BEIJING, Feb. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The COVID-19 pandemic, affecting all countries, has underscored both the way China addresses a global challenge and its vision for a better world.
As the first major country to have effectively contained the virus and the only major economy to register positive growth last year, China has been at the forefront of the global fight – believing that COVID-19 knows no borders and cannot be defeated without working together.
“After a year of hardship, we can understand more than ever the significance of a community with a shared future for mankind,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his New Year address on the last day of 2020.
The pandemic prevented Xi from traveling overseas, but it was a busy year of diplomacy for the Chinese president nevertheless. He had 87 virtual meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders and heads of international organizations and attended 22 bilateral or multilateral events in the form of “cloud diplomacy,” calling for solidarity and cooperation to tackle the crisis.
‘Most powerful weapon’
China – particularly its central province of Hubei and the provincial capital of Wuhan – was hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak: Nearly 90,000 confirmed cases have been reported on the Chinese mainland and more than 4,600 lives have been lost; residents in the worst-hit regions have endured weeks or even months of lockdowns, while people across the country have been cooperative amid travel restrictions, even during Chinese New Year holidays; the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 6.8 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2020.
Making people’s lives and health the priority, China has largely cut transmission channels of the virus, despite sporadic cases emerging in winter. Successful epidemic control contributed to a speedy economic recovery, with the country’s GDP expanding by 2.3 percent year on year in 2020.
Meanwhile, China is fulfilling its responsibilities as a major country and fighting shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world against the common threat to mankind that COVID-19 poses.
“Solidarity and cooperation is our most powerful weapon for fighting the virus,” Xi said in a speech at the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly in May.
“This is the key lesson the world has learned from fighting HIV/AIDS, Ebola, avian influenza, influenza A (H1N1) and other major epidemics. And solidarity and cooperation is a sure way through which we, the people of the world, can defeat this novel coronavirus,” he said via video link.
China organized its largest global humanitarian drive since 1949, providing anti-virus assistance to over 150 countries and 10 international organizations and sending 36 medical teams to 34 countries in need.
In his speeches at the 73rd World Health Assembly, the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19, the 12th BRICS Summit, the 27th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and the 15th G20 Leaders’ Summit, Xi repeatedly promised to make Chinese COVID-19 vaccines a “global public good” accessible and affordable to people around the world.
And China is delivering on that promise by providing vaccines to countries including Cambodia, Chile, Peru, Pakistan, Serbia, Hungary, Equatorial Guinea, the Laos, Mexico, Zimbabwe, the Dominican Republic and Thailand – most of which are developing countries.
“We feel greatly honored, and this speaks volumes to the relationship between us and the people of China,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week said as he thanked China for its donation of 200,000 doses of vaccine.
Aiming for a better future
As well as helping fight the health crisis brought by the pandemic, China is contributing to economic recovery worldwide and the improvement of global governance in the post-COVID-19 era.
President Xi appealed to the world’s leading economies to boost economic recovery as early as March, when the coronavirus was fast spreading across the globe.
“I want to call on all G20 members to take collective actions – cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade,” Xi said at the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19. “Together, we can send a strong signal and restore confidence for global economic recovery.”
Addressing the G20 Riyadh Summit in November, he called for concerted efforts from major economies to promote more inclusive development and improve global governance.
The G20, playing a key role in the global fight against COVID-19, should uphold multilateralism, openness, inclusiveness, and mutually beneficial cooperation, and keep pace with the times, said the Chinese president.
“We should keep our support for developing countries and help them overcome the hardships caused by the pandemic,” he told other G20 leaders.
To ease poor countries’ debt burden, China has fully implemented the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), with the total amount exceeding $1.3 billion, Xi noted.
The G20 launched the DSSI in April to address the immediate liquidity needs of low-income countries, allowing the debt service payments due from May 1 to the end of 2020 owed by the most impoverished countries to be suspended. Later the debt suspension was extended by another six months until June 30, 2021.
China has also set more ambitious goals to combat climate change and drive sustainable development. Xi announced in September that the country would strive to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
“COVID-19 reminds us that humankind should launch a green revolution and move faster to create a green way of development and life,” he said in an address at the General Debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Xi unveiled further targets in December at the Climate Ambition Summit to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
By 2030, China will lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by over 65 percent from the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25 percent, increase the forest stock volume by six billion cubic meters from the 2005 level, and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts, he said.
The world is seeing profound changes brought by COVID-19. China, while acting to address the challenge at home, is shouldering greater responsibilities to make the world a better place after the crisis.