Grasp the trend of development, and jointly respond to common threats

2021-April-16 17:15 By:

Guest speakers:

Grasp the trend of development, and jointly respond to common threats

Togo Kazuhiko, Director of Institute of International Studies, Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan.

Grasp the trend of development, and jointly respond to common threats

Yang Bojiang, Special Researcher of the Research Center of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era; and Director of the Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


Grasp the trend of development, and jointly respond to common threats

Xiao Lianbing, Secretary General of Guangming Daily International Exchange, Cooperation and Communication Center

Human beings are gaining deeper understanding about Covid-19 in the process of fighting the disease

Xiao Lianbing: Director Kazuhiko and Director Yang, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is still rising with each passing day. How will this pandemic affect the human society?

Togo Kazuhiko: The impact is indeed far-reaching. It’s been a year now and there is still a staggering number of confirmed cases worldwide, and the death toll keeps rising. The US has registered the most infections and deaths, accounting for about 20% of the world’s total. Infections in India, Brazil and other developing countries are also on the rise. When cluster infection happens in places like refugee camps, it’s hard to imagine how chaotic the situation may become as these places lack the basic medical system. As a compromise, we have so far chosen social distancing, but the eventual solution lies in vaccines and therapeutics. In countries like China, Vietnam and New Zealand, the epidemic has been basically contained. But it’s difficult now for other countries and regions to re-start economic activities and handle epidemic prevention at the same time.

Sociologists in Japan pointed out that with the development of urbanization, forests have been cut down, and the chance of human contact with wild animals has increased significantly, so does the chance of infection. Major natural disasters brought about by climate change, and the coronavirus pandemic are all negative consequences of mankind’s excessive exploitation of nature. So far, we have not seriously considered these issues. However, they have a significant impact on human society, and we should really think about it very seriously.

Yang Bojiang: Covid-19 has left the world with major and profound impacts. The number of infections and deaths is still rising. According to the projection of the Asian Development Bank, Covid-19 is expected to result in a loss of 5.8 – 8.8 trillion USD to the world economy, and 500 million people may return to below the poverty line. This pandemic is unprecedented if we look at its scope of impact, the extent of damage and the losses it will cause. Moreover, human beings are still learning the disease over the course of fighting it, and great uncertainties lie ahead as far how the pandemic will evolve and how long it will last. The human society may live under its threat for a long time.

As a global public health crisis, the pandemic has accelerated the global trend of major transformations and adjustments. Its impact over the international community has gone far beyond the health sector, and has extended to the spheres of politics, economy, society and culture. However, the development of human society has to follow certain inherent laws and trends. The pandemic will inevitably escalate or mitigate some problems, but it will not change the overall trend of development.

Leverage the Eastern Asian “culture genes” that are conducive to epidemic prevention and control

Xiao Lianbing: China and Japan extended support to each other after the outbreak of the epidemic. People used classic poetry to express the hope of fighting the disease and weathering through the storm together. How do you comment such strength of friendship?

Togo Kazuhiko: I give very high appraisal to our friendship. Chinese and Japanese people spontaneously engaged in relief activities in the immediate aftermath of the epidemic, and they used Chinese classical poetry to express good wishes to each other. This fully demonstrated the long history of friendly exchanges between the two countries and our common cultural characteristics.

Yang Bojiang: China and Japan are important and close neighbors to each other. They not only share profound historical and cultural ties, but also close economic and social ties. Before the outbreak, in 2019, bilateral people-to-people exchanges reached a record high of nearly 13 million. Although Covid-19 blocked personnel exchanges between China and Japan, during the evacuation of overseas Japanese from Wuhan and afterwards, Chinese and Japanese officials and non-governmental organizations have shown a cooperative attitude in responding to the epidemic with a humanitarian spirit, helping each other and overcoming the difficulties together. The Chinese poetry line of “though miles apart, we are under the same sky” reflected the cultural bond and emotional tie between the two countries, and it also should be the direction of people-to-people exchanges between China and Japan in the future.

Xiao Lianbing: What measures has Japan taken in coordinating epidemic control and economic recovery? How is the Japanese economy performing now?

Togo Kazuhiko: Japan has a low death rate of Covid-19 and this is indeed worthy of praise, but the Japanese people aren’t so relieved because the numbers of infection and death are still rising, and the number of fast and low-cost PCR tests hasn’t increased, so it’s difficult to confirm the real number of infected cases. Before the massive vaccination program is carried out, Japan may expect another wave of the epidemic.

In order to promote economic development and expand the domestic consumer market, the Japanese government implemented stimulus measures in the form of state subsidies. However, it is obviously self-contradictory to stimulate consumption before the epidemic is brought under control. There are also many reports on this self-contradictory policy in Japan.

Yang Bojiang: Japan can hardly survive alone at a time when the pandemic is still ravaging the world. Japan has experienced three waves so far, and has twice declared emergency lockdowns in some areas. The pandemic has left a damaging impact on Japan’s economy and society, but compared with some European countries and the US, the infection and death rates in Japan are relatively low. As a developed country, Japan boasts a world-class medical and health system with advanced technology and rich resources. Moreover, the Japanese society is well organized, its citizens are disciplined and they maintain very good hygiene habits, all of which are very helpful to slowing the spread of the disease. This being said, Covid-19 is still spreading in Japan, and the Japanese government is still struggling to strike a balance between epidemic prevention and economic recovery.

Facing the pandemic and sluggish domestic and external demand, the “mild recovery” that the Japanese economy experienced before Covid-19 halted abruptly. In 2020, Japan’s economy saw a negative growth and it will take some time to recover. Some think tanks in Japan believe that its economy won’t return to the pre-covid level until 2023. Under such circumstances, Japan should use fiscal and financial leverage to vigorously tap domestic demand; and strengthen international economic and trade cooperation and gain momentum from external demand. According to data from the Ministry of Finance of Japan, Japan’s total exports in 2020 decreased by 11.1% against the previous year, but exports to China increased by 2.7%. Its exports to China accounted for more than 20% of its total foreign trade for the first time, and after two years China once again replaced the United States and became Japan’s largest export market. Strengthening its economic and trade ties with China, which is Japan’s largest economic partner, is obviously of great significance to Japan’s economic recovery.

Xiao Lianbing: In China, Japan and South Korea, epidemic prevention and control measures have received more social support. Does this have to do with the people’s observance of the government’s Covid-19 measures?

Togo Kazuhiko: Indeed, people in China, Japan and South Korea share the habit of following government policies. But they do it in quite different ways. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the will and decisions of the party are of strong authority. After the outbreak in Wuhan, the epidemic was brought under control within a very short period of time, which fully demonstrated that the government’s decision had received active support from the public.

Although South Korea has gone through some difficult struggles, its people generally recognized the disease as a national emergency, and have in general obeyed the government’s decisions.

The Japanese government, on the contrary, has “begged” the public to maintain the necessary social distancing. This is likely followed by a wide public obedience because if some people don’t follow these advises, they will be subjected to invisible pressure from their surrounding environment, and may even risk being abandoned by the society. Japan’s handling of the pandemic has fully reflected the characteristics of the Japanese society.

Yang Bojiang: During the fight against the epidemic, China, Japan, South Korea, and other East Asian countries demonstrated a form of social governance and some “cultural similarities” that are quite different from the west. These, of course, cannot guarantee the success of epidemic control, and even within the East Asian cultural circle, China, Japan and South Korea each has their own specific national conditions, and different political, social, and cultural systems, so we can’t generalize anything here. However, compared with the West, East Asian countries do share some specific “cultural genes”, such as respecting and observing natural laws and social rules, and individuals valuing their group belonging and social identity, and people paying more attention to public interests and personal responsibilities than personal interests, etc.

The “cultural genes” shared by East Asian countries have a deep origin, and are impacting the national governance of China, Japan and South Korea and the behavior of their citizens. Reality has shown that effective epidemic prevention and control hinges on wide social mobilization and a relatively centralized governance mechanism that bridges the government and the public, which mobilizes everyone to act together in observing rules and preventive measures. And this is precisely the characteristics and advantages of East Asian countries in social governance based on their traditional culture. China, Japan and South Korea should further strengthen cooperation based on the consensus they share in Covid control and social governance models, so that the “cultural genes” conducive to epidemic prevention will lead to greater, substantive effects.

Covid-19 is an opportunity to reflect upon and improve social governance

Xiao Lianbing: Covid-19 has revealed the problems of national governance systems and capabilities of some countries. In the post-pandemic era, how should countries improve their governance system and governance capabilities?

Togo Kazuhiko: This is a very important question. As mentioned earlier, people in Japan, China, South Korea, and Europe and the US have responded differently to the government’s covid policies. The national governance system against Covid-19 must be based on the social traditions and characteristics of each country, and it can’t be easily judged or generalized.

Yang Bojiang: In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, social governance has become a prominent issue both at the global and national levels. Covid-19 is a “stress test” on the governance capabilities of countries around the world. The result shows that some developed countries behaved poorly than expected, while some developing countries managed to control the epidemic effectively by leveraging their governance capabilities. The governance capabilities of a country not only directly affect the effectiveness of prevention and control policies, but also largely determine the recovery of economic and social activities. This pandemic has witnessed the narrowing gap between some emerging countries and developed economies.

In this sense, the pandemic has proven that it’s wrong to judge a social governance model from a politicized and ideological perspective, but rather we need to look at the actual performance of the governance model in solving practical problems and addressing major problems.

Xiao Lianbing: Chinese President Xi Jinping advocates the concept of a community of shared future for mankind. This pandemic highlights the common challenges and destiny faced by mankind. After the outbreak, President Xi Jinping proposed to build a shared health community for mankind. How do you comment on this?

Togo Kazuhiko: The concept of a community of shared future for mankind is consistent with the shared health community for mankind, and it is quite practical, too. As mentioned earlier, mankind needs to reflect upon this pandemic. Of course, the specific response policies of each country should be formulated by the country based on its own conditions, and a coordinated mechanism should be sought on this basis.

Yang Bojiang: Covid-19 is a common threat facing all mankind. Fighting it entails the unity of the international community that transcends national and ethnic boundaries, and differences in interests and concepts, only in so doing can the world firmly grasp the trend of development, and work together to respond to common threats. This is exactly what President Xi Jinping proposed with the concept of a community of shared future for mankind, which not only emphasizes international and regional coordination and cooperation, but also respects the specific national conditions and independent choices of each country.

The pandemic shows that both developing and developed countries need to rely on international cooperation to jointly close loopholes in public health and address non-conventional security threats. In May 2020, at the opening ceremony of the 73rd World Health Assembly, President Xi Jinping proposed the concept of a shared health community for mankind. In November of the same year, at the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, President Xi Jinping put forward a number of specific initiatives to promote international anti-epidemic cooperation, including conducting policy dialogues in the field of public health and jointly building emergency medical supplies, establishing a public health emergency liaison mechanism, training health administrative personnel and professionals, and improving public health services at the reginal level. The continuous spread of Covid-19 will inevitably trigger more demand for international cooperation, and drive long-term, institutionalized, and networked cooperation.

Xiao Lianbing: The Chinese government proposed a “dual circulation” development pattern with the domestic market as the mainstay and domestic and foreign markets reinforcing each other. China also formulated the 14th Five-Year Plan for national economic and social development. Any comment on this?

Togo Kazuhiko: China’s current number of infections and deaths has basically stopped growing. From this perspective, it’s fair to say that China has contained the epidemic within its territory. Then it’s only a matter of time before the economy returns to its normal state. After the economy returns to normal, a balance should be maintained between domestic and foreign trade, and between domestic economic circulation and foreign trade, but that will be another topic of your economic policy, which I think it’s important to consider the interests of your own people, but also the concerns of other countries, and it’s important to deepen exchanges and communication with other countries.

Yang Bojiang: With the joint efforts of people of the whole country, China has achieved major strategic results in epidemic prevention and control. At present, China is still unswervingly practicing routine control measures, preventing inbound cases and domestic resurgences while coordinating social and economic development. China’s achievements in the fight against the pandemic are precisely the result of adhering to the “people-oriented” concept and the notion that “everything we do is for the people”, which showcases the advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and its governance model.

China’s “14th Five-Year Plan” and its “dual-circulation” strategy prove the fact that for China, development remains the key to solving all problems, and that for China to develop, we must adhere to the people-centered approach and the new development concept, we have to deepen reform and opening up, and achieve comprehensive, sustained and healthy economic and social development on the basis of quality and efficiency. To this end, China will continue to implement a mutually beneficial and win-win strategy, support the building of an open world economy, and further deepen dialogue, and cooperate and consult with other countries. In our view, it is obviously not in the interests of any party to use the pandemic to engage in “de-globalization”, to promote closed-door development, or to seek “decoupling” and even confrontation.

Xiao Lianbing: After World War II, the world has undergone tremendous changes. Peace and development have become the themes of the times. What do you think of the theme of our times?

Togo Kazuhiko: As a goal, peace and development are undoubtedly the correct theme. But throughout the history of mankind, there have been periods of drastic changes accompanied by changes of models. In other words, the emergence of new and competitive forces challenging the existing force that sustains the status quo, in which circumstance the balance of power serves as the necessary basis for the two forces to exist peacefully together. But so far, we haven’t seen such balance, and it is expected that the tension will continue for some time.

Yang Bojiang: Covid-19 has not pushed the world to drift away from the themes of our times, rather it’s a profound and vivid footnote to such themes. Even though Covid-19 has brought huge uncertainty to the world, China’s assessment on the overall situation has not changed. We believe that peace and development are still the themes of the times. The world is becoming more multi-polarized, economy is more globalized, society is more informatized, culture more diversified and the global governance system and the international order are quickly evolving, countries are becoming more connected and dependent on each other, power is becoming more balanced, and the trend of peaceful development is irreversible.

The peace and development of the human society depend on a stable and reasonable international order. The reconstruction of the international order in the post-pandemic era calls for greater multilateralism. Rather than the challenges brought by the so- called “rise of emerging powers”, the current crisis facing the international order include not only the short-term pressure brought by the pandemic, but also the long-term and sustained impact of unilateralism and hegemonism on the current international order and rules. To achieve peace and development, it is necessary to vigorously resist unilateralism and hegemonism, consolidate consensus and coordinate actions through dialogue while respecting the diverse interests of countries, so as to promote a more reasonable, fair and inclusive international economic and political order. And this has always been the basic starting point of China’s diplomacy.

As President Xi Jinping said in his special address to the World Economic Forum’s “Davos Agenda” in January 2021, mankind has only one earth, and mankind has only one common future. Reality has repeatedly proved that any beggar-thy-neighbor approach, any idea of going it alone, and any narcissistic arrogance will inevitably fail in the end. We should let the torch of multilateralism illuminate the road ahead for mankind and make continuous progress towards a community of shared future for mankind.

Editor: WPY
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