Coronavirus: China handed chance to help shape international response as G20 calls emergency meeting
The world’s top 20 economies are set to hold an emergency virtual summit meeting next week, giving China the chance to participate in international efforts to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and its growing economic impact.
The Group of 20 (G20) will seek to put forward a coordinated set of policies in response to the global outbreak of Covid-19 in a bid to alleviate its human and economic implications, the government of Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the international forum, announced on Tuesday.
At the weekend, leaders of the Group of 7 (G7), representing seven of the 10 largest economies in the world, agreed to do “whatever is necessary” to contain the virus and support the global economy, However, China, India and Brazil, the three other members of the top 10 largest economies, are not a members of the intergovernmental organisation, but all will be included in the G20 gathering.
Even though China, the world’s second largest economy, has battled the coronavirus to a standstill in the last two months, it was not mentioned in a near-800 word communique released by the G7 on Monday.
The G20 gathering could give China a forum to answer the growing calls by Chinese scholars for Beijing to boost its role in world governance by pushing globally the model it used to contain the coronavirus, which appears to be succeeding.
On Wednesday, China reported just one new domestic case and 12 imported cases. A total of 11 new deaths were also reported, although all were in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.
China has yet to officially offer any proposals for the emergency meetings as other regions and countries around the world seek to combat rising cases and deaths as well as the subsequent economic impact.
A Chinese government adviser, who declined to discuss the matter publicly, said it was not the time for China to declare victory but rather first contain the virus. China should also take steps to resume production so that its domestic economy can recover, and therefore help the rest of the world, the person added.
China should only then participate in global coordination as the third step, collaborating in the development of a vaccine, having already provided medical support to Italy and Spain as well as a number of developing countries.
Global coordination, which has so far been lacking, was indeed needed whether among G7 or G20 countries to avoid the pandemic getting out of control and resulting in a new round of global economic crisis and social turmoil, the adviser said.
“China needs the world and the world also needs China,” he said.
The news of the G20 meeting comes as governments in the US and Europe dramatically stepped up efforts in recent days to control the spread of the virus and the economic damage it is causing.
China needs the world and the world also needs ChinaChinese government adviser
With reported deaths in the United States now over 100, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly warned Republican senators on Tuesday that unemployment could rise to 20 per cent without significant government stimulus intervention.
The Trump administration is proposing a near US$1 trillion financial package to bail out troubled industries, such as airlines, and hand out US$1,000 to every American to help them pay bills and keep spending.
European Union leaders have also signed off a ban on almost all foreign travel into the bloc for 30 days with over 61,000 cases confirmed in member states and Britain, including over 2,700 deaths.
During the 2008 global financial crisis, G20 countries extended a US$1 trillion package largely via funding for the International Monetary Fund and trade finance credits.
"US President Donald Trump's continuous attacks to the transatlantic alliance, let alone to China through the trade war he initiated two years ago, have reduced the US’ leeway – and probably interest – to lead a coordinated action,” said Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at Natixis.
In a phone call with the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres last week, President Xi Jinping said China was ready to share its experiences, carry out joint research and development for drugs and vaccines, and offer as much help as it could to other affected countries.
A G20 summit was originally expected to take place in November, but next week’s meeting underscores the urgency for leaders to reach a consensus concerning containment and economic rescue measures.
“The G20 will act, alongside international organisations, in any way deemed necessary to alleviate the impact of the pandemic,” the Saudi G20 presidency said in statement on Tuesday. “G20 leaders will put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy.”
Founded in 1999, the G20 has expanded its agenda since the 2008 global financial crisis when China played a key role in helping the global economy.
A perceived failure by the US as well as European governments to contain the outbreak and to mitigate the resulting economic damage is fuelling the perception that the global economy is headed for a deep recession because of the severe, and in many cases, permanent damage being done to businesses.
Global stocks, bonds and oil markets have succumbed into panic over the past three weeks, with US equities suffering their biggest drop since the 1987 crash on Monday.
Last week, Wang Huiyao, the founder and president of Centre for China and Globalisation, called for China or the US to conduct an emergency meeting with other G20 countries to discuss a coordinated response to the pandemic.
According to Wang, China now has a good chance to gain more understanding and recognition of its governance model from other countries and improve its international image given the speed and effective way it has brought the coronavirus under control might be applicable to other countries.
In addition to a global leaders summit, Wang said that the World Health Organisation could call a gathering of health ministers in Beijing to share experiences in combating the virus.
There is no time to point fingers at each other, we human beings now should focus on our common enemyWang Huiyao
Wang added that China had “an excellent opportunity to show the world” how to control the virus, including its decision to build makeshift hospitals, the implementation of community quarantines and the application of big data to preciously screen and track infected cases.
“There is no time to point fingers at each other, we human beings now should focus on our common enemy,” Wang said. “The epidemic is a wake-up call telling us we are all on the same Noah's Ark, none of us is an isolated island or can stand alone.”
Wang added that China could use “mask diplomacy” to assist countries in need of medical equipment, while also saying that China should not seek to be “the leader” but “a key contributor”.