President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) has direct relevance to contemporary politics and dynamics. The world was struggling in its fight against Covid-19 and its impacts, and it struck in the second wave which has shaken the global economy and confidence of people. Economic growth and development are dwindling. According to the World Bank, the global economy has been contracted by 5.2% in 2020. Foreign direct investment (FDI) dipped manifolds. UNCTAD highlighted that FDI contracted by 40% in 2020, and it will further contract between 5-10% in 2021. It is the first time after 2005 that the FDI fell below the $1 trillion benchmark.
Poverty and inequalities are exhibiting a sharp increase across the world. Even the most developed economies are observing this trend. A World Bank report, “Poverty and Shared Prosperity”, concluded that 88-115 million people will fall into an extreme poverty ($1.90) trap. The main victims would be developing, and underdeveloped countries and South Asia stands out among other regions. Further, a slight change in the poverty line will increase the numbers manifolds (a change from $1.90 to $3.20 will increase the number to 223 million) and 71% of this population would be from South Asia. It will impact about 9.1-9.4% of the population and after 20 years, extreme poverty is exhibiting a positive trend. The World Bank predicts that the economy will recover by 4% growth in 2021, which is not enough to offset the impacts of Covid-19. It is encouraging but we will have to wait for the result of vaccine and the second wave to end.
In addition to Covid-19, the world is also facing a reckless trade war, technological supremacy war, ultra-nationalism and closing opportunities for open trade. Countries seem to be hell bent on fighting a trade war with no exception. Although, it is impacting everyone, all are happy to fight in the name of national interest.
In this context, President Xi’s speech can be considered as an important intervention at the global level to face challenges. It echoed the “new philosophy of development” of China, which is all about openness, inclusiveness and sustainable development with a slogan of equality and shared community. The speech also contained the same elements. President Xi started by urging world leaders and countries to come together and enhance macroeconomic coordination, which is the most sought-after commodity at present. The rise of ultra-nationalism and country-first slogans have resulted in the construction of walls between countries. Another reason for these walls is the prejudices adopted by some countries. The prejudices have compelled countries to be arrogant and work against globalisation. Thus, the first step to break these walls is to enhance coordination among countries.
The Chinese president also emphasised the need and importance of cooperation to tackle major global issues. It is a prerequisite to move on the path of development and fight back the fallout of Covid-19, poverty, food insecurity, etc. But the cooperation must be built on principles of equality and due importance to cultural diversity and national context.
The second most important point of the speech was to bridge the gap between poor and rich countries. It would be a game-changer and would pave the way for the community with a shared future if China successfully infuses the spirit at the global level. Presently, the world is sharply divided between the haves (North) and the have-nots (South). However, the goal can only be achieved with new systems of engagement and economic growth by moving away from a trickle-down theory. President Xi clearly mentioned that China will stick to new types of engagement with the core elements of dignity and equality. China will work to promote a win-win engagement, opening-up and economic relations. All efforts will be made to protect the interest of low developed and developing countries. The analysis also shows that the win-win strategy of openness is also closely related to China’s Dual Circulation Model of Economy (DCME) and new philosophy of development. Through DCME, China will be opening up its economy in a comprehensive way to increase import to meet the local demand of raw material and consumption of people.
Howbeit, the win-win strategy of opening up will have to keep in focus the different needs of countries and development statuses of economies. We can quote the example of CPEC here, where Pakistan and China have adopted the same strategy. It is helping Pakistan to smoothly move on the path of CPEC implementation.
Third, President Xi also highlighted the role of science and technology in international development and to achieve the goal of community with a shared future. Science, technology and innovation will be key to achieve the future development and combat the challenges like Covid-19, climate change, etc. China is already leading the way in many technologies like quantum computing, 5-G, robotics, etc. Again, it is one of the most important elements of China’s new philosophy of development, rather the new philosophy hinges on science, technology and innovation to achieve high-end growth and development. It will also be helpful to achieve sustainable development, combat climate change, environment degradation, and inequality. This is also important because through the Belt and Road Initiative as China can share their fortune at a wider scale.
Last but the most important part of the speech was on sustainable development. It is the most important one, as the world is in dire need of a vision to implement sustainable development. President Xi unambiguously announced that China will touch the carbon peak before 2030. He also assured the world that China will achieve the objective of carbon neutrality before 2060. These are big announcements, as the world is fighting hard to overcome the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change impacts. The vision is exactly in line with China’s vision of “Ecological Civilisation”.
In conclusion, the speech gives a positive vibe in difficult times. In a nutshell, the speech has a strong message of openness, inclusiveness, and sustainable development by adhering to principles of human dignity and sovereignty of countries. However, the world will have to wait and look as to how China implements the highlighted areas at the domestic level and engages with the world by adopting a strategy of win-win cooperation. The glimpses are already here in BRI, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Comprehensive Agreement on Investment and cooperation to combat Covid-19 (China cooperated with more than 150 countries), etc. We hope it will also help small, less developed and poor countries to bridge the gap of development. For that, China will have to launch special programmes for poor countries like agriculture, food security and health, etc. through South-South cooperation. China will also have to help countries open up in a step-by-step manner to benefit from the emerging opportunities and be part of a community of shared future.
This article was originally published at: https://tribune.com.pk/story/2282263/openness-inclusiveness-and-sustainable-development
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.