Today marks the 71st founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. It is a special birthday, as it comes in a year of special, which carries significant meanings to China, Bangladesh and the whole world. The year 2020 is special, for the United Nations commemorates its 75th founding anniversary when a raging pandemic of unprecedented scale is pushing the world to another crucial juncture. The year 2020 is special, for China will reach the goal of building a “Xiaokang” society in all aspects by the end of the year while Bangladesh is paying the highest tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during his birth centenary. Together our two countries will also be celebrating the 45th anniversary of our diplomatic ties in just a few days.
The year 2020 is special to China as a heroic battle was fought and won. The unknown virus crept into the world just when the bell of the New Year started to ring. As the country taking the brunt, China, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China (CPC), quickly pulled itself together from the initial shock and took decisive actions. So far, China has reported 90,666 confirmed cases and 4,741 deaths, both comparatively low in absolute numbers or in case/population ratio. Less than one month ago, a grand national awards ceremony for Covid-19 fighters was held in Beijing, declaring China’s strategic victory over the pandemic. Now China has shifted its focus to preventing imported cases and revitalising the economy, leading the way back to routine daily track.
Faced with the challenges brought by Covid-19, China didn’t turn inward by resorting to a “China First” strategy. Instead, our sense of humanity crossed national boundaries and reached a larger number of people around the world. From March 15th to September 6th, China had supplied 151.5 billion masks, 1.4 billion protective suits, 230 million goggles and 209,000 ventilators to more than 200 countries and regions in support of the global response, taking up a bigger share than any other country in the world. China has donated in total $50 million to the World Health Organization, sent 34 medical expert teams to 32 countries including Bangladesh and provided assistance to 150 countries and 4 international organisations. We believe that in an ever more globalised world, no country can, and should, face such common challenges alone, and that by building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, we can be stronger and more resilient to live, to fight, to grow and to prosper.
The year 2020 is special to China also because a long-cherished dream is about to come true. As we are at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, it is compelling to look back to the beginning of the new millennium when the 9/11 attacks in 2001 sent shock waves across the whole world, changing the international landscape in an unprecedented way, just like what the Covid-19 pandemic is doing in 2020. There is, however, another line of history that is often overlooked, which is about China as much as it is about the world.
In 2020, China will reach the goal of building a moderately prosperous society, or in the Chinese language, a “Xiaokang” society, in all respects, leaving another indelible mark in the annals of the history of world development. President Xi Jinping said many times, “I have spent more energy on poverty alleviation than on anything else.” So far, China has lifted millions of people out of poverty, more than that of all other countries combined during the last 4 decades, and contributed to over 70 per cent of global poverty reduction. In 2019 alone, over 10 million Chinese people were lifted out of poverty. By the end of this year, the last 5.0 million will leave poverty behind for good. Absolute poverty will be not just alleviated but eliminated among 1.4 billion Chinese people for the first time in history, bringing monumental impacts to not only the global battle against poverty, but also the overall progress of the human race. The world will eventually get over the pandemic, yet China’s success in improving people’s wellbeing will shape the global development trajectory in a much more profound and enduring way.
This Chinese accomplishment comes with another good news that China is driving world economic recovery amid the gloom prospect of global growth compounded by Covid-19. Under the leadership of the CPC and the joint efforts of all sectors and people from all walks of life, China has been recovering faster than expected. China’s economy is on a V-shaped curve and returning to the pre-pandemic level. In the second quarter of the year, China’s GDP expanded 3.2 per cent year on year, reversing a 6.8 per cent contraction in the first quarter, making China so far the only positively-growing country among major economies. Moreover, China’s economic rebound is expected to be further consolidated in the third and fourth quarters with a 2.5 per cent to 3.0 per cent year-end growth. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Chinese mainland, in actual use, expanded 18.7 per cent year on year to 84.13 billion yuan (about 12.3 billion US dollars) in August, marking the fifth consecutive month for China to witness positive growth in FDI. With the growing outreach of the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the fresh impetus of the newly proposed “dual circulation” development pattern and “new infrastructure” programmes, the express train of China’s development is gaining stronger momentum. We welcome all to jump on board!
For the world, the year 2020 is also distinctly special – not just because of Covid-19, but also that this year marks the 75th founding anniversary of the United Nations (UN), with “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming Our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism” being the theme for commemoration events. To tackle changes unseen in a century, China is with the international community in believing that multilateralism is the right way forward. Since taking office, President Xi has met heads of the UNGA, UNIDO, UNESCO, WB, IMF and WHO, and travelled to headquarters of the UN, UNESCO and WHO in New York, Geneva and Paris. He has met UN Secretary-General António Guterres eight times and stayed in touch with him through telephone after Covid-19 broke out. Through letters or personal attendance, President Xi renders his great support to UN activities in the fields of peacekeeping, South-South cooperation, women empowerment, climate change, global health governance, cultural exchange and so on. President Xi’s words and actions are the best embodiment of China’s commitment to multilateralism and the UN.
China was the first to sign on the Charter of the United Nations. It is a founding member of the UN and the only developing country that takes a permanent seat on the Security Council. China will continue to be a true follower of multilateralism. It will stay actively engaged in reforming and developing the global governance system. It will firmly defend the UN’s central role in international affairs. As the world now stands at a new historical starting point, we need to renew our commitment to multilateralism, work to build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, and rally behind the banner of the UN to pursue greater unity and progress.
We acutely understand, however, that our time doesn’t make it easy for talks of global unity when protectionism, unilateralism and bullying practices are on the rise around the world, sabotaging international cooperation, stoking confrontation between ideologies and social systems, and putting the world in serious jeopardy. For example, the pretexts of “national security” or “data security” are over-politicised to suppress free market and competition, as evidenced by ill-founded accusations of and unfair treatment to Chinese high-tech companies like Huawei, TikTok and Wechat, among others. But China has strong faith in the UN and multilateralism just as most members of the international community do. With the vision to uphold multilateralism, balance security and development and ensure fairness and justice, China has recently proposed a Global Initiative on Data Security. We hope the initiative could serve as a basis for international rules-making on data security and mark the start of a global process in this area. Let multilateralism prevail in all areas of global governance!
Last but not least, the year 2020 marks the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, and a trailblazer of China-Bangladesh friendship. As we celebrate China’s National Day today, it is equally joyous for us to look forward to the 45th anniversary of China-Bangladesh diplomatic ties, which is arriving in three days. While uncertainties abound in today’s world, China will always see Bangladesh as an independent, self-supported, indispensable and trustworthy friend. Hand in hand, our two countries will write more chapters of friendship and good neighborliness on the journey to build a “Sonar Bangla” and to achieve the great renewal of the Chinese nation.
The writer is the current ambassador of China to Bangladesh