Under Trump, tensions simmered between the US and China, the world’s top two economies, on issues ranging from trade and technology to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the coronavirus.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned global leaders against starting a “new Cold War” and urged unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others … will only push the world into division,” said Xi at an all-virtual Davos forum on Monday.
The words appeared to be aimed at US President Joe Biden’s plans to revitalise global alliances to counter China’s growing influence. Biden, busy handling several urgent domestic crises, did not participate at Davos and tasked US climate envoy John Kerry with representing Washington.
In a swipe at moves targeting China launched by the previous US administration under Donald Trump, Xi said confrontation “will always end up harming every nation’s interests and sacrificing people’s welfare”.
Xi, making his first appearance at the forum since his vigorous defence of free trade and globalisation in an address in Davos in 2017, advocated multilateralism as the way out of current challenges in a roughly 25-minute speech.
“We should build an open world economy … discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems, and take down barriers to trade, investment and technological exchanges,” he said.
The G20 – an international forum grouping 19 of the biggest developed and emerging economies, plus the European Union – should be strengthened as the “main forum for global economic governance” and the world should “engage in closer macroeconomic policy coordination”, Xi added.
The international community should be governed in accordance with rules and consensus reached by all countries, instead of by one or several issuing orders, he said, without naming the countries.
The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing’s ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases.
“Meeting these targets will require tremendous hard work from China. But we believe that when the interests of the entire humanity are at stake, China must step forward, take action and get the job done,” he said.
China saw its GDP increase 2.3 percent last year, according to official data – the lowest growth rate since 1976 – but it is nonetheless expected to be the only major economy to have expanded in the pandemic-ravaged year.
Its economy is forecast to grow by 7.9 per cent in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund – trimmed down from initial predictions by a harsh geopolitical climate, global economic downturn and risks from a messy technological decoupling from the US.
It also overtook the US as the world’s biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020, according to a UN report released on Sunday.
However, despite having controlled the pandemic within its border, and kickstarting the economy, the Chinese government has been accused of mishandling the initial coronavirus outbreak and covering up information.
A World Health Organization expert team is currently conducting a long-delayed probe into the origins of the virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.