The Rollout of the first COVID-19 Vaccines has offered a ray of hope to the Pandemic rattled world. Although there is still a long way to go before declaring a complete victory against the virus, Asia, especially East Asia has what it takes to lead in ending sluggish economic performance and restoring prosperity.
In April, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and South Korea held the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), reaching broad consensus on issues such as preventing the spread of the pandemic, enhancing public health governance and accelerating economic recovery in Asia.
Furthermore, Asian countries have set up “green lanes” and “fast tracks” to accelerate the resumption of economic activities. The two-way investment and trade between China and ASEAN registered positive growth against headwinds last year and ASEAN has become China’s largest trading partner.
More important, in the face of the pandemic that is raging around the world, Asian countries have become more committed to building a community with a shared future for the region, willing to further open up to each other to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement was inked in November between ASEAN and its five dialogue partners: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The deal has great significance in stabilizing and strengthening regional industrial and supply chains, as well as promoting sustained economic growth in Asia.
Asia has great prospects in 2021, as it is expected to walk out of the woods ahead of other regions. Asian countries, and East Asian countries in particular, have been relatively successful in getting the virus under control. In October, China joined COVAX, one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiative launched by the World Health Organization.
China has reiterated many times that when its vaccine development and deployment are available, it will be made a global public good that will help ensure vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. China will honor its word & is fulfilling its commitment through cooperation with several Asian countries. The deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is likely to gradually bring work and life in Asia back to normal.
The Asian economy’s relatively fast growth is likely to return. The International Monetary Fund predicted in October that the world economy would shrink by 4.4 percent last year and downgraded its outlook this year to a 5.2 percent increase in global output. Economic activity in Asia’s developing economies was forecast to contract 0.4 percent last year and then expand 6.8 percent this year.
China was the only economy to show positive growth last year, as its GDP was projected to expand 1.9 percent and its growth to accelerate to 8.2 percent this year. Experts have forecast that the economic aggregate of Asian countries would account for more than 50 percent of the global total last year.
China is taking concrete steps to further bolster reform and expand opening-up, continue to promote the Belt & Road Initiative and tap the potential of its domestic consumer market. It is gradually fostering the “dual circulation “development pattern, which takes domestic circulation as the mainstay, with domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other.
By fostering the new development paradigm, China will make the best of both domestic and global resources instead of relying solely on the economic drivers within its borders. Sustained and robust growth in China will provide great development opportunities for other Asian nations, and their resources and markets will further increase China’s growth momentum.
Maintaining regional stability and promoting economic prosperity are common aspirations of Asian countries. The deterioration of Sino-US relations has inevitably dealt a blow to the Asian continent. The confrontation between the world’s two biggest economies has had a severe negative impact on Asia and the world at large. Chinese leadership has reiterated on many occasions the hope for bilateral relations to return to the right trajectory.
On the 53rd anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN in August, ASEAN Members Foreign Ministers released a statement on the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia, displaying strong willingness and firm determination to maintain regional peace and stability.
Regardless of development levels, promoting economic growth and enhancing people’s wellbeing are on top of the agenda for all Asian Nations. In a world where countries’ interests and futures are becoming more and more intertwined, mutually beneficial cooperation is the only viable option.
While dealing a blow to the world economy, the pandemic has also in a way made certain new growth avenues more relevant. Asia boasts great potential in strengthening inter-regional and cross-regional cooperation on the digital economy, medical and healthcare services, public health, green finance and connectivity projects.
The new US administration’s policy toward Asia will be the focus of attention. Asian countries hope to have stable bilateral relations with the United States and carry out mutually beneficial cooperation with it. Regional cooperation in Asia has always been open and inclusive. A stable and thriving Asia is in the interests of its own development, and also conforms to US interests.
The 15th East Asia Summit was convened via video links in November, attended by the heads of state and government and high-ranking representatives of the 10 ASEAN Member states and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
Commitments have been made on strengthening coordination & cooperation, and adopting multiple measures to facilitate regional economic recovery. As long as all countries work hand in hand, Asia is bound to usher in a brighter future.