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‘Belt and Road’ for a ‘Better World’?: China-US relations and 50 years of the Shanghai Communiqué

(Photo: Xinhua)



On the 50th anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué this year, Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi made an interesting statement calling on the United States to jointly collaborate on the Belt and Road Initiative and the Build Back Better World (B3W) project. Initially perceived as rival projects of power assertion, the offer comes at an interesting juncture as Washington and Beijing prepare for the road ahead in the background of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Handshake that changed the world

The saying ‘Only Nixon could go to China’ is well known among international relations circuits and perfectly sums up the build up to the Shanghai Communiqué.

It was at the height of brewing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union pertaining to Moscow’s incursions in Czechoslovakia, its growing defence capacities and the Communist movement in Vietnam that pushed the American forces closer to defeat; as well as between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union over border and ideological tussles after the death of Stalin that compelled a staunch anti-Communist of the like of the US President Richard Nixon to shake hands with an equally staunch ideologue, the Chinese Communist leader  Mao Zedong, who had been bitter rivals since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China under the rule of the Communist Party in 1949 hence, giving birth to the said expression which points to how only someone with a clearly stated ideological leaning could act in contradictory ways without drawing criticism.

Staying true to the gravity that the expression carries, Nixon’s handshake with Mao proved to be a major breakthrough in geopolitics. It showed how common and pressing concerns could bring even the worst adversaries together, crossing ideological barriers which at the time were considered too sacrosanct to trespass. The result was the Shanghai Communiqué of 1972 which established diplomatic relations between the United States and China.

The Communiqué was as contradictory as historic. It did not just record the diametrically opposed positions of the two sides on issues of international concern such as supporting rival governments in Vietnam and Korea but also recognised that the socio-political systems of the two were very different from each other but must not become a roadblock in negotiations.

The status of Taiwan became a crucial question. While the Chinese side claimed the People’s Republic of China to be the ‘sole legitimate’ government of “One China” that existed on both sides of the Strait, the United States agreed that “Chinese on both sides of the Strait see themselves as belonging to One China”. It agreed to withdraw its military forces from Taiwan but did not clearly accept which side it recognised as the legitimate “One China”. The Shanghai Communiqué hence became an instrument where the two sides agreed only to disagree.

An Uneasy relationship

Fifty years on, the Sino-US relations remain strained at several levels, hitting an all time low during the latter days of  former US President Donald Trump’s regime.

While the two sides have cooperated on several aspects including establishing sister cities and states for development; on the Iranian nuclear deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; countering health crises such as Ebola; on climate change in the form of the Paris Agreement as well as in business with a whopping US$750 billion of bilateral trade; suspicions between the two remain high.

Contentions appear on several tangents including on the allegations of  human rights violations in China; China’s attempts of devaluing its currency, the Renminbi (人民币),leading to an unfair ‘trade war’ against the US; China’s incursions and sovereignty claims over islands of the South and East China Sea; the alleged role of China behind the origins of the Coronavirus; the alleged US involvement in the Hong Kong protests; allegations of espionage and cyber attacks on both sides, etc.

The sovereignty of Taiwan still remains a thorny issue between the two nations. While China claims full sovereign rights over the island which has become more assertive since Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012, the United States has continued to extend support to the Taiwanese regime while coursing through the Six Assurances, the Three Joint Communiques, the Taiwan Relations Act which does not recognises Taiwan as a separate nation but promises arms and economic support and hence does not explicitly challenge China’s sovereign claims. Beijing, however, has protested against this stance which it has dubbed “illegal” and against the spirit of the Shanghai Communiqué.

Beijing has also called out expansionism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the formation of the Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad  ( comprising India, US, Japan and Australia) which it alleges to be an “exclusive” organisation and an “Asian NATO“.

Washington does not view China’s economic rise favourably and claims that it intends to turn the liberal democratic global world order upside down in its quest to attain hegemony. Even after fifty years, the ice has not completely thawed.

The Belt and Road Initiative

The One Belt, One Road (一带一路) or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) stands as China’s most ambitious project so far. It is a long term transcontinental infrastructure and investment project which seeks to connect China with Africa, Asia and Europe through land based Silk Road Economic Belt (丝绸之路经济带) comprising of 6 development corridors  and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (21世纪海上丝绸之路). The official map also shows the Polar Silk Road (极地丝绸之路) which connects Chinese ports to the  seas across Moscow to Scandinavia, which forms a part of China’s Arctic policy.

Launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the BRI is open to all countries that wish to join and focuses on intergovernmental cooperation on policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds through culture and academic exchanges as well as media cooperation. Apart from extending China’s diplomatic and economic network, the project has also been perceived as China’s stint at Major Country diplomacy (大国外交) through which it seeks an international leadership role.

So far, 130 countries have endorsed the initiative. The BRI however has been criticised on several fronts. Skeptics have termed it an instrument of extending Chinese political and economic hegemony by pursuing a debt trap diplomacy where developing countries are granted loans beyond their capacities to repay which leads to cessation of ports and land by China. The project has also been called out for its alleged lack of transparency. Moreover, the BRI is also said to benefit China in terms of capital returns and employment opportunities more than the host countries.

Washington has sought to counter Beijing’s BRI through several initiatives such as the Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy, the Blue Dot Network, and the most elaborative, the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative.

Build Back Better World (B3W)

The B3W project was launched in June 2021 at the Group of 7 (G7) meeting as an alternative to the BRI launched by the world’s richest 7 democracies which promised to develop $40 trillion worth of infrastructure for low and middle income countries by 2035.

Although similar in blueprint, US President Joe Biden highlighted fundamental differences between the BRI and the B3W as he stated that unlike the former, the latter was a “value-driven, high-standard, transparent financing mechanism” which would focus on four key areas- climate, health, digital technology and gender equity. As a product of democracies, the B3W in Biden’s words is far more “equitable” than the BRI which stems from “autocratic” forces like China.

The lending and private investment based initiative which builds on Washington’s Blue Dot Network has received a welcome response from many Asian countries such as Thailand.

What can collaboration bring?

The United States has not issued any official response to China’s offer of collaboration. The two mega projects retain several flaws.

While the B3W still remains a rough skeleton and has not been fleshed with details, the Belt and Road Initiative seems to be in deep waters.

The enormous investments often in unprofitable markets threaten to be a resource drain for China. Similarly, facing their own economic downturn, it is skeptical how much and how long  the G7 economies would be able to sustain the B3W.

The two rival  projects might also cement divisions between Chinese and American allies and threaten a return to the bipolar world of the Cold War era. Such a scenario would only flare political differences and fan animosity. Moreover, changes in regime in the host countries  which might not be favourable to the projects also keep the future of the mega projects at stake.

The environmental costs of the two separate projects cannot be overlooked. As the world inches closer to the disastrous consequences of climate change, the aggressive depletion of natural resources in a competitive spree between the two is the least desirable of all. The rival projects might also threaten military build up.

Collaboration between the two projects would not only solve these issues but would also act as a confidence building measure between the two superpowers, not to forget nuclear powers, which makes interaction even more important to avert any unforeseen disaster.

Interestingly, the offer also closely follows Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Washington has staunchly criticised Russia and slapped it with fresh sanctions, Beijing has cautiously abstained from voting against Russia in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) while at the same time referring to the act as an “invasion” which renders it offensive by the United Nations Charter and not a “special military operation” as Moscow claims, as well as called for mediation. Though Russian invasion challenges American hegemony and hence appears beneficial for Beijing, China’s actions show that it is somewhere aware that such unilateral invasions will not fare well, neither for itself nor for others and would only add up to the instability to the loss of everyone. The offer to collaborate with Washington in this regard might be read as a positive sign but the intention and commitment remains questionable.

Is collaboration possible?

Much water has flowed down the bridge in the last 50 years since the Shanghai Communiqué was signed and the Sino-US relations have seen both ups and downs but have largely remained cold, weakening any chances of collaboration that too on  projects as massive as the BRI and the B3W. More than any development plans, the two projects are instruments of power assertion which focus on building allies and countering the threat which stems from the other side.

Though strained, the Sino-US relations are too important for either party to fail. The economies of the two countries are closely enmeshed which make decoupling let alone isolation, difficult. Collaboration on the two projects might not be possible but the two nations can start by cooperating on softer issues such as cultural and academic exchanges, state visits as well as trade which would eventually build a path for discussing harder and more contentious issues and might lead to greater political cooperation.  Both Washington and Beijing must realise that their own interests and that of the larger international community lie in cooperation rather than confrontation. They do not just owe responsibility to their own people but to the world at large. The Ukrainian crisis has proven how disastrous a lack of cooperation can get which takes the ugliest forms of humanitarian crisis.

Fifty years later, whether Washington and Beijing recognise or not, they are faced with the same crises in the form of non-traditional security threats such as climate change and health crises which demand immediate cooperation.

While a return to  the spirit of Shanghai Communiqué might be a long road for the two to walk, they must review their policies towards each other and take to the diplomatic route of negotiation.

Cherry Hitkari is a postgraduate student of East Asian Studies at University of Delhi, India and a current intern at Modern Diplomacy.

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China and the Indo Pacific Economic Framework



Image: Twitter@POTUS

The Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) signed by a total of 13 countries, on May 23, 2022, in Tokyo is being dubbed by many as a means of checking China’s economic clout in Asia and sending out a message that the US is keen to bolster economic ties with its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

Many Chinese analysts themselves have referred to the IPEF as ‘Economic NATO’. China has also been uncomfortable with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) which consists of US, Australia, Japan and India , and has referred to Quad as an ‘Asian NATO’ – though members of the grouping have categorically denied that Quad is an ‘Asian NATO’

Countries which joined the US led IPEF are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries together account for 40% of the global GDP. The four key pillars of the IPEF framework are;  supply-chain resilience; clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure; taxation and anti-corruption; and fair and resilient trade.

While launching the plan, US President, Joe Biden said:

‘We’re here today for one simple purpose: the future of the 21st Century economy is going to be largely written in the Indo-Pacific. Our region,’

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo while commenting on the IPEF said that it was important because it provided Asian countries an alternative to China’s economic model.

A few points need to be borne in mind. First, many of the countries — Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – which have signed the IPEF are also part of the 15 nation Region Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement of which China is a key driver (Indonesia, Phillipines and Myanmar have not ratified RCEP). RCEP accounts for 30% of the world’s GDP. Trade between China and other member countries has witnessed a significant rise, year on year in Q1 of 2022.

Second, many of the countries, which are part of the IPEF, have repeatedly said that they would not like to choose between China and US. The Singapore PM, Lee Hsien Loong  who was amongst the first to hail the IPEF, has emphatically stated this point on a number of occasions. In an interview to Nikkei Asian Review on May 20, 2022, Lee Hsien Loong reiterated this point. In fact, Lee Hsien Loong even pitched for making China a part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) (TPP the precursor to the CPTPP was a brain child of the US). Said the Singapore PM:

‘We welcome China to join the CPTPP,’.

Here it would be pertinent to point out, that China had submitted an application for joining the CPTPPIN September 2021. In the interview, Lee Hsieng Loong did state that countries in Asia needed to have good relations with US, Japan and Europe.

 Indonesia’s Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi who attended the signing of the IPEF on behalf of the President Joko Widodo stated that he did not want to see IPEF as a tool to contain other countries.

One of the reasons why many countries are skeptical about the IPEF is the fact that it does not have any trade component. A number of ASEAN member states have pointed to the IPEF making no mention of tariffs and market access as one of its major draw backs. At the US-ASEAN Summit, held earlier this month Malaysian Foreign Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob had referred to this point. Like many other countries, Malaysia has welcomed the IPEF, but in the immediate future sees RCEP as a far greater opportunity.

US President Joe Biden has not deviated significantly from the policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, with regard to trade and the US is unlikely to return to the CPTPP at least in the immediate future.  Biden and Senior officials in his administration have spoken about the need to check China’s growing economic influence, specifically in Asia, and to provide an alternative model. While the US along with some of its Indo Pacific partners has taken some steps in this direction (only recently, leaders of Quad countries during their meeting at Tokyo announced that they would spend USD 50 billion, in infrastructural aid and investment, in the Indo Pacific.

 Given his low approval ratings, and diminishing political capital it is unlikely that he is likely to change his approach towards trade significantly. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the TPP was ‘fragile’, and that there was no domestic support for the same.

 In conclusion, while the IPEF does have symbolic importance it is important to bear in mind that many signatories themselves have close economic relations with China and would not like to get trapped in competition between US and China. Unless the US re-examines its approach towards trade, which is highly unlikely, and unless countries which are part of the Indo-Pacific vision are able to strengthen economic cooperation, China is likely to dominate Asia’s economic landscape – even though there is growing skepticism with regard to the same.

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World Leaders Pledge to Fight for Freedom and Values with History at a Turning Point



World leaders came together at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 against a backdrop of deepening global frictions and fractures and a once-in-a-century pandemic.
On Monday, President Zelenskyy addressed participants live from Kyiv. He said that the words “turning point” have “become more than just a rhetorical figure of speech” and emphasized that “values must matter”.
The war in Ukraine has created immense human suffering. And the wider impacts of the conflict are being felt around the world.
The World Economic Forum called for a “Marshall Plan” for the reconstruction of Ukraine. “In Davos, our solidarity is foremost with the people suffering from the atrocities of this war,” said Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman.  
The Special Dialogue on Ukraine session brought together 70 global CEOs alongside the Prime Minister of Ukraine (who joined virtually), with the President of the European Commission, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine and the First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine at Davos in person, alongside other dignitaries. CEOs offered concrete ways of how their companies can support the Ukraine government and its private sector in the reconstruction of Ukraine now, rather than waiting for the war to end.
The World Economic Forum offered its support in this endeavour, advancing discussions on new partnerships and market-driven solutions to enable a scaled up response to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and other global crises.
Meeting in person after a two-year hiatus, there were over 450 sessions at the meeting, which brought together 2,500 leaders and experts from around the world, including 300 government leaders and 50 heads of state. It was a critical opportunity to foster stronger global and regional cooperation to restore stability and create real impact.
Nature and climate
The energy crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, must not deepen the world’s dependence on climate-warming fossil fuels. During the week, there was a focus on accelerating clean energy and climate solutions:

More than 50 companies have now joined the First Movers Coalition, which was launched by US President Biden and the World Economic Forum at COP26 to decarbonize the heavy industry and long-distance transport sectors – the sectors responsible for 30% of global emissions.

This week at Davos, John Kerry, the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, joined these companies in sending a powerful market signal to commercialize zero-carbon technology. Their market cap represents about $8.5 trillion across five continents and they are making unprecedented advance purchase commitments by 2030.

Eight new countries have joined the First Movers Coalition as government partners – Denmark, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and the UK. All are committed to create early markets for clean technologies. Alongside the United States, there are nine committed government partners.

Some 70+ CEOs of the CEO Climate Leaders Alliance – the largest CEO-led climate action group globally – agreed on taking bold action to translate pledges into tangible emission reductions in line with 1.5C. Covering 26 countries and 12 industries and representing 120 companies in total, the alliance has a combined annual emission footprint greater than India or the EU.

CEOs agreed to push for progress on critical 2030 and 2050 global climate targets, mobilizing dialogue between governments and the private sector to deliver a successful outcome at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

China’s Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua announced his country’s contribution to plant and conserve 70 billion trees by 2030. The World Economic Forum and China Green Foundation will undertake concrete measures together through China Action to support the fulfilment of China’s contribution.

A new $15 million investment over five years was announced to support entrepreneurs who can drive innovation in freshwater resource management – the initiative will be hosted by our UpLink platform.

CEOs also held dialogues with regional climate envoys, COP26, COP27 and COP28 leadership to make progress on global climate policies, including the importance of setting a global price on carbon and other key policy measures to fast-track the transition.

Youth activist Elizabeth Watuthi spoke on Safeguarding our People and Planet, sharing the local perspective and direct impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities, and youth climate activist Vanessa Nakate, speaking at the Staying on Course for Climate Action session, said: “When we talk about climate change we’re also talking about food security. It’s really important to understand the intersections of this crisis.”

The Forum’s Global New Mobility Coalition is launching the Urban Mobility Scorecards initiative. Over 30 companies, such as Visa, Hyundai, Uber, Volta Trucks and TIER, will work with policy-makers from cities and regions to better understand challenges and solutions to create a shared, connected and decarbonized mobility ecosystem.

A new Global Commission on the Economics of Water was launched to redefine the way we value and incorporate water into economic decision-making. It is led by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization; Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose; Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of the Government of Singapore; and Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. 

Economic transformation

The Forum’s Chief Economists Outlook report warned of “dire human consequences” from the fragmentation of the global economy. It said that developing economies face trade-offs between the risks of debt crisis and securing food and fuel. The rising cost of living hits the world’s poorest communities hardest. The Ukraine conflict has exacerbated already fragile energy and food systems. Co-investment by the public and private sector is critical to restarting a new era of growth, one that integrates inclusion and sustainability at its core rather than an afterthought, and is the best way forward for shared prosperity.

A leading group of CEOs, ministers and academic experts agreed on the roadmap for the Market Creators Alliance to develop fairer principles for governments, businesses and public-private partnerships on innovation and industrial development. This will be launched later this year.

Four Futures for Economic Globalization: Scenarios and Their Implications outlines how the nature of globalization may shift as economic powers choose between fragmentation or integration in both the physical and virtual dimensions of the world economy.

The Government of Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates announced that they are joining the Food Action Alliance for driving food systems transformation. They are part of a growing group of first-mover countries. The new partnership will harness innovation to accelerate country goals on food security and nutrition, inclusive growth, sustainability and climate resilience, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Work, wages and job creation

The Jobs Consortium, a group of public and private sector leaders focused on investment in the jobs of tomorrow, held their inaugural meeting in Davos to drive a global recovery and investment agenda for the next two years. They aim to create growth in the jobs of tomorrow, new standards in the workplace and better wages for all, focusing on social, green and tech jobs as the high-growth, job-creating sector of the future.

Over 6 million refugees have left Ukraine to other countries since February, adding to the estimated 31 million people worldwide forcibly displaced across borders. The Refugee Employment and Employability Initiative was launched, a coalition of chief human resources officers from over 140 organizations who support the integration of Ukrainian refugees in Europe. This will pilot its work supporting learning and job opportunities for Ukrainian refugees in Europe in its first phase – aiming to expand to other regions of the world in the future.

Education and skills

The Reskilling Revolution initiative, launched at the Annual Meeting in 2020, has now mobilized a community of over 50 CEOs, 350 organizations and 15 countries all working towards a vision of giving 1 billion people better education, reskilling and upskilling. A network of country accelerators in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Georgia, Greece, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, with support from Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Switzerland, and a consortium of the largest online learning platforms are working together.

The initiative will now expand beyond adult learning to add a focus on education for children and youth. These efforts will be taken forward by a new Education 4.0 Alliance, bringing together 20 leading education organizations, and Bangladesh has become the first country to adopt the education accelerator model in Davos.

A new report, Catalysing Education 4.0 Investing in the Future of Learning for a Human-Centric Recovery, focuses on preparing today’s generation of school-age children with better collaborative problem-solving that could add $2.54 trillion – over $3,000 per school-age child – from this one skill alone.

Diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice

The Gender Parity Accelerators are a global network of national public-private collaboration platforms working to close existing gender gaps and reshape gender parity for the future. This year two G20 countries, Mexico and Japan, will initiate Gender Parity Accelerators in the coming months.

The Valuable 500 initiative announced a unique mentorship programme – Generation Valuable – for people with disabilities to build the future executive leadership, driving disability inclusion by revolutionizing the boardrooms of tomorrow.

The Edison Alliance launched a new programme to speed up digital inclusion in the life-critical sectors of health, education and finance. It launched a new network of “lighthouse countries”, including Bahrain, Bangladesh and Rwanda, working with the UN Development Programme to further the alliance’s 1 billion lives vision of providing people with affordable, digital solutions by 2025.

Trade and supply chains
Business and government leaders highlighted the potential of trade facilitation, finance and trade technology to tackle supply chain barriers. Trade ministers gathered in Davos to hear from business and civil society and prepare for next month’s World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. Leaders called for diversifying trade and investment relationships to bolster development and support common values. Indigenous and labour leaders called for inclusive outcomes from trade. Food security was high on the agenda.

The World Investment for Development Alliance was launched together with OECD Secretary-General Matthias Cormann, the World Bank, UNCTAD and other partners, to increase collaboration in addressing investment policy and practice.

The Forum’s Platform for Trade and Investment, together with the Digital Cooperation Organization, launched a Digital FDI initiative to support investment in the digital economy in developing economies.

The World Economic Forum convened Friends of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, a group of heads of state and business leaders, which advanced a framework on how public-private partnerships can support the implementation of the AfCFTA.

Global supply chain disruptions make it harder to reach children with life-saving supplies. This week UNICEF co-signed an extended charter with the World Economic Forum and 16 logistics leaders to prioritize support for humanitarian supply transports.

COVAX the multilateral initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines was conceived in Davos two years ago. In the past seven days it has shipped its 1.5 billionth dose.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous disruptions to healthcare – reversals in testing and treatment of life-threatening diseases. Crucial steps have been taken to help counteract these setbacks. These include:

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria announced its first pledge from the private sector in Davos. It has raised a third of the $18 billion needed to reverse setbacks caused by the pandemic.

Building on recommendations developed in partnership with the European Union COVID-19 lung cancer taskforce, the Forum, together with the Lung Ambition Alliance, launched the Global Lung Cancer Collaboration to bring together organizations in healthcare delivery, research, diagnostics, biopharma, patient advocacy and non-governmental organizations to facilitate greater collaboration and solutions to eliminate lung cancer as a leading cause of death.

An Accord for a Healthier World was launched at Davos by Pfizer this week, providing all its current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines available in the US or EU on a not-for-profit basis to 45 lower-income countries. Pfizer called on global health leaders and organizations to join the accord, bringing their expertise and resources to close the health equity gap and help create a healthier world for 1.2 billion people. Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda are the first five countries to commit to join the accord. Health officials in these countries will help identify and resolve hurdles beyond supply to inform the roll-out in all 45 lower-income countries.

The World Economic Forum’s Platform for Health and Healthcare signed an MoU with Saudi Arabia in support of the Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare. This partnership will increase collaborative efforts to build a global healthcare movement on value-based health systems and people-centred care, alongside global government policy-makers, industry and academia through accelerating public-private partnerships.

Tech frontiers

The World Economic Forum unveiled the concept of a Global Collaboration Village, a major initiative to harness the potential of the metaverse to create a place where international cooperation can be strengthened.

The Defining and Building the Metaverse initiative was launched bringing together key stakeholders to define and build the parameters of an economically viable, interoperable, safe and inclusive metaverse.

The Global Coalition for Digital Safety has committed to developing emergency protocols for protecting digital safety during wars, particularly to tackle online exploitation and abuse, violent extremist and terrorist content, and mis- and disinformation. This will complement the broader work of the coalition to make the internet safer by tackling harmful content and conduct online.

The Annual Meeting hosted its first public panel on Unlocking Quantum, with leaders committing to focus on how technologies and deeper analytics could transform decarbonization and accelerate the fight against climate change. They will work with Qlimate, Volkswagen and the Netherlands government on identifying and scaling solutions.

Malaysia’s Finance Minister announced his country will be the first location for a Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) in the ASEAN region. And, the Dubai Future Foundation, with support from the Government of UAE, has signed a collaboration agreement to continue the operations of C4IR UAE. The centre will focus on blockchain, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. 

Samantha Cristoforetti became the first astronaut to join the Annual Meeting live from space aboard the International Space Station, orbiting the planet at 17,500 miles an hour. The Live from Space session looked at how government and business can collaborate to ensure that space exploration benefits people and the planet.

In a closing address, Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, called for “a sustainable, resilient globalization which uses natural resources sparingly and, above all, takes the needs of future generations into account”, adding that a new approach to globalization would be “based on solidarity which benefits all citizens – in all parts of the world.”

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Reskilling Revolution: Leaders Preparing 1 Billion People for Tomorrow’s Economy



Investing broadly in the skills of the future for both today’s and tomorrow’s next-generation workforce could add an additional $8.3 trillion in increased productivity to the global economy by 2030.

The Reskilling Revolution initiative, a coalition of 50 CEOs, 25 ministers and 350 organizations committed to realizing these gains for their economies, societies and organizations, marked two years of progress at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos today. Their work will benefit over 100 million workers on their journey towards reaching 1 billion people by 2030 with better education, skills and economic opportunity.

Accelerating the Reskilling Revolution

Global inequities in lifelong learning and childhood education, a pandemic that closed schools and workplaces and rapid technological change are highlighting the need to double down on reskilling, upskilling and the future of learning. The Reskilling Revolution initiative, launched at the World Economic Forum’s 50th Annual Meeting in January 2020, is working to provide 1 billion people with better education, skills and economic opportunity by 2030.

At its heart is a commitment from over 50 CEOs to inspire global business leadership on the upskilling, reskilling and human capital investment agenda. By working together with a growing network of national-level country accelerators launched to date in 12 countries – Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Georgia, Greece, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, with knowledge support from Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Switzerland – the Reskilling Revolution has mobilized a multistakeholder community of over 350 organizations across 12 countries and is on track to benefit 100 million people on its journey towards 1 billion.

“In an era of multiple disruptions to the labour market – the pandemic, supply chain changes, the green transition, technological transformation – the one ‘no regret’ investment all governments and business can make is in education, reskilling and upskilling. It is the best pathway to expanding opportunity, enhancing social mobility and accelerating future growth,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

Enabling Education 4.0

Two years into its work the initiative will expand beyond adult reskilling and upskilling and integrate a focus on education for children and youth. These efforts will be taken forward by a new Education 4.0 Alliance, bringing together 20 leading education organizations at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2022.

A new report from the project, Catalysing Education 4.0 Investing in the Future of Learning for a Human-Centric Recovery, focuses on preparing today’s generation of school-age children with better collaborative problem-solving that could add $2.54 trillion – over $3,000 per school-age child – from this one skill alone.

The report, developed with support from the LEGO Foundation and in consultation with leading education experts from the public, private and educational sectors, finds that investment in the skills of the future for primary and secondary school learners would create an additional $489 billion in Europe, $458 billion in South Asia, $333 billion in East Asia, $332 billion in Latin America, $266 billion in the Middle East, $235 billion in North America, $179 billion in sub-Saharan Africa, and $163 billion in Central Asia.

Meanwhile, China ($356 billion), the United States ($218 billion), Brazil ($143 billion), Mexico ($80 billion) and Italy ($72 billion) are the five countries standing to gain the most, while the benefits relative to the size of their economies today would be greatest in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

To unlock this education transformation, the Education 4.0 initiative will focus on three key investment areas: new assessment mechanisms; adoption of new learning technologies; and empowerment of the teaching workforce.

Expanding the Accelerator network

Complementing the Skills Accelerators, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting also featured the official launch of the first school-age focused Education 4.0 Accelerator, a national-level public-private collaboration platform for action. The Education Accelerators – complementing a network of successful Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators – aim to mainstream technology-enhanced learning experiences, implement new measurement mechanisms, empower educators and mobilize investment in the sector.

Bangladesh will be the first country to pioneer this new model in Asia. Dipu Moni, Minister of Education, Bangladesh, said: “Bangladesh is committed to ensuring high-quality education for all children and youth. We are delighted to partner with the World Economic Forum to launch the first Education Accelerator in South Asia and to be part of this global network to advance the Education 4.0 agenda.”

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