Xi's APEC contribution hailed


President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the 28th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting on Friday evening via video link in Beijing. LI XIANG/XINHUA

Analysts welcome China's efforts in fighting COVID-19, green transition

Speeches by President Xi Jinping to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum last week pushed the group further toward openness, free trade and green transition, analysts say.

Dennis Munene, executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute, described the speech on Thursday as a "call for unity, fortitude and hope" in the global quest to fight COVID-19, while embracing openness and collaboration and promoting green transition and innovation for APEC.

One of Australia's leading sinologists Emeritus Professor Colin Mackerras of Griffith University, Queensland, said Xi later "emphasized cooperation in fighting COVID and promoting green transition".

"Sound eco-environment is the most basic public good that benefits all," Mackerras said.

Addressing the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on Friday, Xi said the Asia-Pacific region has become the most "dynamic and promising economic powerhouse globally".

On continuing progress toward achieving the Bogor Goals, Xi said: "We adopted the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 and set ourselves the goal of an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community, charting the course for economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific."

The Bogor Goals refers to the long-term goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific. The Putrajaya Vision 2040, adopted at the APEC summit last year, aims for an "open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, for the prosperity of all our people and future generations".

China would continue its "good work" to put the vision into action and "endeavor to build an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future", Xi said.

To achieve that he proposed four specific areas to work on: advancing anti-COVID collaboration and promoting economic recovery; fostering an open Asia-Pacific economy; promoting innovation-driven development and the digital economy; and pursuing inclusive and sustainable development.

Professor James Laurenceson, director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, said the four points Xi identified "would be broadly welcomed by the countries of the region, including Australia".

"When it comes to the digital economy, China has particular strengths and skills that could potentially benefit the region," Laurenceson said.

As the dominant power in East Asia, China has a special role to play, he said. "As President Xi said in Canberra in 2014, everyone looks upon China as 'the big guy in the room'. This is even more so today."

Laurenceson said there is "a real chance for China to rise above base political instincts and pursue enlightened self-interest, benefiting not only China but also the region".

Oleg Timofeev, associate professor at RUDN University in Russia, said Xi's remarks were timely and of great significance.

The Asia-Pacific region today should make every effort to prevent the region from being plagued by a Cold War mentality, Timofeev said.

"The pandemic poses a threat to the realization of United Nations goals for sustainable development by 2030, and China will play an important role in the global economic recovery after the pandemic."

Galina Kostyunina, professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, said Xi emphasized the establishment of an open Asia-Pacific economy and high-level trading zones, which will be an important aim of development for the region.

Facilitating trade

China's application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership would help liberalize and facilitate trading and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Andrey Ostrovsky, director of the Center for Chinese Economy and Social Studies of the Institute of Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said China's initiative on establishing high-level Asia-Pacific free trade zones is about timing.

They will provide new momentum for regional and global trading and boost the recovery of the global economy after the pandemic, he said.

Mackerras said Xi is "all out for nations getting on with one another".

"President Xi referred to his own long-term residence in a poverty-stricken village. He knows about the damage humanity can cause to nature by failing to look after the environment. And we can see how broad his own experience of the world is. I find that very impressive."

Xi opposed attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds, Mackerras said. "The whole tenor of his speech was to promote unity and cooperation."

Munene of the China-Africa Center said that Xi, in acknowledging the resilience of the Asia-Pacific in dealing with the pandemic, emphasized the need to follow the guidance of science, and to extend assistance to others.

Professor Junichiro Kusumoto of Toyo University in Japan said: "COVID-19 has reminded people of the importance of rational thinking and the development of science and technology.

"Regional cooperation also requires the coordination of diverse values, but I hope that this can be overcome through thorough rationality, science technology and philosophy."

Xi also underscored the need to ensure fair and equitable distribution of vaccines to close the immunization gap and to truly create collaboration against the pandemic, Munene said.

In addition, China is undertaking to offer $3 billion over the next three years to support the pandemic response and economic recovery in developing countries, he said.

"The immediate and long-term commitments as stated by President Xi in the fight against the pandemic shows China's quest to advance health diplomacy and ensure that global economies recover."

At the same time, he said, Xi highlighted China's commitment in advancing reform and opening-up to add impetus to economic development in the Asia-Pacific by promoting pilot free trade zones and the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

"To enhance free trade agreements, China has applied to join the CPTPP, adding to it a market size of about 1.4 billion people to promote win-win cooperation and contribute to the economic development of the Asia-Pacific," Munene said.

"In pursuit of a community with a shared future for mankind, President Xi proposed a Global Development Initiative during this year's United Nations General Assembly, to ensure the needs of developing countries are achieved."

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