Xinhua Commentary: Asia's indispensable role in building better post-pandemic world

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by Xinhua writer He Fei

BOAO, China, April 20 (Xinhua) -- The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) was born 20 years ago at a time when Asian economies just emerged out of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and were striving to build up momentum for regional development and integration.

Over the past two decades, Asia has seen almost unparalleled economic leapfrog and social progress, contributing immensely to the world's stability and vitality. And the BFA has grown in prominence to become a key global venue for world leaders, business titans and scholars of the region and the wider world to feel the pulse of the times, inspire each other with new and creative ideas, and amass greater consensus for cooperation.

This year's forum, scheduled for April 18 to April 21, comes at an age of great uncertainties: the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is still not in sight; the global economy is struggling to get back on its feet; pressing challenges like climate change are demanding stronger global cooperation; and the global governance system is in a desperate need for an update.

Asia, as it has done in the past, will continue to be a force for common good in this world of unprecedented change and challenges. And the international community can expect new inspirations over the coming days in Boao, southern China.

To beat the pandemic remains a top priority. Over the past year, many Asian countries have done an impressive job in containing the spread of the deadly pathogen. The fact that this year's BFA can be held offline is a clear evidence for the effective epidemic control of the host country.

What can be learned from Asia's fight against the pandemic are the spirit to put human lives first, responsible governments with determined measures, citizens willing to make personal sacrifices for public good, as well as stronger regional solidarity and cooperation in the face of a once-in-a-century health crisis.

Those are also enlightening tips for the human race to solve other global challenges, including climate change.

Seeking an economic rebound worldwide is equally challenging. Asia's role as a stable powerhouse and a champion of free trade for a steadfast global recovery in the post-pandemic era is both reliable and indispensible.

Last year, GDP (gross domestic product) growth in East Asia reached a positive rate of 1 percent, despite that the global economy shrank by 4.3 percent, according to a UN report on global economic situation and prospects.

As the world's largest economy by continent, an economically dynamic Asia can further unleash huge growth potential and send positive spillover to the rest of the world if the region is further integrated in trade and common development.

For instance, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, signed last year and expected to become effective in 2022, brings together China, Japan, and South Korea for the first time in a common regional agreement. It forms the world's largest free trade zone across a wide assortment of indicators. According to forecasts by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, this mega free trade pact will raise annual global incomes in 2030 by 186 billion U.S. dollars.

In the meantime, infrastructure is also key to spurring investment and common growth in Asia and elsewhere around the world. That is why delegates gathering at this year's BFA will elaborate on how to electrify high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

What Asia can contribute to the world is not just material, but also ideational.

Over the millenniums, Asia has been the cradle of an array of distinct civilizations. It is also the land that gave birth to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, the now widely-acknowledged international diplomatic tenets. Tolerance to diversity and respect for differences among Asian nations is part of the reason why the continent can always maintain its exuberance.

Building a more sustainable and just world in the post-pandemic era requires more than ever different countries to accommodate each other's development interests, and build effective partnership to fix daunting global problems. Thus countries worldwide should not view their differences as an excuse for hostility, but rather translate them into fresh impetus for progress and cooperation.

That is why Chinese President Xi Jinping noted in his keynote speech via video at the opening ceremony of this year's BFA on Tuesday that the world wants justice, not hegemony, and stressed that the global governance system should be made more equitable and fair, and that rules set by one country or some nations cannot be imposed on others.

Many political leaders and experts around the world are trying to define the 21st century as the "Asian century." That is correct in some sense because of Asia's unmatched vigour and promise. Yet ultimately, in this highly interconnected and interdependent world, Asia and the rest of the globe share one common future. And building a better world for all nations is only possible when this grand project is done by all. Enditem

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