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Experts: Xi's call sets right tone for battle

By CAO DESHENG in Wuhan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-03-30 07:17
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President Xi Jinping speaks during the G20 Extraordinary Leaders' Summit on COVID-19, on March 26, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Mutual assistance is essential for world to prevail over contagion, say observers

Amid the mounting risks the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak has brought to the world, President Xi Jinping's call for "an all-out global war" against the pandemic at the recent G20 Extraordinary Leader's Summit on COVID-19 has great relevance to addressing the global public health crisis.

The messages of solidarity and mutual assistance Xi sent at the videoconference for leaders of the Group of 20 countries on Thursday are the only way out for the world to prevail over the contagion and save the global economy from recession, observers said.

The virtual summit, the first of its kind in the history of the G20, is the first major multilateral event Xi participated in since the start of the outbreak. Xi has been using telephone conversations, correspondence and meetings with leaders of foreign countries and international organizations to strengthen coordination between China and the rest of the world on the fight against the virus.

"At such a moment, it is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response," Xi said at the summit. "We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease."

Xi's remarks came as China's epidemic control is continuously improving and the trend of restoring normal work and life is being consolidated. Globally, the virus has spread to more than 200 countries and regions. Over 616,700 people have been infected and the death toll is still rising rapidly, according to the World Health Organization. The economic toll is also climbing as more businesses and trade comes to a halt amid massive lockdowns.

Tom Fowdy, a British political and international relations analyst, said the virus is a global challenge which requires a global response as it does not discriminate in terms of nationality or culture.

Although some nations have endeavored to pin it on one specific country and seen opportunities in doing so, in practice the outbreak harms the humanitarian, political, and economic interests of every nation, Fowdy said.

China has always advocated international cooperation in the fight against the epidemic. It has been endeavoring to coordinate policies and share information and experiences with other countries and international organizations.

The country has offered aid to 89 countries and four international organizations to contain the epidemic, including donations of face masks or other medical equipment and as well as $20 million to the WHO.

China has also sent teams of medical experts to Iran, Iraq, Italy, Serbia, Cambodia and Pakistan as well as a joint task force to the United Kingdom to help those countries fight the epidemic. More medical teams are expected to be sent to countries in need.

China has also held video conferences with health experts from many international organizations and countries. It also shared technical documents, including epidemic prevention and control measures, as well as diagnosis and treatment plans, with more than 100 countries around the world and over 10 international and regional organizations.

Xi said during the summit that all nations must work together to build the strongest global network of disease control and treatment that the world has ever seen.

"China has set up its online COVID-19 knowledge center that is open to all countries. It is imperative that countries pool their strengths and speed up research and development of drugs, vaccines and testing capabilities in the hope to achieve early breakthrough to the benefit of all."

Anti-epidemic materials are loaded to the plane taking the joint mission team dispatched by Shandong province to the UK, on March 28, 2020. [Photo by Zhao Ruixue for]


Rana Mitter, a professor of the history and politics of modern China at the University of Oxford, said Xi has rightly stressed that international cooperation is the only feasible way to defeat the menace of the coronavirus. The UK has made an important move toward this goal by pledging 210 million pounds ($262 million) to developing a vaccine, and it is vitally important that all countries join in this important aim, Mitter said.

Djoomart Otorbaev, former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan and a distinguished professor of the Belt and Road School of Beijing Normal University, said only multilateral cooperation will be able to defeat the virus.

"In this critical time for all humanity, there shouldn't be any slight hesitation of choice between petty nationalism and international partnership," Otorbaev said in an article published on the website of the China Global Television Network. Two pillars must serve as the foundation of an urgent action plan-fighting health threats and addressing economic challenges, he added.

Addressing Thursday's summit, Xi underlined the need for G20 members to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact and prevent the world economy from falling into recession, and called on all G20 members to take collective action by cutting tariffs, removing barriers and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade.

Saying that G20 countries need to jointly keep global industrial and supply chains stable, Xi said China will increase its supply of pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international market. "China will contribute to a stable world economy by continuing to advance reform and opening-up, widen market access, improve the business environment and expand imports and outbound investment," he said.

Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges and a former vice-minister of commerce, told Xinhua News Agency that the world is at a critical juncture in fighting the pandemic and stabilizing the global economy, and the international community expects the G20 to play a leading role.

The significance and urgency of Thursday's meeting have parallels with the global financial crisis in 2008 when meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors were raised to the level of heads of state and government for improved crisis coordination. However, experts warned that from an economic standpoint, the threat posed by the pandemic is much larger than the 2008 financial crisis.

"This pandemic will inevitably have an enormous impact on the economy," World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a video clip posted on the website of the organization. "Recent projections predict an economic downturn and job losses that are worse than the global financial crisis a dozen years ago."

British multinational asset management company Schroders has cut its growth forecast for the global economy to 2.3 percent this year. Moody's said that the GDP of G20 countries will shrink by 0.5 percent. Goldman Sachs predicted that the chances of a global economic recovery in the second half of the year are very slim, unless the number of COVID-19 cases falls sharply after April.

Zhao Minghao, a senior research fellow of international studies at the Charhar Institute, said it's not an exaggeration to say that mankind is facing the worst crisis since World War II. This crisis is compounded in that it poses extremely significant challenges to humanity in multiple dimensions, including public health, the economy and society, he added.

Noting the outbreak highlights the significant threat to humanity from non-traditional security challenges, Zhao said time and resources should no longer be wasted in so-called strategic competition of major countries.

"Even as the US and the world face a worsening pandemic, some Washington elites are still seeking to intensify the confrontation between China and the US," he said.

Han Baoyi in London contributed to this story.

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