BEIJING — As the year 2020 comes to a close, the world is still struggling to handle the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic as well as the deep economic recession caused by massive lockdown measures.
Risks and uncertainties will undoubtedly remain in the coming new year, as mounting protectionism, bullying practices and anti-globalization sentiment add to the challenges facing the world. This year, described by many media reports as “the worst year ever,” has witnessed enormous losses and endless pain. Yet, when the world is tottering in the dark, good things are also happening, giving hope, courage and confidence to people around the world to make it through the ordeal. After months of fight against the coronavirus, the global community has reached consensus that the pandemic should be coped with in a rational and scientific way and vaccines should be distributed accessibly and equitably.
Countries worldwide have also demonstrated their will and determination to work together to defeat the deadly virus, revitalize the world economy and promote multilateral cooperation.
GROWING HOPE OF ENDING COVID-19
Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse in New York City, the United States, received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, when this once-in-a-century pandemic had killed over 1.6 million people worldwide. A common New Year wish of the international community is to end the pandemic at an early date.
Hope lies ahead. Since the onset of the pandemic, scientists around the world have been taking joint actions and working around the clock to fast track the development of effective vaccines for the benefit of all.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Dec. 16, 222 COVID-19 candidate vaccines were being developed worldwide, with 56 of them under clinical trials.
“I have never seen the global scientific community respond to an emergency like I have seen them respond this year,” said Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of Lancet. With more positive news from vaccine trials, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter.” Facing the pandemic, one key lesson the human race has learned is that the only way to beat the virus is to have a rational attitude, take decisive and science-based measures and stand together as closely as they can. Compared with the panic and disorder at the beginning of the outbreak, countries across the world have gradually established scientific pandemic prevention systems. With the public gaining a deeper understanding of the pathogen, the foundation for the anti-COVID-19 war is expected to grow more solid.
From the World Health Assembly to the G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19, countries around the world, with the coordination of the WHO, have also committed themselves to forging a joint line of defense against the virus to better share knowledge, experience and resources, a vivid manifestation of the fact that people are increasingly interdependent and share a common destiny.
China, the first country to put the novel coronavirus under control, has launched its largest global humanitarian aid since 1949 and promised that Chinese COVID-19 vaccines will be provided as global public goods. Having been playing a key role in the global pandemic fight, China will offer more help to the world in the new year.
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR GLOBAL GROWTH
Under a strict national lockdown, the shopping carnival, which was expected to come with the Christmas and New Year holiday, did not appear in Germany as the coronavirus continued spreading in the European country. Flights were suspended, businesses closed, supply chains disrupted… With an estimated 4.4-percent plunge in 2020, the global economy is experiencing what might be the worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression.
However “dismal” as the year is, Ben May, director of Global Macroeconomic Research at Oxford Economics, still looks forward to “new lease of life for the world economy.”
Amid the raging pandemic, various countries have launched unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus plans to prevent a more serious crisis, which offers opportunities for job creation and economic transformation. “The worst has been avoided, most of the economic fabric has been preserved and could revive quickly,” Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in its latest economic outlook.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated the process of digital globalization by advancing scientific and technological innovation and facilitating the transformation of production and business models, which is widely seen as a boon to productivity.
After the downturn, the global economy will rebound strongly by 5.2 percent in 2021, the International Monetary Fund has predicted. As the only major economy that achieved positive growth this year, China, the world’s second largest economy, has entered a phrase of high-quality development and will maintain its firm commitment to opening its market wider and being actively engaged in global cooperation. “The deepest economic crises are also crucibles for new economic thinking,” a report of the Financial Times said. The global public health crisis will be a constant reminder that human beings need to reflect on the relationship between economic growth, human life and the ecological environment.
NEW JOURNEY FOR MULTILATERALISM
The year 2020 has seen rising protectionism and hegemony that have severely disrupted global solidarity against the pandemic, while a voice that rejects unilateralism and the Cold-War mentality, and champions multilateralism and cooperation has taken shape globally. The unprecedented crisis has sounded an alarm bell that the global architecture for public health should be further strengthened and countries must make joint concerted efforts and fight together for their common interests.
If mankind has learned anything from the pandemic crisis, it is that multilateralism matters, said Ruqayya Alblooshi, a scholar from the United Arab Emirates.
The pandemic has once again made people realize that the world is a community of a shared future. Only through consultation, cooperation and coordination can international challenges be resolved. Any unilateral and bullying practices, or clamor for “economic decoupling,” is against the trend of globalization, and will not gain popularity. In the face of the common challenges in the post-pandemic era, there are growing hopes that countries worldwide will forge a stronger partnership to strengthen win-win cooperation, promote economic integration and keep the global supply chains running well so that the world economy will be brought back to the track of robust growth as soon as possible.
As called for by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, there is a need for an inclusive and networked multilateralism, in which the United Nations family, international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs and others work together more closely and more effectively. The world has arrived at another crossroads, and China will, as always, continue to be a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order. No matter how dark the night is, the sun will always rise. As long as countries around the world join their hands in good faith, an even brighter future could be within reach.