Harvey Dzodin: What a difference four years can make

January 19 , 2021

A Davos logo is seen before the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 15, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]


By Harvey Dzodin,a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization(CCG).

Four years can seem like an eternity or it can pass in the blink of an eye. To me, the last four years look like a mixture of both. Four years ago, President Xi Jinping was on a state visit to Switzerland, the first for a Chinese president in this century and the first-ever for a Chinese head of state to attend and keynote at the renowned World Economic Forum in Davos. The next day Xi gave a landmark speech at the United Nations Office at Geneva calling for “a community with a shared future for mankind”. Three days later Donald Trump was inaugurated 6,540 km away in actual distance, but substantively worlds apart, saying: “From this day forward it’s going to be ‘America first’.” Since then, these respective phrases are indelibly ascribed to each man.Our world has changed so much in these last four years. True to President Xi’s Geneva vision, China has relentlessly been building bridges literally and figuratively in win-win collaborations.President Xi said in Geneva that “we should build a world of common prosperity through win-win cooperation.” “… Instead of beggaring thy neighbor, countries should stick together like passengers in the same boat.” In this spirit, China has continued to engage with other nations.

Most recently, despite US pressure to the contrary, China and the EU concluded their negotiations in principle for the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) on December 30, which will promote bilateral trade. According to data from Rhodium Group, at the end of Q3 of 2020, cumulative value of EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in China was $181 billion and Chinese FDI in the EU was $138 billion with both sides wanting to increase these amounts. When implemented, the CAI will materially facilitate this growth.

Six weeks earlier China, along with 14 other Asia-Pacific nations, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade agreement accounting for about 30 percent of both?global population and GDP, making it the biggest?trade bloc?in history. RCEP is expected to eliminate about 90 percent of tariffs on imports between members within 20 years.

By contrast in keeping with his America First pledge, Trump started and lost a trade war with China that has disadvantaged American farmers, manufacturers and consumers. Not believing in climate science, Trump withdrew from the all-important Paris Climate Agreement, whose adoption was achieved under the leadership of Presidents Xi and Barack Obama. He withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. He paralyzed the World Trade Organization, the multilateral organization that accelerated China’s dramatic economic rise. He withdrew from the World Health Organization while the world was struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic is the most serious public health event of our time with over 96 million cases globally and more than two million deaths. The contrast between China and the US couldn’t be starker. Here, Trump has finally achieved his goal of America first with about 24.6 million cases and over 400,000 deaths. Contrast this with India, number two in infections with four times the US population and less than half the cases. China is 83rd with about 88,400 cases and around 4,635 deaths, in the same league with 82nd, North Macedonia. China rallied a year ago to tame this monster but Trump dismissed its seriousness. The numbers speak for themselves. (Stats from Worldometer)

The last official event at which President Xi and (then Vice-president) Joe Biden met was in Davos the day of Xi’s keynote. Now both leaders will have to work together starting with issues where national interests overlap such as pandemic control and climate change. Let’s hope that together our two nations can not only step back from the abyss, but work toward the lofty goal of building a “community with a shared future for mankind”.

From China Daily , 2021-1-19
Keyword Harvey Dzodin