Chinese President Xi Jinping says his country will send an additional one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine to other countries, calling for global cooperation to tackle the pandemic and other challenges while urging other powers to discard a "Cold-War mentality" — a veiled swipe at the United States.
Xi touted China's efforts to share vaccines, fight climate change and promote development in the opening speech of a virtual gathering hosted by the World Economic Forum. The online event is being held after the group put off its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Efforts to battle the global outbreak that has claimed more than 5.5 million lives and upended the world economy and climate change have been prominent themes at the event.
In a panel session on the virus, Moderna's CEO said the vaccine-maker was working on a single-shot booster for both Covid-19 and the flu, while US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci lamented as "very disturbing" the reluctance of many Americans to follow basic measures like mask-wearing and getting vaccinated.
Xi, who hasn't left China since the coronavirus emerged in early 2020, said his country has exported more than two billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccines to more than 120 countries and international institutions. He announced plans to provide an additional one billion, including a donation of 600 million doses to Africa and an extra 150 million to Southeast Asia.
By comparison, managers of the UN-backed Covax programme to ship vaccines to developing countries announced over the weekend that it has now delivered one billion vaccine doses.
Xi touched on standard themes from previous international addresses, including responding to trading partners' complaints by promising to open China's state-dominated economy wider to private and foreign competition.
His comments come as tensions between the United States and China have simmered on topics like Taiwan, intellectual property, trade, human rights and the South China Sea.
"We need to discard Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes," Xi said through a translator. "Protectionism and unilateralism can protect no one ... Even worse are the practices of hegemony and bullying, which run counter to the tide of history" — terms Beijing has used to describe US policy and actions.
"A zero-sum approach that enlarges one's own gain at the expense of others will not help," he added. "The right way forward for humanity is peaceful development and win-win cooperation."
Xi said China "stands ready to work with" other governments on climate change but announced no new initiatives and offered no resources. He said it was up to developed countries to provide money and technology.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took up the environment in his address, pledging his country's commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
India's growth in the next 25 years will be "green and clean, and also sustainable and reliable," he said, stressing its commitment to solar power.
While Xi and Modi touted environmental efforts, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ratcheted up his concerns about the use of coal — both China and India are big users — in his call for "real climate action in developing countries".
"Emissions must fall, but they continue to rise," Guterres said in his address, appealing for debt relief for developing countries needing help weaning off coal.
Guterres pointed to his call for "coalitions" to help foster a clean energy transition, highlighting US-Chinese efforts to provide China with "adequate technologies" to accelerate that shift.
"India doesn't like the coalition, but India has accepted several bilateral forms of support, and I've been in close contact with the US, UK and several other countries to make sure that there's a strong project to support India," he said.
Guterres said the past two years had shown that the world needs to cooperate to halt climate change, achieve global economic recovery and beat the pandemic.
During a session on Covid-19's future, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said he hoped the US-based company would have a combined vaccine booster ready to test in advanced research in the second quarter, saying a best-case scenario would be if the single shot covering both flu and Covid-19 would be ready for use next year.
"I don't think it would happen in every country, but we believe it's possible to happen in some countries next year," Bancel said.
Moderna has been criticised for prioritising the distribution of its Covid-19 vaccines to rich countries; only a fraction of its supply has gone to poor countries via Covax. He said the company aimed to make about two to three billion doses this year and hopes to have data from a new vaccine tweaked to address the Omicron variant in March.
The annual Davos gathering usually takes place in person in the Alpine snows of eastern Switzerland, drawing hundreds of business leaders, cultural elites, academics and government leaders. Leaders of countries like Germany, Colombia and Japan were set to address the gathering that runs through Friday.