In January 2017, President Xi Jinping made a keynote speech at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in which he shared China’s plan for solving world economic problems, and showed the direction for global economic development amid the negative trend of anti-globalization. Four years later, on 25 January 2021, President Xi Jinping attended the WEF Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda and deliver a special address titled “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity’s Way Forward”. This address shows that President Xi thinks deeply about four issues of the current times, expounds incisively the core principles of multilateralism, and once again answered such questions of the times as “What happened to the world” and “What should we do”. President Xi’s address demonstrates China’s commitment to fulfill its responsibility as a major country, and boosts the confidence and efforts made by the international community to jointly address development challenges.
“Four Issues” reveal the common challenges facing the world
The key to address the “issues of our time” is to identify the actual causes. Currently, the plague of Covid-19 is intertwined with the profound changes unseen in a century. The world economy was mired in deep recession, and humanity encountered multiple crises rarely seen in history. We once again stand at a crossroad. President Xi Jinping bases his thoughts on reality, looks towards the future, sees clearly the international situation, and raises explicitly four issues which need to be well addressed in our time.
Firstly, how to step up macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy?
Secondly, how to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation?
Thirdly, how to close the divide between developed and developing countries and jointly bring about growth and prosperity for all?
Fourthly, how can we come together against global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity?
These four issues are interconnected. They include not only practical issues relating to economic development, but issues of common concern to humanity, such as peace and cooperation. The framing of the four issues reflects China’s thinking on the risks and challenges facing the world, and President Xi’s answers to them have clarified the common objectives and pointed out the direction for the international community to address the challenges, build the consensus, solve the difficult problems, and take practical actions.
“Four Stay Committed” points out the path for practising multilateralism
To answer “questions of our time”, President Xi Jinping, who has a clear understanding of the differences between genuine and fake multilateralism, uses “four stay committed” to explain how to keep to the right path while making innovations and be forward-looking in practising multilateralism.
First, we should stay committed to openness and inclusiveness instead of closeness and exclusion. We should not build small circles or starting a new Cold War.
Second, we should stay committed to international law and international rules instead of seeking one’s own supremacy. We need to be steadfast in our resolve to safeguard the international system centered around the UN and the international order based on international law.
Third, we should stay committed to consultation and cooperation instead of conflict and confrontation. We need adhere to mutual respect and accommodation, and enhance political trust through strategic communication.
Fourth, we should stay committed to keeping up with the times instead of rejecting change. We need to stand by the core values and basic principles of multilateralism, while at the same time adapting to the changing international landscape, reforming and improving the global governance system on the basis of extensive consultation and consensus-building.
“Five Continue” manifests China’s sense of responsibility as a major country
To practise multilateralism, we should not sit back and indulge in empty talk, but stand up and take actions. China not only said so, but also did so. In his special address, President Xi Jinping announces to the world China’s concrete measures dubbed “Five Continue”:
Firstly, China will continue to take an active part in international cooperation on Covid-19, and contribute to an early and complete victory over the coronavirus throughout the world. It firmly believes that winter cannot stop the arrival of spring and darkness can never shroud the light of dawn.
Secondly, China will continue to implement a win-win strategy of opening-up. As a longstanding supporter of economic globalization, China is committed to following through on its fundamental policy of opening-up. It will make further efforts to bring more cooperation opportunities to other countries and give further impetus to global economic recovery and growth.
Thirdly, China will continue to promote sustainable development and fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Fourthly, China will continue to advance science, technology and innovation, and resolutely implement the strategy of innovation-driven development. It will think and act with more openness with regard to international exchange and cooperation on science and technology.
Fifthly, China will continue to promote a new type of international relations. As a staunch follower of an independent foreign policy of peace, China is working hard to bridge differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through negotiation, and to pursue friendly and cooperative relations with other countries on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.
The “Five Continue” has fully demonstrated China’s firm determination and real actions in safeguarding and practising multilateralism, and bringing certainty to this uncertain world.
China and Africa are natural allies in safeguarding and practising multilateralism
Both China and Africa are initiators and practitioners of multilateralism. During the past year, faced with the adverse trend of unilateralism, protectionism and bullying acts, China and Africa have united to buck the trend, and firmly supported each other’s efforts to protect core national interests and independently explore suitable development paths. Particularly in jointly fighting the Covid-19 epidemic and conducting mutually beneficial cooperation, China and Africa have played an exemplary role for the rest of the world.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China and Africa have been supporting each other and fighting the virus side by side. The two sides successfully convened the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19. China has dispatched medical expert groups and medical teams to 16 African countries to share its experience of tackling the epidemic, established a counterpart cooperation mechanism by pairing up Chinese hospitals and 46 hospitals in 42 African countries, and provided badly-needed anti-epidemic supplies to almost all countries in Africa. Moreover, the construction of China-aided Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) headquarters has already started.
Last week, at the request of the WHO, China decided to provide 10 million doses of vaccines to Covax, mainly to meet the urgent need in Africa and other developing regions. On February 9, the shipment of the vaccines that China provides to Equatorial Guinea started, which is the first batch of vaccine aid that the Chinese government provides to Africa. These actions show that China is fulfilling its commitment to make vaccines a global public good, and taking concrete measures to promote equitable distribution of vaccines and advance international cooperation in fighting the pandemic
Up to now, China has signed the agreement on jointly implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with 46 African countries, including Tanzania. The China-Africa BRI cooperation has contributed to the infrastructural connectivity in Africa, and enhanced Africa’s independent development capacity. China has signed the Debt Service Suspension Agreement with 12 African countries including Tanzania, and waived repayment of interest-free loans that matured by the end of 2020 for 15 countries, which makes China the biggest contributor to the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative.
The year 2021 is the first year that China implements its 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development. It is also the last year to implement the outcomes of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). On the first day of 2021, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was officially launched. In the second half of this year, the next FOCAC meeting will be held in Senegal. China and Africa face great historic opportunities in strengthening their solidarity and cooperation, jointly safeguarding and practising multilateralism, and effectively tackling the four aforementioned development issues.
Tanzania is an initiator of pan-Africanism and an advocate for African solidarity. It is also the place where the principles of China’s Africa policy in the new era were first announced, which shows Tanzania stays in an important position in China’s relations with Africa. During his official visit to Tanzania last month, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi reached important consensus with the Tanzanian side on strengthening coordination in dealing with international affairs, jointly advocating multilateralism and opposing foreign interference, and safeguarding international equity and justice. China is ready to stand together with Tanzania through thick and thin, to help each other, to jointly uphold the torch of multilateralism and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community for a shared future.
The author is Ambassador of China to Tanzania