A timeframe of seven months has never been so critical in the history of modern human beings as of now. The COVID-19 outbreak, supposed to be from China’s Wuhan market by December last year, has engulfed the socio-economic and political spheres of the entire world within this short run. The Beijing’s failure in early diagnosis and its later success, the breakdown of European health administration, Trump administration’s delinquency in fighting virus, U.S.-China blame game over virus mishandling, declaration of American withdrawal from W.H.O., and finally, China’s Health Silk Road could expedite reforms in the existing world order. Although having limited impact, these upshots are enough to fast-track the ongoing restructuring.
Unfolding Virus Spread
The world had never imagined such a grave global health catastrophe imputed to a debilitating economic recession is impending, when first Covid-19 recorded positive at China’s Wuhan in December 2019. According to the BBC, the total cases in China had surged up to 1200 by January end. Multiple expert analyses indicating the Chinese economic slowdown and the ramifications this could have on the much anticipated BRI projects were available in a while. PRC’s National Bureau of Statistics in March projected that around five million people job loss in the initial two months of 2020.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, launched in 2004, in the wake of the SARS outbreak, was broadly charged for its inefficiency in early virus detection. The international criticism mounted over Beijing for punishing Chinese doctor Li Wenilang who posted an alert on the new virus in his medical school alumni group. Later, his demise, infected by the same, gave rise to a damning indictment of the Chinese governance model for its infringement of freedom of expression and shortfall in transparency. On 24th January, the first human to human transmission was corroborated by WHO in a Vietnamese national who has had no foreign travel. In the Aftermath of worrying spread, both in numbers and virus hit regions, on 31st January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a global pandemic.
The international criticism raged up against Beijing over its negligence in reporting the virus outburst in its beginning itself. The situation in countries like United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Iran, and the U.K. went aggravated by mid-March as the entire health systems crumbled following the crisis in many of these states. The World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) has prognosticated a drop of 13-32% in global commercial activities. The economic crunch and deepened political predicament triggered howls of outrage from these governments to probe into the origin of the infection and Beijing’s alleged mishandling of the disease.
Subsequently, Mr. Trump explicitly pronounced he would seek reimbursement from Beijing for its lapses. A German Newspaper published an invoice of 130 Billion Euros compensation for Berlinin return for the financial damages due to China’s Covid-19 response. The motion for an independent inquiry into the origin of the deadly virus gained the support of 122 nations incorporating the European Union, Russia, and India at the 73rd World Health Assembly. These events were a slap in the face of the world’s second-largest economy and rising superpower. Beijing’s international reputation got severely hampered.
But, despite this, the situation evolved dramatically when many European powers with several other North and Latin American heavyweights began to groan under the swift spread of the virus. The PRC’s relative success in bringing the outbreak under control helped it to win-back its lost face for the missteps at the initial stage to some extent. Beijing responded quickly to this opportunity by revitalizing its ‘Health Silk Road’ when many nations have been reeling under the epidemic. As per the report by Xinhua news agency, over eighty countries all over the world have taken Beijing’s assistance to fight the pandemic. The recipient’s list encompasses a wide range of states from Nigeria in Africa, Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy in Europe to Iran, and the Philippines in the Asian continent.
Albeit the border disputes, Beijing extended its helping hands to neighbor Philippines sending 2000 rapid test kits. Italy, one of the worst-hit nations, obtained three rounds of expert assistance and shipped consignment containing millions of Masks to the Czech Republic. Liberia got flown gloves and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) kits, and Nigeria acquired the service from the Chinese medical team. Colombo was offered $500 million along with three batches of medical shipments to combat the virus. The Covid-19 related medical supply worth 432 million euros was made available for Spain through commercial channels to address the shortfall. Serbia’s President was present at the airport to welcome the Chinese material assistance and unreservedly praised Beijing and the Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Czech minister applauded P.R.C. being the sole country capable of providing much needed medical devices in bulk quantities. The Italy and Serbia, desperate over the absence of support from the E.U., pitched into public criticism against the European solidarity.
Trump’s Covid-19 Response
The United States pandemic administration, both in terms of internal and external, has poured water to Beijing’s mill. First of all, the U.S. failure in keeping the virus at check has damaged its outlook as a global leader capable of taking the lead during the emergencies. The United States is currently one of the most severely affected nations since the coronavirus outburst was confirmed. The American response to the epidemic has generated a trust deficit over the credentials of American institutions. Beijing’s much higher degree of success in virus control and its active diplomatic outreach, compared to the United States has quietly enhanced its global stature or at least have substantiated its toehold in some pockets.
Contrary to the protagonist role played by White House while the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Trump’s America with internal focus is stepping back from the frontlines of coronavirus battle. The Coordination, leadership, and aid from the United States during this pandemic hardly meet international expectations. Rush Doshi serving as director of China Strategy initiative at Brookings, describes the Covid-19 outbreak being the first instance in decades without meaningful American leadership and with substantial Chinese presence.
The United States hasn’t yet spent a third of the $1.59 billion pandemic assistance package approved by the U.S. Congress, three months before, aimed to deliver through U.S. Agency for International Development and the country’s state department to the nations in need. Apart from this, many actions by Trump administration are eroding the country’s global credibility and the leverage which it enjoys over the international institutions. Trump’s attempt to strike an exclusive deal with German biopharmaceutical firm CureVac, to secure priority for the U.S. in vaccine supply brought Berlin and White House to loggerheads. The US president on similar lines preferred to stay out of the jointly funded venture to develop an effective drug for Coronavirus convened by European Union in May. A group of nations that include Canada, Norway, Japan, and Australia pledged to raise around $ 8 billion for the proposed mission.
Donald Trump’s withdrawal plan from the World Health Organization (WHO), marks another instance of his policy formulations based on misconceptions. The United States has been the largest donor and contributor of WHO since its formations in 1948. Even in the latest funding cycle, Washington retains its top spot with $893 million (15%) in the list. Although Mr. Trump’s announcement is hard to meet the constitutional norms, the unilateral proclamation has harmed U.S.’s image as a responsible global leader that it pushed for many decades and has allotted more space to Beijing for expansion in a critical international body. The Beijing, cashing in on this opportunity, stepped in with an additional $30 million contribution besides the $20 million offered for the Covid-19 prevention. Even though the Chinese contribution remains far lower than the U.S., the President’s move has strengthened its position at the cost of the United States.
President Trump, having been campaigned on to ‘make America great again’ never seems to realize the fundamental pillars of the U.S.’s leadership and the role of international institutions in this process. Trump’s decisions like the recent withdrawal proposal from WHO and the exit from the Paris Climate Agreement are all boomerangs that undermine America’s position in the international arena. To counter Beijing’s expansionist ambitions, the White House needs to spring into action, reclaiming the political space which it has granted to Beijing.
Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria
The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria. Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004. According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time. Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime. Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.
Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions. We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.
China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”. In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.
According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.
China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .
Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.
We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa.
China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation
President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.
This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.
Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.
Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.
Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.
China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.
Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.
Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.
Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.
China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.
Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.
Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.
As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.
China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20
The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.
The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.
Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.
The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.
Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.
China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.
To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.
The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.
Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.
All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.
Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.
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