Xinhua Commentary: China’s historic economic comeback, beacon of hope for world

BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — China has done something no other major economy did in 2020.

Beating expectations with a 6.5-percent growth in the fourth quarter, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 2.3 percent year on year last year, exceeding the 100-trillion-yuan (15.42 trillion U.S. dollars) threshold for the first time, official data showed Monday.

That makes China the only major economy to post growth in 2020. In the context of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and recession, the good news from China is even more commendable.

The early days of 2020 were devastating for the world’s second-largest economy. But after a quarter-long lull in economic activity, the resumption of business forged ahead with resolute and targeted virus containment measures in place.

The unique formula China adopted in response to this global health crisis is well captured in the acronym “PROTECT” — the Party’s strong leadership, responsibility at all levels, openness and transparency, technology, early action, cooperation, and targeted measures. The formula shows how the Chinese economy fought its way out of the virus-induced slump.

Not only did China avert a full-blown recession, but the scale and speed of its V-shaped recovery were impressive. It’s worth noting that the Chinese leadership decided in May not to set a numeric growth target for 2020. High on the agenda was people-first development and a new development paradigm.

In addition to stabilizing its economy, China has also reached a number of development milestones: the elimination of absolute poverty, wrapping up the 13th Five-Year Plan period, and comprehensively designing the next.

Given China’s stellar growth figures over past decades, a 2.3-percent growth may seem not worthy of a victory lap. But at a time when the world is still struggling under the pandemic-triggered recession, the hard-won expansion will provide precious experience for economic recovery in the new year.

China’s contribution to world economic growth has long been around 30 percent as the major growth engine. The latest World Economic Outlook report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that China will contribute more than one-third of global economic growth in 2021.

The vicious onslaught of the pandemic has plunged the world economy into its worst crisis since the Great Depression of 1929. This time, the world may take longer to regain its footing, as the crisis will leave long-lasting sequelae and pose major global challenges.

If the past is any guide, the sweeping crisis will lead to structural changes in the global economic landscape. As domestic demand in developed countries starts to decline, new engines of economic growth emerge around the world.

When policymakers in some countries have resorted to populism, insular nationalism, and the politicization of economic issues while dealing with a crisis of such a magnitude, China has championed free trade, multilateralism, and the construction of a community with a shared future for humanity.

Since the beginning of 2020, China has fully implemented its foreign investment law. Its negative list for market access in pilot free trade zones has been further shortened to the benefit of foreign investors. It has steadily promoted financial market access and introduced its master plan for the construction of the Hainan free trade port, a new highland of open economy.

All these moves have opened up a broad space for China’s economic development and injected strong impetus into the recovery of the world economy.

The year 2020 also marked China’s strong pushback against attacks on the multilateral trading system. China joined the world’s largest free-trade bloc by sealing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. It also completed negotiations on the China-EU investment treaty, bringing the two major economies closer.

Its work has paved the way for a better 2021, with China eliminating absolute poverty and entering its 14th Five-Year Plan period, highlighting innovation and green development while driving forward a more integrated world economy.

There is no doubt that 2021 is going to be another year of challenges, but China will stand as a beacon of hope amid the sea of uncertainties. As it further opens to the outside world, China will create more opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation across the globe, and make greater contributions to the stability and prosperity of the world in the post-pandemic era.

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