Profound Changes, Big Test and Great Cooperation

By Zheng Bijian


Suddenly, a pandemic that caught all by surprise has brought disruptions to the development process and all the expectations of humanity on the threshold of the third decade of the 21st century.

An equally unexpected surge of protectionism, unilateralism and populism and the ensuing de-globalization undercurrents has added more uncertainties to the world.

The resulting loss of people’s life and property as well as the catastrophic destruction to economy, society, lifestyle and way of production of all countries have been the most severe since the 1980s when the world entered an era of peace and development.

It is no exaggeration to describe the current circumstances as “changes triggered and multified by changes”. The world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation, which is the “profound changes” we are facing today.


The “profound changes” in itself bring “big test”.

First, can people in different countries rise beyond unilateralism and protectionism and join hands to put an end to the pandemic?

Second, can countries, while mounting a collective response to the pandemic, restore the global industrial chains, revive a new round of economic globalization and therefore relaunch development?

Third, can countries,while fighting the pandemic and reinvigorating growth,remove interferences and open new vistas for world peace and development in the third decade of the 21st century and beyond?

A fundamental historic task lies ahead in these“profound changes” and “big test” is toachieve great cooperation on a higher level, starting from the third decade of the 21st century, as countries and regions with different social systems, development levels and interests pull through major tests between multilateralism and unilateralism, openness and isolation, and cooperation and confrontation. 


It goes without saying that how to respond to the prospects of such “great cooperation”has been the most important test on the vision and capability of all statesmen.

Some have chosen to put people and their lives first and managed to bring the pandemic under control with utmost courage and resolve. Such statesmen bear in mind the larger, global picture when tackling the pandemic and reopening the economy at home. They have actively participated in and supported the global anti-pandemic effort and sought to protect and stabilize the global supply chains, so as to create favorable conditions for the economic recovery and development of all countries, especially that of developing countries.

A totally different approach is to purposefully undermine international cooperation against the pandemic, instead of making proactive efforts to curb its spread. They not only shifted the blame onto other countries and international organizations for the major losses of life caused by their own incompetence, but also sought to paralyze institutions of international governance. As major economies had already been hard hit, they went their own way to pursue de-globalization policies, which undercut the integrity and stability of international supply chains.

It must be pointed out that the duality of the two approaches that stand in stark contrast and interwined with each other will continue to feature in the global landscape in 2020 and the years ahead. 


In the face of such duality, China remains calm to set its own course forward. One example is the Proposals of the CPC Central Committee for Formulating the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 adopted at the fifth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee. This document marks a fundamental and strategic choice made by the 1.4 billion Chinese people to tackle the profound changes, meet the severe test and promote great cooperation under the current domestic and international circumstances.

At the convergence of the Two Centenary Goals and in the context of increasingly complicated international environment and growing instability and uncertainty, the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) addresses how the CPC plans to pursue the strategy of rejuvenating the Chinese nation amid changes unseen in a century. 

The 14th FYP sets a new vision for China’s development and demonstrates China’s responsibility as a major country to align its development with that of the world. It therefore will become the most important blueprint to understand how the CPC governs China and promotes China’s economic and social development under current circumstances.

The 14th FYP also embodies a strategic consideration at a deeper level. With a sober analysis of the favorable and unfavorable conditions at home and abroad, the CPC is convinced that China is still in the middle of an important period of strategic opportunities. In the third decade of the 21st century and beyond, the Chinese people will maintain their strategic focus and pool all resources to manage their own affairs well.

China is set to achieve basic modernization by 2035 and build a great modernsocialist country, that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation by 2050. The attainment of these two important goals in itself will greatly add to the forces for defending and promoting world peace and development.

China will continue to deepen reform and open up in all respects by ushering in a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and the domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. Under such a new paradigm, China will foster high-quality productive forces andmarket power, turning China into not only the world’s factory, but also the world’s market. In his speech at the World Economic Forum Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda on January 25, 2021, President Xi Jinping pledged that China will foster a business environment that is based on market principles, governed by law and up to international standards, and unleash the potential of the huge Chinese market and enormous domestic demand, which will bring more cooperation opportunities to other countries and give further impetus to global economic recovery and growth.

China will continue to promote the new round of economic globalization. China will actively advance the Belt and Road Initiative with all partners and will also be actively involved in the globalization of cyberspace and the formulation of rules on global digital governance, so as to promote the great development of developing economies and renewed growth of advanced economies.

China will play an active part in the reform of the global economic governance system and promote more robust, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy. Ravaged by the pandemic, countries are experiencing the worst economic recession since the Second World War. It is clear to all that as the economy recovers, developed countries will also be constrained in many aspects if developing countries fail to grow. For this reason, China maintains that the reform of the global economic governance system must provide necessary support to developing countries and safeguard their development interests and space. 

All these efforts evidently illustrate the “profound changes”, “big test” and “great cooperation”. Guided by the vision to build a community with a shared future for mankind, China remains unchanged in its commitment to upholding world peace, promoting common development, building partnerships, and supporting multilateralism. Amid changes unseen in a century, China is no longer the poor and weak country it used to be, but is well-placed to work with other countries to lead the new round of industrial revolution and economic globalization in the new era. 


As General Secretaryof the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinpingemphasized that a proper understanding of the international landscape must be based on a correct outlook on history, on the bigger picture and on the role of our country. With regard to the “role”, it is important to make cool-headed analyses of international developments and view the role of our country through the lens of its relations with the world, so as to correctly define its standing and role in an evolving international environment and formulate appropriate foreign policies.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that for all the imperfections in the international order, human beings are in a community with a shared future, with common interests in fighting the pandemic together and securing economic recovery, and common values of “peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom” as articulated by President Xi Jinping. In such a global landscape, we have before us two choices to make. Are we going to break the international order into pieces when the pandemic is still taking its toll and try to find a way out by closing one’s own door and excluding others? Or while fighting the pandemic, are we going to promote the common progress of humankind by reforming the international order and restructuring the economy in guidance of building a community with a shared future for mankind? This is a significant historic test. The former choice is worse than the pandemic as it will isolate one’s own country and people from the international community and lead nowhere. The latter is the right way forward.

China’s own development and contribution to the international order is an essential condition for the common development of the world. By the middle of the 21st century, China will realize its second Centenary Goal, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, which is well connected with socialist modernization in all respects. This is by no means a new hegemon replacing an old one, a scenario that brought untold sufferings in modern history. Instead, China is committed to upholding, reforming and improving the international order and systems. It holds high the banner of global governance, multilateralism and a community with a shared future for mankind to tackle the common crises confronting human society including hegemony, populism and protectionism. 

In conclusion, the significant proposition of “profound changes, big test and great cooperation” implies major historic choices and historic opportunities. In the current situation, a momentous task for the international community is to reflect long and hard about economic globalization and global governance and substantially promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind based on converging and shared interests.

Zheng Bijian is Chairman of the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy and Former Executive Deputy President of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.