Taking the Initiative

China’s vision for a shared future resonates at the Davos forum
by Lan Xinzhen
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Liu He, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and head of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, gives a speech during the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24 (XINHUA)

When participants gathered at the 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos from January 23 to 26 to discuss "creating a shared future in a fractured world," their main goal was to make a difference. The theme was chosen to reaffirm the importance of cooperation among countries in the context of escalating geopolitical competition, and debate at the Swiss resort sought to foster a favorable climate for the sustained recovery of the world economy.

Calls for shared peace and development are resonating throughout many parts of the world. At the same time, however, the emergence of fractures in international collaboration has attracted widespread attention, making them a subject of concern at this year's Davos forum, with many citing conservatism and narrow self-interest as the cause of these fissures in the international playing field.

In this post-2008 era, the world economy is undergoing a transition from the devastation caused by the global financial crisis to a period of sustained recovery. While the trend toward recovery is undeniable, growth remains sluggish and unstable. The ensuing social problems of economic disenfranchisement, such as unemployment, have given rise to populism. Against this backdrop, conservatives have found a readymade platform from which to air their grievances about globalization, and in putting self-interest above all else, they have overemphasized their own welfare in disregard of the development and security of others. This outright abandonment of the middle ground is taking its toll on the world.

The international community has borne the brunt of the ruptures that have emerged in recent years. U.S. President Donald Trump's "America first" strategy is having negative repercussions for the world economy. The Trump administration's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement adversely affects humanity's fight against climate change. Moreover, a few countries refused to fulfill their obligations under Article 15 of the protocol regarding China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The article obligates other WTO members to end the surrogate country approach in anti-dumping investigations against China as of December 11, 2016, 15 years after the country's entry to the WTO. Their refusal to do so has cast a shadow over the credibility of the WTO and international trade rules as a whole. Divisive actions are inhibiting global cooperative efforts to stimulate economic growth.

The international community is hopeful about economic growth in 2018, but recent divisions are dimming expectation. "Creating a shared future in a fractured world," the theme of World Economic Forum 2018, serves as a kind of wakeup call that there is still a long and rocky road toward economic recovery ahead.

Key concept 

At the 47th World Economic Forum in 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered a blueprint for global governance with his proposal of "pursuing a well-coordinated and interconnected approach to developing a model of open and win-win cooperation."

Xi delivered a keynote speech at the 2017 meeting titled Jointly Shoulder the Responsibility of Our Times, Promote Global Growth. His speech was impressive in that it was not preoccupied with China's domestic issues but focused on the development and future of the whole of mankind. Xi is opposed to making economic globalization the scapegoat for the various problems of the modern world, believing it to be a groundless and unhelpful accusation. Today, the nations of the world have become a close-knit community with a shared future. Countries have wide-ranging convergent interests and are mutually dependent, and all enjoy the right to development. In light of this interdependence, it is crucial that modern states view their own interests in a broader context and refrain from pursuing their goals at the expense of others.

Xi further expounded on his concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind at the United Nations Office at Geneva on January 18, 2017.

"A community with a shared future for mankind" is a new model of global governance put forward by China in its capacity as a responsible world power. Since 2013, Xi has elaborated on the details of this notion on several international occasions, including the 70th anniversary session at the UN headquarters in September 2015. A community with a shared future is premised on cooperation and mutually beneficial outcomes in international affairs, advocating the embrace of responsibility and pooling of interests as its basic principles, and inclusive, sustainable development as its target.

Active player 

China has not only presented the "shared future" concept, but the country's leadership is also practicing it to push back against reemerging conservatism and anti-globalization in order to reenergize the global economy.

The Belt and Road Initiative has been launched by China to strengthen transnational cooperation and bring the world closer to its vision of a shared future. As its initiator, China is engaged in cooperative projects with countries along the ancient Silk Road routes and has so far signed joint agreements on development with more than 80 countries and international organizations.

In addition to the Belt and Road Initiative, China has initiated the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and established the New Development Bank together with other members of the BRICS group. These new types of institutional products are gaining recognition and encouraging participation in a growing number of countries.

China has long been a steadfast advocate of the WTO as an important platform for cooperation. Even when certain developed nations refused to implement the 15th article of the protocol on China's accession, China did not falter in its support for the world's multilateral trade systems. Never has China threatened to pull out of the WTO or to wage trade wars with any party.

China will further integrate with international trade rules and ease market access, said Liu He, head of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, in a speech during the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The country will also substantially open up the services sector, the financial sector in particular, and create a more attractive investment environment, he added.

Xi referred to "a community with a shared future for mankind" six times in his report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, while mapping out a schedule for the country's diplomacy in the new era. Xi made a solemn promise to the world: "China will continue to play its part as a major and responsible country, take an active part in reforming and developing the global governance system, and keep contributing Chinese wisdom and strength to global governance."

As leaders discussed how to fight against the rising trend of anti-globalization at the 48th World Economic Forum, disagreement and divergent ideas were inevitable. While listening to the views of delegates from around the world, the concept of global cooperative governance put forward and practiced by China should be at the forefront of everyone's mind. Cooperation or cataclysm? The choice is clear.

This article is reprinted from Beijing Review.