Four years ago, at Davos in Switzerland, Chinese president Xi Jinping defended globalization and anointed himself its leader and protector.
It was the first time a Chinese leader had addressed the glitzy gathering of the global elite, and it made a lasting impression, coming just a few days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president, and the beginning of an American pivot away from multilateral institutions and the global system.
Today (Jan. 25), Xi addressed Davos once again, but this time on video. He brought up some of the same themes from his 2017 speech, including multilateralism and climate change. Without mentioning Trump by name, Xi criticized the former US president’s trade war with China. And without naming the US or Joe Biden, he predicted that a conflict between Beijing and Washington would be bad for everyone.
Xi called for global collaboration on climate change, public health, technology, and saving the global economy. China is in pole position to lead on some of these issues. It recently made an ambitious pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2060, and its economy is recovering much faster than others: It grew 2.3% in 2020, the only major economy to do so, and is expected to expand 7.9% this year.
He said international institutions, including the World Health Organization, should be strengthened, and called for more collaboration on vaccines and help for developing nations. And he warned other countries not to “meddle” in China’s affairs, a phrase often used to describe international condemnation of Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, or Tibet.
Xi’s speech may have sounded similar to the one he gave four years ago, but the context has massively changed. The pandemic has sparked a backlash against China among some Western nations. And after four years of Trump, China is hoping that Joe Biden’s administration will be more amenable to restoring relations, rather than continuing its predecessor’s trade war.
In a key reference to the US and its allies’ responses to China, Xi said that “to build small circles, or…wilfully impose decoupling, supply disruption, or sanctions…will only push the world into division and even confrontation.” (The Trump administration sanctioned officials in Hong Kong, while Biden has expressed support for a club of democracies that includes India, South Korea, and Australia.)
You can watch Xi’s speech here, and a full transcript follows, with some significant passages in bold:
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
The past year was marked by the sudden onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic. Global public health faced a severe threat, and the world economy was mired in a deep recession. Humanity encountered multiple crises rarely seen in human history.
The past year also bore witness to the enormous resolve and courage of people around the world in battling the deadly coronavirus. Guided by science, reason, and a humanitarian spirit, the world has achieved initial progress in fighting Covid-19.
That said, the pandemic is far from over. The recent resurgence of Covid cases reminds us that we must carry on the fight. Yet we remain convinced that winter cannot stop the arrival of spring and darkness can never shroud the light of dawn. There is no doubt that humanity will prevail over the virus and emerge even stronger from this disaster.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
History is moving forward and the world will not go back to what it was in the past. Every choice or move we make today will shape the world of the future. It is important that we properly address the four major tasks facing people of our times.
The first is to step up macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth of the world economy. We are going through the worst recession since the end of World War II. For the first time in history, the economies of all regions have been hit hard at the same time, with global industrial and supply chains clogged, and trade and investment down in the doldrums. Despite the trillions of dollars in relief packages worldwide, global recovery is rather shaky, and the outlook remains uncertain. We need to focus on current priorities and balance Covid response with economic development. Macroeconomic policy support should be stepped up to bring the world economy out of the woods as early as possible. Far more important, we need to look beyond the horizon and strengthen our will and resolve for change. We need to shift the driving forces and the growth models of the global economy and improve its structure, so as to set the course for long term, sound, and steady development of the world economy.
The second is to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation. No two leaves in the world are identical and no histories, cultures, or social systems are the same. Each country is unique, with its own history, culture, and social system, and none is superior to the other. The best criteria are whether the country’s history, culture, and social system fit its particular situation, enjoy people’s support, serve to deliver political stability, social progress, and better lives, and contribute to human progress. The different histories, cultures, and social systems are as old as human societies and they are the inherent features of human civilization. There will be no human civilization without diversity, and such diversity will continue to exist for as long as we can imagine. Difference in itself is no cause for alarm. What does bring alarm is arrogance, prejudice, and hatred. It is the attempt to impose hierarchy on human civilization, or to force one’s own history, culture, and social system upon others. The right choice is for countries to pursue peaceful coexistence based on mutual respect, and only finding common ground, while shelving differences, and to promote exchanges and mutual learning. This is the way to add impetus to the progress of human civilization.
The third is to close the divide between developed and developing countries and jointly bring about growth and prosperity for all. Today, inequality continues to grow, the North-South gap remains to be bridged, and sustainable development faces severe challenges. As countries grapple with the pandemic, their economic recoveries are following divergent trajectories, and the North-South gap risks further widening and even perpetuation. For developing countries, they’re aspiring for more resources and space for development, and they’re calling for stronger representation and voice in global economic governance. We should recognize that with the growth of developing countries, global prosperity and stability will be put on a more solid footing, and developed countries will stand to benefit from such growth. The international community should keep its eyes on the long run, honor its commitment to provide necessary support to developing countries and safeguard their legitimate development interests. Equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal rules should be strengthened so that all countries will benefit from the opportunities and the fruits of development.
The fourth is to come together against global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity. In the era of economic globalization, public health emergencies like Covid-19 may very well occur, and global public health governance needs to be honest.
The earth is our one and only home. To scale up efforts to address climate change and promote sustainable development bears on the future of humanity. No global problem can be solved by any one country alone. There must be global action, a global response, and global cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
The problems facing the world are intricate and complex. The way out of them is through upholding multilateralism and building a community with a shared future for mankind.
First, we should stay committed to openness and inclusiveness instead of closedness and exclusion. Multilateralism is about having international affairs addressed through consultation, and the future of the world decided by everyone working together. To build small circles, or start a new Cold War; to reject, threaten, or intimidate others; to wilfully impose decoupling, supply disruption, or sanctions; and to create isolation or estrangement, will only push the world into division and even confrontation. We cannot tackle common challenges in a divided world. Confrontation will lead us to a dead end. Humanity has learned lessons the hard way and that history is not long gone. We must not return to the path of the past. The right approach is to act on the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind. We should uphold the common values of humanity, namely peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, and freedom, rise above ideological prejudice, make the mechanisms, principles, and policies of our cooperation as open and inclusive as possible, and jointly safeguard world peace and stability. We should build an open world economy, uphold the multilateral trading regime, discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules, and systems, and take down barriers to trade, investment, and technological exchanges. We should strengthen the G20 as a premier forum for global economic governance, engage in closer macroeconomic policy coordination, and keep the global industrial and supply chains stable and open. We should ensure the sound operation of the global financial system, promote structural reform, and expand global aggregate demand, in an effort to strive for higher quality and stronger resilience in global economic development.
Second, we should stay committed to international law and international rules instead of seeking one’s own supremacy. Ancient Chinese believed that the law is the very foundation of governance. International governance should be based on the rules and consensus reached among us, not on the order given by one or the few. The Charter of the United Nations is a basic and universally recognized norms governing state-to-state relations. Without international law and international rules that are formed and recognized by the global community, the world may fall back to the law of the jungle and the consequence would be devastating for humanity. We need to be resolute in championing the international rule of law and steadfast in our resolve to safeguard the international system centered around the UN and the international order based on international law. Multilateral institutions, which provide the platform for putting multilateralism into action, and which are the basic architecture underpinning multilateralism, should have their authority and effectiveness safeguarded. State-to-state relations should be coordinated and regulated through proper institutions and rules. The strong should not bully the weak. Decisions should not be made by simply showing off strong muscles or waving a big fist. Multilateralism should not be used as a pretext for acts of unilateralism. The principles should be preserved and rules, once made, should be followed by all. Selective multilateralism should not be our option.
Third, we should stay committed to consultation and cooperation instead of conflict and confrontation. Differences in history, culture, and social systems should not be an excuse for antagonism or confrontation, but rather an incentive for cooperation. We should respect and accommodate differences, avoid meddling in other countries’ internal affairs, and resolve disagreements through consultation and dialogue. History and reality have made it clear time and again that the misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation, be it in the form of Cold War, hot war, trade war, or tech war, would eventually hurt all countries’ interests and undermine everyone’s well-being. We should reject the outdated Cold War, zero sum game mentality, adhere to mutual respect and accommodation, and enhance political trust through strategic communications. It is important that we stick to the cooperation concept, based on mutual benefits, say no to narrow-minded, selfish, beggar-thy-neighbor policies, and stop the unilateral practice of keeping advantages in development all to oneself. Equal rights should be guaranteed for all countries to promote common development and prosperity. We should advocate fair competition, like competing with each other for accidents in the racing field, not beating each other on a wrestling arena.
Fourth, we should stay committed to keeping up with the times instead of rejecting change. The world is undergoing changes unseen in the century, and now’s the time for major development and major transformation. To uphold multilateralism in 21st century, we should promote its fine tradition, take on new perspectives, and look to the future. We need to stand by the core values and the basic principles of multilateralism. We also need to adapt to the changing international landscape and respond to global challenges as they arise. We need to reform and improve the global governance system, on the basis of extensive consultation and consensus-building. We need to give full play to the role of the World Health Organization in building a global community of health for all. We need to advance reform of the World Trade Organization and the international financial and monetary system in a way that boosts global economic growth and protects the development, rights, interests, and opportunities of developing countries. We need to follow a people-centered and fact-based policy orientation, exploring and formulating rules on global digital governance. We need to deliver on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and promote green development. We need to give continued priority to development, implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and make sure that all countries, especially developing ones, share in the fruits of global development.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
After decades of strenuous efforts from the Chinese people, China is on course to finish building a moderately-prosperous society in all respects. We have made historic gains in ending extreme poverty and have embarked on a new journey towards fully building a modern socialist country. As China enters a new development stage, we will follow a new development philosophy and foster a new development paradigm, with domestic circulation as the mainstay, and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. China will work with other countries to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.
China will continue to take an active part in international cooperation on Covid-19. Containing the coronavirus is the most pressing task for the international community. This is because people and their lives must always be put before anything else. It is also what it takes to stabilize and revive the economy. Closer solidarity and cooperation, more information-sharing, and a stronger global response are what we need to defeat Covid-19 across the world. It is especially important to scale up cooperation on the R & D production and distribution of vaccines and make them public goods that are truly accessible and affordable to people in all countries. By now, China has provided assistance to over 150 countries and 13 international organizations, sent 36 medical expert teams to countries in need, and stayed strongly supportive and actively engaged in international cooperation on Covid vaccines. China will continue to share its experience with other countries, do its best to assist countries and regions that are less prepared for the pandemic, and work for greater accessibility and affordability of Covid vaccines in developing countries.
We hope these efforts will contribute to an early and complete victory over the coronavirus throughout the world. China will continue to implement a win-win strategy of opening up. Economic globalization meets the needs of growing social productivity, and is a natural outcome of scientific and technological advancement. It serves no one’s interest to use the pandemic as an excuse to reverse globalization and go for seclusion and decoupling. As a long-standing supporter of economic globalization, China is committed to following through on its fundamental policy of opening up. China will continue to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, help keep the global industrial and supply chains smooth and stable, and advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. China will promote institutional opening that covers rules and regulations, management, and standards, foster a business environment that is based on market principles, governed by law, and up to international standards, and unleash the potential of the huge China market and enormous domestic demand. We hope these efforts will bring more cooperation opportunities to other countries and give further impetus to global economic recovery and growth.
China will continue to promote sustainable development. China will fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It will do more on the ecological front by transforming and improving its industrial structure and energy mix at a faster pace and promoting a green, low-carbon way of life and production.
I have announced China’s goal of striving to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. These targets will require tremendous hard work from China. Yet we believe that when the interests of the entire humanity are at stake, China must step forward, take action, and get the job done. China is drawing up action plans and taking specific measures already to make sure we meet the set targets. We are doing this as a concrete action to uphold multilateral and as a contribution to protecting our shared home and realizing sustainable development of humanity, China will continue to advance science, technology, and innovation. Science, technology and innovation is a key engine for human progress, a powerful weapon in tackling many global challenges, and the only way for China to foster a new development paradigm and achieve high-quality development. China will invest more in science and technology, developing and enabling systems for innovation as a priority, turn breakthroughs in science and technology into actual productivity at a faster pace, and enhance intellectual property protection, all for the purpose of fostering innovation-driven, higher-quality growth. Scientific and technological advances should benefit all humanity, rather than be used to curb and contain other countries’ development. China will think and act with openness, with regard to international exchange and cooperation on science and technology. We will work with other countries to create an open, fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory environment for scientific and technological advancement that is beneficial to all and shared by all. China will continue to promote a new type of international relations. “Zero-Sum Game” or “Winner Takes All” is not the guiding philosophy of the Chinese people.
As a staunch follower of independent foreign policy of peace, China is working hard to bridge differences through dialogue, resolve disputes through negotiation, and to pursue friendly and cooperative relations with other countries on the basis of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit.
As a steadfast member of developing countries, China will further deepen South-South cooperation, and contribute to the endeavour of developing countries to eradicate poverty, ease their burden, and achieve more growth. China will get more actively engaged in global economic governance and the push for an economic globalization that is more open, inclusive, balanced, and beneficial to all.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
There is only one earth, and one shared future for humanity. As we cope with the current crisis, and endeavour to make a better day for everyone, we need to unite and work together. We have been shown time and again that to beggar thy neighbor, to go it alone, and to slip into arrogant isolation, will always fail. Let us all join hands and let multilateralism light our way towards a community with a shared future that mankind.