Leading International Cooperation Against COVID-19 and Promoting High-quality Development of Foreign Aid
By Luo Zhaohui
The year 2022 began on a rather volatile note amid combined impacts of transformations and a pandemic both unseen in a century, turbulence in Europe and intensifying major-power competition. In the past two years and more, COVID-19 has raged all over the world, infected nearly 500 million people and claimed more than six million lives. Today, the virus is still mutating and the fight against it will be a long one. In the face of the raging pandemic and the widening immunization gap, China is a champion for international cooperation against COVID-19 and provides vital support for the global response.
China is an early advocate for solidarity against COVID-19. President Xi Jinping has emphasized on multiple occasions that contagious diseases are the common enemy of humankind and recognize no border or race. To win the fight against them, the international community must come together. Only by standing together and pulling in the same direction can humanity defeat the virus. China has been a pace-setter for closer international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, upheld the primary feature of vaccines as a global public good, and stayed at the forefront of efforts for equitable distribution of vaccines. China was the first to report cases to the world; make COVID vaccines a global public good; call for equity, accessibility and affordability of vaccines; support waiving intellectual property rights on the vaccines; start vaccine production cooperation with other developing countries; and propose balanced progress in COVID response and economic recovery.
China is the biggest provider of COVID response assistance. It has honored its commitments with concrete actions. To date, it has provided more than 2.1 billion doses of vaccines to over 120 countries and international organizations, more than any other country. One out of every two COVID vaccines administered across the globe is made in China. China has carried out joint vaccine production with more than 20 countries with a total annual production capacity of one billion doses, and helped build the first COVID vaccine production line on the African continent. China has provided 153 countries and 15 international organizations more than 4.2 billion protective suits, 8.4 billion testing kits, 372 billion masks and large quantities of medical supplies, including infrared thermometers, ventilators and oxygen generators. China has sent 37 expert teams to 34 countries and organized nearly 1,000 sessions of technical training. A traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) expert team was sent to Cambodia to promote the use of TCM. The China-South Asia Emergency Supplies Reserve was established to channel medical supplies to meet the urgent needs of neighboring countries in a flexible manner. China was among the first to deliver emergency anti-COVID assistance to Afghanistan.
China is an active pace-setter for multilateral anti-COVID cooperation. In the early days of COVID-19 in 2020, President Xi Jinping proposed to build “a global community of health for all”, which has played an irreplaceable role in shoring up global confidence and unity in response to the global public health crisis. China supports the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in leading the international cooperation against COVID-19, supports WHO as the central coordinator and its efforts in innovation and reform. China has prioritized purchase requests from COVAX and donated more than 200 million doses of vaccines and US$100 million to COVAX. China provided the UN, WHO and other international organizations cash and material assistance worth more than US$100 million. China, together with 28 other countries, has launched the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation. At the UN General Assembly’s High-level Thematic Debate on COVID-19 Vaccines, China proposed to tighten the “safety net” of immunization, enrich our “toolkit” against COVID-19, buttress the “shield” of health governance and boost development as a “stabilizing anchor”, demonstrating its strong support for multilateral cooperation.
China is a firm stalwart against the “political virus”. COVID response assistance provided by China over the past two years reinforces China’s image as a responsible major country and reflects the strengths of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics in contrast to the hypocrisy and decline of the West. Despite its own difficulties, China has taken the lead in providing assistance. China has been open and transparent in participating in a science-based effort to trace the origins of the coronavirus. By contrast, the US hoarded supplies and practiced “vaccine nationalism” despite the urgent need of other countries. It discredited Chinese vaccines and launched political attacks under the camouflage of origins-tracing. More than 80 countries have written to WHO to express their opposition to politicization of origins-tracing. While China is open to and welcomes cooperation with the US in COVID-19 response, China resolutely opposes the “political virus” that undermines global solidarity against the pandemic and actually gives loose to spreading unchecked of the virus.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China’s foreign aid and international development cooperation, building on a sound foundation, have opened up new prospects and scored new achievements. China’s COVID response assistance is a case in point.
First, COVID response assistance is a concrete reflection of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and the CPC’s global vision. Embracing the trend of the times, President Xi Jinping initiated the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. This vision inherits and carries forward Marxist internationalism and humanitarianism and integrates the fine traditional Chinese culture that values harmony and the common good of humanity. China’s COVID response assistance focuses on the priorities and pressing needs of the international community and actively responds to the expectations of other developing countries. Launched early and implemented fast, it has a wide coverage. It is a great endeavor to practice the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests and building a community with a shared future for mankind. It also demonstrates the global vision of the CPC.
Second, COVID response assistance serves as a platform to broaden China’s network of friends in the developing world and pursue common development and prosperity. The immunization gap has dealt a heavy blow to the global development agenda and developing countries bore the brunt of it. As a Chinese proverb reads, “The going may be tough when one walks alone, but it gets easier when people walk together.” China champions true multilateralism and supports developing countries in COVID response and economic recovery. China has delivered vaccine assistance to all countries that asked for help and COVID vaccines have truly become vaccines for people across the world. More and more people in developing countries see China as a country that values equality, honors commitments, provides timely help and delivers real results. China’s network of friends continues to grow bigger and stronger. According to “The State of Southeast Asia: 2022 Survey Report” published by a well-known think tank in Singapore, 57.8 percent of respondents believe that China has provided most vaccine assistance to the region and more than half of the respondents see China as the most influential political and strategic force. Many world leaders have expressed appreciation to President Xi Jinping. The presidents and prime ministers of more than 30 countries have attended Chinese vaccine handover events and taken lead in getting vaccinated. The recipient countries commended Chinese vaccines as timely rain and lit up landmark buildings in red, the color usually associated with China.
Third, COVID response assistance is conducive to China’s economic development, deepening reform and opening-up endeavor. The assistance has, with no condition attached, helped the recipient countries and boosted bilateral trade. It is estimated that China’s COVID response assistance has driven export of more than 2.2 billion doses of vaccines worth RMB 120 billion yuan, which is a boon to world economic recovery. By providing targeted COVID response assistance to epidemic areas in northern Myanmar and northern Laos, China has built an anti-pandemic protection belt in neighboring countries and effectively served the domestic policy of preventing imported cases. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals overseas have got vaccinated with China-aided vaccines, which helps realize the policy goal of keeping overseas Chinese reassured.
Fourth, COVID response assistance is an act of goodwill that reciprocates the international community. When COVID-19 struck China, friendly countries provided prompt and generous help. Pakistan immediately donated its entire reserve of tents to China. Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited China at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak to express support and commiseration. “Like friends do,” President Alvi said, “Because friends were suffering, we sent everything to China. We did not worry about what will happen in the future.” Mongolian shepherds voluntarily donated 30,000 premium sheep to Hubei. A Mongolian kid studying in Beijing donated RMB 999 yuan from her piggybank to Wuhan and two other hard-hit areas. Equatorial Guinea donated US$2 million to China, which means two dollars from each Equatoguinean. Despite economic challenges at home, many recipient countries provided China with as much assistance as they could when help was most needed, leaving behind many touching stories of developing countries giving wholehearted support to each other.
A drop of water in need shall be returned with a burst of spring indeed. The Chinese government and people will never forget the countries and people that provided support and assistance, and we extended a helping hand without hesitation when they were later hit by the virus. As the saying goes, “A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses,” even though nothing is expected in return.
China’s foreign aid program goes back to 1950 when numerous tasks at home remained to be undertaken. Guided by Comrade Mao Zedong’s instruction that China “ought to make a greater contribution to humanity”, China began to provide a significant amount of assistance to other developing countries even when itself was still impoverished. From Tanzania-Zambia Railway to Karakoram Highway, from hybrid rice to juncao cultivation, from artemisinin to COVID vaccines, China’s foreign aid has embodied profound friendship, yielded fruitful results, and made up a glorious chapter in the 100-year annals of the CPC. China has provided various types of assistance to more than 160 countries, including several thousand complete projects and in-kind assistance projects, more than 10,000 projects on technical cooperation and human resources development cooperation, and training of more than 400,000 personnel in various sectors from other developing countries. The restoration of the People’s Republic of China’s seat in the UN with the support of its African brothers in the 1970s, and China’s iron-clad friendship with Pakistan forged during the same period are the unexpected fruits of China’s foreign aid. By providing foreign assistance, China has made important contributions to narrowing the North-South gap and easing tension, uniting fellow developing countries in jointly building a new international political and economic order that is equitable and just, and promoting sustainable development around the world. China’s foreign aid has developed a number of features, i.e. treating each other as equals, honoring commitments, teaching expertise for long-term benefits with a focus on development, putting people front and center, pursuing the greater good and shared interests, making utmost efforts within its capability, emphasizing practical results and sustainability, taking an open and inclusive approach, and keeping abreast with the times.
Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, China’s foreign aid has entered a new era. Its role is more precisely defined. It is an important contributor to building a community with a shared future for mankind. It is a great practice of the founding aspiration and mission of the CPC in pursuit of human progress and a fine example of the global vision of the CPC. Its concept is further enriched. President Xi Jinping, with his global vision and care for humanity, has put forward important ideas such as building a community with a shared future for mankind; the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests; the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith in relations with Africa and other developing countries; and the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in relations with neighboring countries. He has also proposed important initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Global Development Initiative (GDI). All these provide strategic and fundamental guidance for China’s foreign aid in the new era. Its foundation continues to be consolidated. China secured a historic success in eradicating absolute poverty. Despite the impact of COVID-19, China registered an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.1 percent, contributed over 25 percent to global growth, and has remained the world’s largest trader in goods for five consecutive years. By February 2022, China has signed documents on Belt and Road cooperation with 180 countries and international organizations. The resources and forms of foreign aid have become more diverse and plentiful. Its mechanism has been increasingly improved. In 2018, the Chinese government decided to establish the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), in an effort to achieve a systemic and overarching reorganization of China’s foreign aid system. Its dimension has continued to expand. By holding high the banner of multilateralism and making efforts on both bilateral and multilateral fronts, China has quickened its step in transitioning from simply providing assistance to conducting international development cooperation that features a two-way, diversified approach and a deep integration of aid, trade and investment. Its contribution is gradually increasing. The Chinese leadership has put forth a number of major initiatives and measures at UN summits and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), contributing Chinese wisdom and strength to global response against COVID-19, to South-South cooperation and to meeting developmental challenges.
China’s foreign aid in the new era closely serves the overall national strategy on the external front. The CIDCA pays close attention to integrating the traditional principles of non-interference and no strings attached with the new philosophy of building a community with a shared future for mankind, improving the governance capacity of the recipient countries, and pursuing sustainable development and mutual benefit. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, foreign aid has played its part in more than 180 bilateral and multilateral diplomatic events attended by President Xi Jinping, where more than 400 significant and concrete initiatives and outcomes were put forward to bring real benefits to the recipient communities. All the assistance measures proposed at the Belt and Road Forums for International Cooperation, the FOCAC Summits and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summits have been delivered.
China’s foreign aid in the new era advances the Belt and Road cooperation. The CIDCA places great emphasis on “small yet smart” assistance programs. It has launched housing, water supply, well-drilling and medical projects in countries like Cambodia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Djibouti. These projects cost less yet could deliver prompt results for the benefit of the local community. It has taken a coordinated approach to advancing key complete projects such as the Gwadar Port in Pakistan and the Africa centers for disease control headquarters. It focuses on teaching expertise for long-term benefits, sharing experience on governance and providing extensive intellectual assistance such as human resources development. It has conducted exchanges and tripartite cooperation with a number of developed countries and international organizations and has leveraged the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund to benefit more than one million people in 12 countries. Guided by the people-centered philosophy, it has provided emergency humanitarian assistance at the earliest opportunity to countries like Afghanistan, Tonga and Ukraine to help people there pull through the difficult time and rebuild their homeland.
According to the World Bank and other international institutions, China has provided US$23 billion in financing to sub-Saharan Africa between 2007 and 2020, far more than the total financing of US$9.1 billion provided by the development banks in the US, Germany, France and Japan combined. Between 2015 and 2030, China’s foreign aid is expected to help lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty worldwide. China has never pressed for the repayment of debt, let alone used debt to seize other countries’ strategic assets. No country has ever fallen into the so-called “debt trap” by cooperating with China.
China’s foreign aid in the new era is also a way to tell China’s stories. In 2021, the CIDCA successfully held several events, including Exhibition on the 70th Anniversary of China’s Foreign Assistance, the Forum on the 20th Anniversary of Juncao Assistance, and the 5th Anniversary of South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund and the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development. President Xi Jinping specially sent congratulatory letters to the latter two events, which greatly boosted the international influence and appeal of China’s foreign aid. The CIDCA held a press conference on China’s COVID response assistance at the State Council Information Office, as well as promoted President Xi Jinping’s vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and the policies, measures, outcomes and goals of China’s foreign aid and responded to hotspots effectively through many ways, which received wide applause at home and abroad. The CIDCA published a white paper titled China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era and launched a program of “celebrating 100th anniversary of the CPC” to post 100 China’s foreign aid stories on its official website and social media account. By closely following and analyzing vaccine assistance, the Belt and Road cooperation and other trending topics, the CIDCA has proactively communicated with the world and refuted false charges.
As the world enters a period of turbulence and transformation marked by inadequate global governance and faltering economic growth, and grapples with unilateralism, protectionism, isolationism and populism, the international community has greater expectations on China’s foreign aid and guiding role. The US and some other Western countries are suppressing China on every front and intensifying strategic rivalry with it. Destablizing factors and uncertainties in China’s external environment have increased. At the same time, peace, development and win-win cooperation remain the shared aspiration of all people. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is an irreversible historical process.
President Xi Jinping has pointed out that, “The CPC strives for both the wellbeing of the Chinese people and human progress. To make new and greater contributions for mankind is our Party’s abiding mission.” The better China develops, the greater international responsibility it shoulders. China’s foreign aid plays a greater role in connecting China and the world, bridging the North-South gap and pursuing common good. China has the ability, responsibility and need to do better and more in foreign aid. The input in foreign aid would only increase and its reform would only deepen, not otherwise. China’s foreign aid will continue to aim at building a community with a shared future for mankind and contribute to the new development paradigm featuring both domestic and international economic circulations, the BRI cooperation, the GDI and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, so as to promote the common development and prosperity of the world.
Focusing on cooperation against COVID-19, we will facilitate the building of a global community of health for all. President Xi Jinping announced a number of major foreign aid measures to help other countries fight the virus and promote economic recovery. That includes providing US$3 billion in international aid for other developing countries and US$1.5 billion in international aid for ASEAN over the next three years, 150 million doses of vaccines for ASEAN this year, and 600 million doses and 50 million doses for Africa and Central Asia respectively, which will be our main task in the next phase. In addition, China will continue to provide anti-COVID supplies to countries in urgent need, accelerate the research and development of anti-virus medicines and include them in foreign aid as soon as possible, and help fellow developing countries improve public health systems. China will actively support WHO reform, take part in and guide international cooperation on the prevention and control of major infectious diseases, improve the global public health governance system, and build a global community of health for all.
Prioritizing green development, we will promote the building of a green Silk Road. The BRI proposed by President Xi Jinping, builds on the overland and maritime Silk Road, links East and West, inherits from history and leads to the future, and benefits generations to come. It is an important public good that China provides to the world. The BRI cooperation is an important part of China’s international development cooperation. China will continue to give full play to the steering and leveraging role of foreign aid, keep to the stated policies and measures without wavering or slackening, increase the supply of global public goods and ensure sustained, secure and smooth operation of industrial and supply chains. At the same time, China will readily shoulder its international responsibilities on climate change, implement assistance projects on climate change, clean energy and ecological protection, and share experience on green development so as to jointly build a green Silk Road.
Bearing in mind the need to improve people’s livelihood, we will implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Guided by the GDI, we will continue to promote juncao, artemisinin and other brand projects for China’s foreign aid, increase input in “small yet smart” assistance programs, and ensure the full completion of existing projects. We will continue to create better synergy with UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with a focus on poverty reduction, employment, health, education and other issues concerning people’s livelihood, stay committed to development as a priority, to benefits for all and to innovation-driven development, increase experience sharing on governance, and help other developing countries embark on their path of independent development.
Making use of multilateral platforms, we will accelerate the transition toward international development cooperation. China will continue to harness the role of the UN, the G20, APEC, BRICS and other multilateral platforms, actively conduct dialogue and cooperation in the field of development at higher level and with wider coverage, make full use of the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, and provide more public goods for global development, so as to drive the transition of traditional foreign aid to international development cooperation. At the same time, China will support its provinces and cities in providing pair-up foreign aid to their peers from other countries and regions to advance subnational development.
Guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China will continue to communicate the true story of China’s foreign aid to the world. The attempt by certain overseas media to slander China’s foreign aid and cooperation will be met with timely rebuke and facts. We will try to help the world better understand and appreciate China’s foreign aid and the goodwill of the Chinese government and people so that generosity and mutual assistance will find greater resonance in the international community.
Luo Zhaohui is Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency.
Luo Zhaohui is Chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency.