In February 2021, President Xi announced that China had won the war against extreme poverty, lifting 100 million Chinese people out of poverty. Since gaining power in 2012-13, Xi had included anti-poverty objectives among China’s three “tough battles,” alongside risk prevention and pollution control.
After the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in September 2013, China underwent major changes in domestic growth objectives. Green growth became a paramount vector of the country’s overall strategy. At the September 2020 United Nations General Assembly, for instance, President Xi Jinping announced the country’s aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
In 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping officially charted the idea of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during an official visit to Kazakhstan. From mines to railways, China embarked in a large number of infrastructure projects to enhance land and maritime trade connectivity. There was never a clear target in terms of the amount of investments needed for the BRI to be successful, though official estimates hovered between 4 and 8 trillion USD.
The torching of Chinese-financed factories in an industrial township of Yangon, on 14 March, signaled the first outburst of violence, linked to the current anti-coup demonstrations, directly targeting Chinese economic interests in the country.
On 1 March 2021, a message posted on the official Coronavirus Info Telegram channel informed Uzbek citizens that “the first coronavirus vaccine in Uzbekistan ZF-UZ-VAC2001” had been approved. Following messages would contain infographics with images of vials of the “Chinese-Uzbek vaccine” decorated with the Chinese and the Uzbek flags.
Which measures has China implemented to confront the pandemic-driven national economic slowdown? Which sectors have been hit the most and what are the consequences today? Have previous crises (like SARS in 2003) been an advantage to perfect the country's responses? And which part has technology played in confronting the health crisis and spurring economic recovery?
The pandemic has cast a severe negative influence on the world economy. The Global Economic Outlook Report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that global GDP fell by 4.2% in 2020, which means that the total global economy dropped from $87.75 trillion in 2019 to $84.07 trillion in 2020, shrinking by $3.68 trillion.
The impact of Covid-19 on Africa and the developing world has been foremost an economic crisis, followed by a health crisis that will have profound implications for the China-Africa economic relationship in the years to come. The pandemic represents a critical juncture for China’s role in development finance in Africa and for commercial relations, but we are also likely to see continuity and growth in China-Africa diplomatic engagement and in other areas of cooperation.
The 17+1 platform between China and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has always been mostly show with little substance. The February 2021 summit continues with this tradition. The novelty is, however, that the CEE countries are now visibly losing interest in the show, too. That puts a question mark on the future of the platform.
Italy-China relations have experienced significant shifts since the beginning of President Xi Jinping’s mandate, partly following the differing “Chinese views” of governing coalitions over those years, and a widespread outdated perception of the need to adapt bilaterally to the so-called “China’s rise”. Those swings have resulted in a very confused perception of Italy’s “China policy” on the part of both China itself and Italy’s European partners.
When Covid-19 hit the Balkans, it was too soon to foresee that besides local health systems the pandemic would impact regional geopolitics too. In the longstanding instability also caused by stagnation in the EU integration process for Balkan countries, China exploited the situation to increase its influence in the region.
Tracing the outline of British-Chinese relations as we enter 2021 is akin to surveying the landscape after an earthquake. The global geopolitical topography remains uncertain, but the triple trauma of Brexit ambiguity, a Trump presidency, and the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, all appear to be on the way out. In late 2017, amid what remained of the Sino-British golden era’s afterglow, I was asked to write an article discussing the year ahead.