the fiscal deficit and debt both rising. In response, the Federal Reserve is poised to end its quantitative easing bond purchases and complete several benchmark interest rate hikes in 2022, expected to strongly impact the global financial market. This is especially the case for emerging markets as they will face the risks of capital outflow and local currency devaluation. "The financial bubbles in emerging markets may be punctured," Xu warned.

"Major developed countries should adopt responsible economic policies, manage policy spillovers, and avoid severe impacts on developing countries. International economic and financial institutions should play their constructive role to pool global consensus, enhance policy synergy and prevent systemic risks," Xi said.

China's contributions

Facing the once-in-a-century pandemic together with a faltering world economy and many other pressing issues, how to beat the pandemic and how to build the post-COVID world are common concerns for governments everywhere. Xi said humanity needs to embrace cooperation and defeat the pandemic together.

First and foremost, the equitable distribution of vaccines must be ensured and the global immunization gap must be closed. China has already sent over 2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations. It plans to provide a further 1 billion doses to African countries, including 600 million doses as a donation, and will also donate 150 million doses to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Xi also pledged that China will remain committed to pursuing high-quality development, reform and opening up. "China will continue to expand high-standard opening up; steadily advance institutional opening up that covers rules, management and standards, deliver national treatment for foreign businesses, and promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation," he said, emphasizing China's support for an open and inclusive world trade and economy.

"At a time when protectionist and nationalist forces are on the rise, President Xi warned against the tide of anti-globalization and called for cooperation," Schwab said, specifically commending the common prosperity pursued by China. "Over the last five years, China has undergone tremendous economic development. It has also shown great responsibility in handling the COVID-19 crisis. We have to see how we can use global platforms to learn every formula and the best practices to deal with the challenges."

The Chinese economy continues to enjoy strong momentum and has contributed over 30 percent to world economic growth in recent decades. In 2021, China's GDP grew 8.1 percent year on year. The expansion is slightly above the IMF and World Bank projections of 8 percent and well beyond the 6-percent target set by the Chinese Government.

According to Xi, China will continue to work toward joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), with a view to further integrate into the regional and global economy, and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

The CPTPP is currently the free trade agreement featuring the highest standards in the world, and the DEPA can be described as the foundation for future rules in the digital field, according to Wang Yiwei, a professor of international studies at Renmin University of China. With the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, comprising 15 Asia-Pacific economies, on January 1, China's participation in the CPTPP and the DEPA will undoubtedly be significant for promoting China's high-quality development and inject positive energy into the global economy by facilitating free trade, Wang said. 

(Print Edition Title: Teamwork, Now and Beyond COVID-19)

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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