Boao Forum-2021 — a success story | By Sultan M Hali


Boao Forum-2021 — a success story

BOAO Forum for Asia (BFA) 2021, celebrated its twentieth anniversary when it met last week and reached far reaching decisions concerning the future of humankind.

Established two decades ago, in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, to strengthen cooperation and come together to tackle challenges and crises, the forum has come a long way since its first meeting in 2001.

Headquartered in China’s Boao, Hainan Province, selected because of China’s international status and immense market potential, and Hainan’s unique natural and ecological environment, Boao Forum has already broken new ground and expanded its scope and influence.

The theme of this year’s conference was “A World in Change: Join Hands to Strengthen Global Governance and Advance Belt and Road Cooperation.”

In the backdrop of the major tensions between China and the U.S. and the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world over the past year, President Xi, in his speech delivered at the opening ceremony of the 2021 conference, chalked out the road ahead for the region and the world, based on cooperation and mutual respect between nations and rather than on unilateral decisions of individual countries, while emphasizing the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.

In his address to the BFA, President Xi Jinping reflected on how the economy of the Asia Pacific region has seen incredible development during that period.

“Over these two decades, Asian countries have advanced regional economic integration and worked in unison to pursue both economic and social development, which has turned Asia into the most vibrant and promising region in the global economy,” Xi said.

At the same time, he noted that the world has entered a period of dramatic and unsettling changes.

“Now, the combined forces of changes and a pandemic both unseen in a century have brought the world into a phase of fluidity and transformation,” Xi stressed.

In his sagacity, President Xi presented a persuasive option to tackle change rather than being stuck in acrimony and fear.

He listed several steps that could be taken to move in the direction of a better and more peaceful world.

Firstly, he called for consultation between nations on an equal footing to create a future of shared benefits.

Secondly, he underlined the need for greater openness and innovation within and among nations.

Thirdly, he called for solidarity and cooperation in the area of health and security. And fourthly, he called for a commitment to justice “to create a future of mutual respect and mutual learning.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it all clearer to people around the world that we must reject the cold-war and zero-sum mentality and oppose a new ‘Cold War’ and ideological confrontation in whatever form,” Xi said.

“In state-to-state relations, the principles of equality, mutual respect, and mutual trust must be put front and center.”

The timing of Xi’s significant speech is notable, since it came several days before the upcoming virtual climate summit summoned by President Biden, which President Xi will also attend.

Since both the US and China are world leaders and wield considerable influence, it is hoped that they will concur on moving beyond the fragmented relationship between the two giants to adopt concrete measures to tackle the serious challenges posed by climate change.

President Xi has already committed to an extensive program of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060.

This goal will be a major undertaking for China given the fact that it is still largely reliant on fossil fuels for its energy production, but seeing the measures that have already been taken by China in this respect, there can be little doubt that this commitment is real and do-able.

In his speech to BFA, President Xi also emphasized the other great task of our era, namely bringing mankind out of the vicious circle of endemic poverty.

China has shown the way by bringing around 800 million people out of poverty over the last several decades.

This remains now an important marker for the rest of the world to follow. Xi also underlined the importance of the BRI in this large poverty alleviation program.

“A World Bank report suggests that by 2030, Belt and Road projects could help lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million people from moderate poverty across the world,” Xi reiterated.

Assuring his listeners that China would “continue to play its part in building world peace, promoting global development, and defending international order,” She stated that “By setting sail together, we could ride the wind, break the waves, and brave the journey of ten thousand miles.”

He warned that “We may at times encounter stormy waves and dangerous rapids, but as long as we pool our efforts and keep to the right direction, the giant vessel of human development will stay on an even keel and sail toward a brighter future.”

This sanguine message provides solace to a world still torn apart by great divisions.

The Chinese President concluded on an optimistic note that China will stay committed to peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, develop friendship and cooperation with other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and promote a new type of international relations.

China will continue to carry out anti-COVID cooperation with the WHO and other countries, honour its commitment of making vaccines a global public good, and do more to help developing countries defeat the virus.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.

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