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Xi envisions world with benefits for all

By ZHANG YUNBI | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-14 07:18
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Tourists visit Badachu Park decorated with red lanterns in Beijing, China, Oct 2, 2019. [Photo /Xinhua]

President calls for collaboration on balanced global growth that leaves no country behind

Editor's note: China Daily presents a series of reports illustrating how the Global Development Initiative, first proposed by President Xi Jinping, will help countries around the world to shore up robust, green and more balanced growth amid unprecedented challenges. This is the fourth installment of the series.

At the opening ceremony of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last month, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted the need for countries to achieve common prosperity: "At this moment in humankind's history, we must demonstrate our determination to leave no country behind."

Ramaphosa's call was among the voices of an increasing number of countries and organizations that resonate with or support Beijing's global development philosophy based on "benefits for all", "common prosperity", "balanced growth" and "leaving no country behind".

Behind such support is the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic further widening wealth gaps among and within a number of vulnerable, low-income countries, especially worsening their fiscal and debt issues, leaders, officials and scholars said.

President Xi Jinping, on behalf of China, has stated "staying committed to benefits for all" as one of the six main priorities of the Global Development Initiative he proposed in September.

In particular, Xi called on nations to "employ such means as debt suspension and development aid to help developing countries, particularly vulnerable ones facing exceptional difficulties, with emphasis on addressing unbalanced and inadequate development among and within countries".

Martin Raiser, World Bank country director for China, told China Daily that "the world is facing a new wave of debt, which had been building even before the pandemic", and "many countries now face unsustainable debt levels".

He referred to the World Bank's assessment that the proportion of global economies that face a high risk of debt distress increased from 24 percent to 51 percent between 2013 and 2019, and "the pandemic has caused this share to rise further to 56 percent".

Noting that debt relief requires coordination because a country's debt is often held by multiple creditors, Raiser said further actions are needed to ease the debt burden of the most vulnerable countries.

At the FOCAC conference, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, hailed "the significant efforts of China to relieve African economies of the burden of their bilateral debts".

At key international and regional meetings, President Xi has also unveiled a number of China's commitments on providing development aid.

"China will provide an additional $3 billion in international aid over the next three years to support the COVID-19 response and economic and social recovery in other developing countries," Xi told the Global Health Summit on May 21.

On Nov 22, Xi announced that China is ready to provide ASEAN with another $1.5 billion of development assistance in the next three years.

Xu Xiujun, director of International Politics and Economics Department of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Economics and Politics, said Xi's detailed proposals eying benefits for all "present a systemic set of policies and an action framework that are highly feasible and forward-looking and that echo the strong desire of various nations for a better life and greater growth".

"As part of China's efforts in honoring its role as a responsible major country, such a set of proposals outlines both short-term priorities-including debt suspension and development aid-and long-term tasks-navigating economic globalization toward inclusiveness and a win-win situation, and shaping a fairer and more just global governance system," Xu said.

Behind China's push for global teamwork to achieve benefits for all is a Chinese socioeconomic philosophy that prioritizes development and addressing the development deficit in order to tackle various global challenges and the global governance deficit, Xu added.

As the pandemic looms large, Liu Wenkui, executive vice-president of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, has received briefings from staffers and employees based overseas that economically challenged residents in many developing countries are "faced with mounting challenges".

"Unemployment brought by the pandemic first impacts households relying on daily wages, leading to their hunger. … Hygiene creates another major problem in many shantytown areas of developing countries, as basic hygienic facilities are absent," said Liu.

The suspension of classes and a lack of IT infrastructure for online learning are putting children's education at risk too, Liu said. "The outside world should extend more helping hands to lift them out of difficulties and back to a normal life," he said.

Work on poverty and hunger relief, health, education and clean water is the focus of Liu's foundation overseas, and these are part of China's consistent efforts to help those impoverished countries and populations survive the pandemic and achieve recovery.

Beijing's efforts deserve more tangible, concerted responses and actions from countries, particularly developed, high-income ones, experts and officials said.

Chen Fengying, an economist and former director of the Institute of World Economic Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, noted that developed countries are generally recovering faster than developing countries, and COVID-19 vaccines are also concentrated in the hand of developed countries.

"Many developing countries have seen their workers even have trouble going to work safely," she said, adding that the lack of fiscal support and problems such as price hikes in bulk commodities have made matters even worse.

To support low-income countries faced with unsustainable debt burdens, the G20 endorsed a key initiative last year for debt treatment by facilitating coordination among official creditors.

"China has joined and supported this effort, which is very welcome," said Raiser, the World Bank official. Still, he warned that countries' progress in reaching agreement "has been slow".

In terms of development aid, Jia Jinjing, deputy dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the ongoing lack of aid from some developed countries to developing countries is "in part due to their own problems in coping with the pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout".

"And it should be noted that some developed countries tend to make empty pledges but seldom fulfill them with actions," Jia added.

According to Liu, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation executive, "collaboration among countries for international poverty relief is more critical than ever given the pandemic".

"Despite disrupted international travel, relief programs could still be carried forward by working closely with local partners," he said.

Daniel Worku Hunegnaw, project manager of the foundation's Ethiopia office, witnessed the popularity of its projects rolled out in his country, including water cellar projects that target droughts.

The local residents are "happy with how smart our projects are", and the foundation's operations "are handled completely with respect for local cultures and values", he said.

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