China’s Xi calls for unity in fighting virus, climate change

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Exterior view of the congress center in Davos, Switzerland, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. The World Economic Forum, WEF, was scheduled to take place in Davos between Jan. 25 and Jan. 29, 2021. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak it will be held in a digital format. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Countries must cooperate more closely in fighting the challenges of the pandemic and climate change and in supporting a sustainable global economic recovery, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday in an address to the World Economic Forum.

“Humanity has only Earth and one future,” Xi said in remarks from Beijing to a virtual gathering that is taking place in lieu of the annual in-person meetings in Davos, Switzerland, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fighting the pandemic is the most urgent task facing the international community,” Xi said, in urging that countries cooperate to conquer the disease, which first was reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan just over a year ago.

“In particular, we should strengthen cooperation in vaccine research and development, production and distribution, so that vaccines can truly become a public good that are accessible and affordable to people in all countries,” he said.

Much of what the Chinese leader said was a reiteration of Beijing’s usual stance on issues such as closing the gap between wealthy and developing nations, and warning that countries should not meddle in other countries’ affairs.

While Xi did not mention recent U.S. policies directly, he did call for sticking to rules, embracing diversity and avoiding confrontations over trade and technology.

Relations between the U.S. and China have sunk to their worst in decades as former President Donald Trump imposed punitive tariffs and other sanctions to try to gain concessions on trade and counter perennial trade deficits.

“We should advocate fair competition, like competing with each other for excellence in a racing field, not beating each other on a wrestling arena,” Xi said.

“To engage in cliques, a new Cold War, exclusion, threats and intimidation against others, to warn of decoupling, cutting off supplies, sanctions at every turn . . . can only drive the world to division and even conflict,” he said.

“A divided world cannot tackle the common challenges facing humanity, and confrontation will lead humanity to a dead end,” Xi said.

Just days after his inauguration, President Joe Biden has yet to set out his administration’s own policies on trade with China, though he is adopting a more conventional approach than Trump’s “America First” stance in handling global issues such as the pandemic and global warming. Few experts expect Biden to significantly soften the U.S. stance on trade and technology given longstanding friction over a wide range of issues, including human rights.

Xi said countries need to better coordinate their economic policies, avoid protectionism and other barriers to trade and cooperation to support a global economic recovery and ensure the stability of world financial systems.

“Despite trillions of dollars countries around the world rolled out in economic remedies, the momentum of the global economic recovery remains very unstable, and there is great uncertainty about the outlook,” Xi said.

Other leaders expected to address the virtual forum include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The forum has said it plans to hold its annual meeting in person in May in Singapore.

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AP producer Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

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