With the world caught between the COVID-19 pandemic and other momentous changes, BRICS leaders held the 12th annual summit via video link on Tuesday, showing their common willingness to jointly safeguard multilateralism, stem the coronavirus and revive the global economy.
The virtual meeting of the five major emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, came when the coronavirus pandemic, widely described as the most challenging global crisis since World War II, has so far infected more than 55 million people and killed 1.3 million, and the global caseload is still surging.
As a consequence, global trade and investment have been battered tremendously. According to a forecast by the International Monetary Fund, the world economy will shrink by 4.4 percent this year, and emerging markets and developing countries will register negative growth for the first time in 60 years.
Even worse, before the pandemic, protectionism and unilateralism have been rearing their heads while the deficits in governance, trust, development and peace have continuously widened.
At such a critical moment, Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech called on BRICS countries to uphold multilateralism and jointly overcome global challenges, and shared his proposals on how to achieve that goal.
For starters, facing the choice between multilateralism and unilateralism, and between justice and hegemony, Xi urged BRICS countries to hold high the banner of multilateralism and stand up for equity and justice in the world. Notably, they should join hands in safeguarding the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law.
Also, as a new wave of COVID-19 infections has ripped through many parts of the world, countries, as Xi has proposed, need to enhance solidarity and coordination to jointly address the COVID-19 challenge. To this end, they must mobilize all resources to protect people's lives and defeat this virus within their borders, while stepping up international coordination and response, share information and epidemic control experience and support the World Health Organization's crucial leadership role in this endeavor.
Unfortunately, there are also attempts to exploit the pandemic to stigmatize and scapegoat others, which have disrupted the ongoing international anti-virus cooperation. Thus, another task for countries is to overcome division with unity, replace bias with reason and stamp out all kinds of political viruses.
Meanwhile, to jumpstart global economic recovery, countries need to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, follow through on the initiative on facilitating cross-border flow of people and goods, and keep industrial and supply chains safe and open to better enable business resumption. Amid the rising sentiments of "de-globalization" and clamor for so-called "economic decoupling," countries should give full-throated support for building an open world economy and the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core.
Hailing Xi's appeal for upholding multilateralism, Jim O'Neill, chairman of the London-based think tank Chatham House, said safeguarding multilateralism amid the coronavirus pandemic is "exceptionally important."
Countries should strengthen and coordinate their efforts to develop treatments and vaccines, said O'Neill, who in the early 2000s coined the acronym BRIC that represents Brazil, Russia, India and China, expressing the hope that all BRICS countries can return to stronger growth after the pandemic.
In these regards, China, as a responsible major country, has along been serving its promises with actions as it has been striving to join the rest of the world in beating the coronavirus and stimulating common development.
In his speech, Xi compared countries to "passengers in the same boat," saying that "when the wind is strong and the tides are high, we must be even more focused on our direction." Indeed, in this changing and challenging time, only by sticking to multilateralism and uniting their strength can humanity ride out the storms and sail steadily to a brighter future.