Boao Forum: China's Xi and other leaders urge world to work together in Covid-19 battle

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering his speech during the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia on April 20, 2021.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering his speech during the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia on April 20, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

BOAO - The world has to work together in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in areas like vaccine development and distribution in order to defeat the virus, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the Boao Forum on Tuesday (April 20).

It was a theme that was echoed by several other global leaders who addressed the opening plenary session, including Singapore President Halimah Yacob, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Solidarity and cooperation are needed in the ongoing fight against Covid-19, especially in areas like information sharing and collective efforts, especially in the area of vaccines, Mr Xi said in his video keynote address to the forum held in the southern Hainan province.

"It is important that we bolster international cooperation on the research and development, production and distribution of vaccines and increase their accessibility and affordability in developing countries so that everyone in the world can access and afford the vaccines they need," he said.

"It is also important that we take comprehensive measures to improve global governance on public health security and work together for a global community of health for all."

Through the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese firms have already begun joint vaccine production with countries like Indonesia, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.

"We will expand cooperation with various parties in infectious disease control, public health, traditional medicine and other areas to jointly protect the lives and health of people in all countries," he added, calling for closer partnerships in the area of health.

Amid tensions between China and the United States, Mr Xi said countries need to come together to tackle global challenges, calling it "an age of hope".

Following his speech, 22 leaders and heads of international organisations addressed the forum, many doing so virtually. They include International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva, World Trade Organisation director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and World Intellectual Property Organisation head Daren Tang.

In her video message, Madam Halimah said Covid-19 has underscored the importance of multilateralism, and has given the world a common cause to band together.

Mr Widodo said the global pandemic is a test for whether countries would be able to work together to fulfil proclamations made during multilateral platforms and global summits, especially in areas like equal access to vaccines.

"Can we walk the talk?" he said.

Asia also needs to scale up its public health spending, create a warning system and invest more in the pharmaceutical and biosciences industry, he added.

While the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way countries interact with each other, Mr Widodo said the world is in fact a giant village currently lacking in cohesiveness.

New Zealand's Ms Ardern also touched on the theme of a global village, noting that it is necessary to restore and build trust in the international institutions that allow for small countries to have a voice.

Pointing to New Zealand's recent chairing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Ms Ardern said organisations like these help ensure equality across all countries, that inaccessibility is not exacerbated by Covid 19, and that economic recovery does not leave behind the disadvantaged or minorities.

"Countries within institutions might not always agree on every issue, much like in bilateral relations, but they are the world's best option in dealing with complex issues that require joint consultations," she said.