In the French Riviera resort of Cannes in early November 2011, a murky spell of strong wind and heavy rain swept away the usual glamor and cast the town into damp gloom.
The uninviting weather, however, befitted the moment, as leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) major economies gathered in the Mediterranean town to seek ways to reinvigorate the still stagnant world economy.
Since the outbreak of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, global growth still remained sluggish and fragile, stunted by a festering debt crisis in Europe, a slackening recovery in the United States and increasing pressure on emerging economies.
It was indeed a time of great trial and test. But it is against this challenging backdrop that China has stepped into the limelight and played a responsible role on the world stage.
“Given the serious risks facing the global economy and continued market volatility, ensuring growth and promoting stability should be the top priority for the G20 Summit,” Chinese President Hu Jintao said unequivocally at the Cannes meeting.
Just as he had done at the previous five G20 summits, Hu also urged the grouping, which had become the premier forum for international economic cooperation, representing more than 90 percent of global GDP, to “demonstrate the spirit of standing together in times of adversity and pursuing win-win cooperation.”
What was striking was that, at a time when major developed countries were deeply preoccupied with their own woes and trade protectionism was rearing its head, China, notwithstanding its own pressures, honored its commitment to common development and prosperity by extending a true helping hand to the least developed countries (LDCs).
“To further help the least developed countries in their development endeavor, China will … give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariff items of exports to China from the least developed countries having diplomatic ties with China,” Hu declared.
This unexpected announcement gained worldwide applause. Waheedullah Ghazikhel, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industries, told Xinhua shortly after Hu’s announcement that the program would further promote bilateral trade and facilitate his country’s postwar reconstruction and development.
China, commented Valentine Rugwabiza, deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization, had set a good example for others to follow in helping the LDCs.
“China has managed to sit at the table of the world’s leading powers and to do so in a constructive and positive way,” said former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin in a recent interview with Xinhua.
ROBUST GROWTH DRIVER
The assistance for the LDCs is only part of China’s responsible approach and commitment to common development and prosperity. Among others, the dedication is particularly salient in China’s interaction with Africa, the continent with the largest numbers of LDCs and developing countries.
Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was set up in 2000, China has offered soft loans worth 15 billion U.S. dollars to Africa, and its open market and direct investment have been a strong propelling force for the continent’s growth.
Meanwhile, China has surpassed the United States as the continent’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade volume reaching 166.3 billion dollars in 2011.
China is not just transfusing blood, but also helping the rising continent improve its own blood-making capability. It has helped local communities in 50 countries build some 200 social projects, including schools, hospitals and model farms, and has trained 40,000 technicians for African countries.
Between 2001 and 2010, according to The Economist magazine, six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies were in Africa.
China-Africa cooperation, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in July 2012 at the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC in Beijing, was not only creating opportunities for African countries to diversify their economies, create jobs and improve health care and education, but also contributing to the world economy at a time when the world’s traditional economic engines had sputtered.
As regards accusations against China of being a neocolonialist or resource exploiter, U.S. scholar Deborah Brautigam, author of “The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa” and an Africa researcher at Johns Hopkins University, offered a telling answer.
“When people asked about whether they see China as a new colonial power, Africans told me, ‘we know colonialism and these (questions) are insulting our intelligence,'” she told Xinhua in a recent interview.
The world has also seen China acting responsibly and constructively elsewhere, particularly in such multilateral international organizations as G20 and APEC, where China has been leading the charge against protectionism and in the struggle for more growth.
As the rest of the world was paralyzed by the financial crisis originating from Wall Street, China promptly unleashed a 4-trillion-yuan (about 570-billion-dollar) stimulus package, turning itself into a major driving force of global growth.
China has also pledged a 43-billion-dollar contribution to the recapitalization of the International Monetary Fund, which urgently needs the money to help the crisis-plagued Europe.
During the past 10 years, China has navigated its economic ark through numerous patches of capricious and unchartered waters, impressing the world with breathtaking growth and remarkable resilience.
Official statistics show that, in the past decade, China has overtaken Britain, France, Germany and Japan and morphed into the second largest economy in the world, and its tremendous and still growing market is creating more and more opportunities for the whole world.
According to Goldman Sachs, China contributed more than 20 percent to the world’s GDP growth during the 2000-2009 period. World Bank figures showed that in 2009, the peak of the international financial crisis,China’s contribution exceeded 50 percent.
China had made “enormous contributions” to pulling the world out of the 2008 global financial wipeout, said Pieter P. Bottelier, a senior adjunct professor of China studies at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in Washington.