Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a return to multilateralism, with leaders working together to put the global economy back on track, in his first speech since his US counterpart, Joe Biden, took office.
Speaking at the Davos Agenda event hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday, Xi urged increased global cooperation in response to the coronavirus pandemic and said that to “slip into arrogant isolation will always fail.”
“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,” Xi said.
The Chinese president called on governments “to abandon ideological prejudice and jointly follow a path of peaceful coexistence, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.”
Xi continued his theme of inclusion throughout the address, adding: “To build small circles or start a new Cold War … will only push the world into division and even confrontation.”
While Xi did not explicitly refer to any other country or world leader, he did say that humanity had “learned lessons the hard way” and that “history is not long gone” when talking about divisions.
The President said actors in the global community should not be “beating each other like a wrestling area,” and warned the world was at risk of falling “back into the world of the jungle” if multilateralism is abandoned.
Xi also called for commitment from all countries to promote and maintain smooth supply chains, particularly during the pandemic, and said that vaccines should be considered public goods and be made affordable for all countries.
“It is especially important to scale up cooperation on the R&D [research and development], production and distribution of vaccines and make them public goods that are truly accessible and affordable to people in all countries,” he said.
The Chinese leader added that his nation had provided help to more than 150 countries and 13 international organizations, as well as sending 36 teams of medical experts to countries in need. He also stressed that China would “continue to share its experience” while working for greater accessibility of Covid-19 vaccines in developing countries.
“We hope these efforts will contribute to an early and complete victory over the coronavirus throughout the world,” Xi said.
A year has passed since the central Chinese city of Wuhan was placed under the world’s first coronavirus lockdown on January 23. It has not reported a local infection in months. And while many countries have been forced to reintroduce stay-at-home measures, China has rescinded many of the regulations it put in place to tame the virus.
Monday’s speech was the second time Xi has addressed political and business leaders at the WEF event, which is normally held in Davos, Switzerland, but was postponed until the summer as a result of the ongoing pandemic. His previous address was in 2017, days before Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.
Biden is inheriting a tense, complicated relationship with China from his predecessor. The Trump administration spent the bulk of the last four years piling pressure on the United States’ biggest economic rival. In recent weeks, things have only become more heated as Washington slapped additional restrictions on Chinese business and investment.
At a regular press briefing after Xi’s remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US would approach China with “strategic patience” but emphasized that the relationship was a “serious competition.”
“We’re in a serious competition with China, strategic competition with China’s defining feature of the 21st century. China’s engaged in conduct that hurts American workers, blunts our technological edge and threatens our alliances and our influence in international organizations,” Psaki said.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years is that China’s growing more authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad and Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity and values in significant ways that require a new US approach, and this is one of the reasons as we were talking about a little bit earlier, that we want to approach this with some strategic patience,” she added.
The Davos Agenda event continues throughout the week with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among the speakers.