China's Xi: World Economy In Worst Recession Since Great Depression

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the 12th BRICS summit via video link on Tuesday that the global economy is experiencing "the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s" according to state media Xinhua.

He made the remarks while urging BRICS countries to cooperate in maintaining multilateralism which he said is a greater guarantee to "safeguard world peace and stability" during the tumultuous challenges of COVID-19.

According to Xinhua, Xi also urged "openness and innovation to facilitate global economic recovery, as well as green and low-carbon development."

"At present, the world is caught between the most serious pandemic in the past century and momentous changes never seen in the last one hundred years," Xi said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, illustrative file image via Xinhua

"Despite all this, we remain convinced that the theme of our times peace and development has not changed, and that the trend toward multipolarity and economic globalization cannot be turned around," the Chinese president added.

His proposals during the speech to lift the global economy out of COVID recession were summarized as follows in state sources:

  • Upholding multilateralism and safeguarding world peace and stability;
  • Deepening solidarity and cooperation in jointly coping with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Upholding openness and innovation to boost global economic recovery;
  • Prioritizing people's livelihood and promoting sustainable development across the world;
  • Upholding green and low-carbon development and promoting harmonious co-existence of man and nature.

Xi gave the speech also on the heels of Sunday's historic signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, which had been eight years in the making.

The RCEP agreement was signed during the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and effectively established the world's largest trading block that is expected to encompass almost one-third of all global economic activity, crucially without the United States. It will go down in history as the biggest free trade deal ever among fifteen Asia Pacific Nations and involves ten ASEAN bloc member nations including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – and additionally their trade partners Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

This past weekend China's Premier Li Keqiang was cited in state media as hailing it as a "victory against protectionism" and in international media reports called it "a coup for China" which will bolster Chinese claims that it remains a "champion of globalization and multilateral cooperation".

"The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation, but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade," Li said, after it's been in negotiations for eight years.

This is a theme that Xi picked up on during his Tuesday speech which offered multilateralism as the chief antidote to lift the region out of recession. 

Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration is expected to garner support from US allies in maintaining a firm line against China, as South China Morning Post notes on Tuesday:

In a rare joint opinion piece, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Heiko Maas outlined their call in The Washington Post on Monday, less than two weeks after the US election.

"With Biden, greater transatlantic unity will be possible with regard to autocrats and countries that seek to enhance their power by undermining international or regional order. But a principled approach does not exclude dialogue and cooperation," they wrote.

"Under a Biden administration, the compass needle of US foreign policy will continue to gravitate toward China, which we see as a partner, competitor and systemic rival at the same time."

They urged greater US-European unity in the face of a growing and increasingly assertive China, as well as Russia and Iran.