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The Global Development Initiative: How Useful and Prudent is Xi Jinping’s Global Development Initiative for Advancing the Wellbeing of Humanity?
——Ambassador Award winning work with the Theme of “Xi Jinping Thoughts through South African University Students’ Eyes”(Series Ⅵ)
2022-10-20 17:43

Durban University of Tehcnology

Vuyo Gxekwa


In Mikhail Gorbachev’s words, “the time has come to choose a new direction of global development, to opt for a new civilization”. Propelled by similar pro-development thinking and a 21st-century yearning for the betterment of all human societies, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, charted a new path for the furtherance of global development and the fruition of sustainable development goals by enunciating the Global Development Initiative (GDI) during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2021. Desirous to see a post-Covid world with more blissful development, Xi Jinping launched the GDI to promote and inspire a universal appetite for economic prosperity, greater dynamism of innovation, a pro-environmentalism psyche, and a deeper voracity for international cooperation. Therefore, the Global Development Initiative is a roadmap for supercharging economic growth, striving for well-coordinated development and shared prosperity. It is an optimal stimulus in the pursuit of the sustainable development that many nations strive to realise, as demonstrated by the 193-country adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose hallmark is the Sustainable Development Goals, in 2015.  This essay discusses China’s role in international affairs, the enunciation of the GDI, and the six imperatives explained by President Xi Jinping when he formally introduced the initiative. The paper argues that despite imperfections and conundrums in the global environment, Xi’s formulation of the initiative is good for advancing global development and the well-being of humanity.

China’s role in international affairs in the Xi Jinping era

China’s role in the world has consistently focused on bolstering universal peace, advancing global development and promoting a stable international order. The republic has championed pro-multilateralism and pro-free trade instead of unilateralism and protectionism and strove to help build a vibrant global economy in which cooperation benefits all countries. Indeed, in the spirit of promoting sustainable development and mitigating the climate crisis, China has partaken in international efforts to enhance the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Paris Climate Accords to bring about shared prosperity and global development. China; Using international diplomacy, bilateral efforts and mutual beneficial cooperation, China has undertaken a historic and vast infrastructure programme, Belt and Road Initiative, to spur economic growth, improve quality of life, and create favourable connectivity between China and concerned regions through investments in infrastructure; Rebuilding the friendship and intensifying cooperation between China and Russia to pursue initiatives of mutual interests in various fields including strategic coordination, technological knowhow and bilateral trade; enhancing the China-Europe diplomacy and cooperation to improve the collective management of international affairs, multilateral processes, and trade liberalisation, and work more vigorously to promote conflict resolution, tackle the climate emergency and further sustainable development; strengthening relations to forge a shared future with regional neighbours such as India, Japan and South Korea, through organisations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and through China’s partnership with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN); taking the cooperation among less developed countries to a higher level through platforms like the FOCAC Beijing Summit, G77+China and BRICS and through the tremendously growing friendship with Africa, the Arab nations, and South America; striving for a more peaceful and stable through engagement in diplomatic efforts in disputes involving countries in regions like the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East (Xu 2019). Therefore, President Xi’s leadership continues to position China as a solid partner in addressing global challenges and pursuing global aspirations. Like some of his predecessors, President Xi’s actions reflect the spirit of Confucian values, which include benevolence and humanism, cooperation and oneness, sharing, friendship, filial piety, integrity, justice, self-discipline, self-reliance and perspiration.

The enunciation of the Global Development Initiative  

In his speech at the 76th Session of the UNGA, President Xi Jinping urged the international community to pursue more vigorously national and global imperatives such as peace, justice, cooperation and development. This focus on these global human goods was propelled by his recognition of the hardship and damage caused by phenomena like Covid-19, continuing challenges of poverty, and environmental and climate crisis. The president stated that the international community needs to direct their energy to efforts to mitigate and vanquish Covid-19, spur economic growth and development through the Global Development Initiative, foster friendship, goodwill and symbiotic cooperation, and build an international order in which multilateralism, inclusivity, democracy and human rights are safeguarded. The proposition of the GDI was the hallmark of his statement because it outlined six imperatives the United Nations and the world must embrace and champion to promote development in essential areas of planetary life and human endeavour (Xi 2021). President Jinping noted that the nations of the world have a duty to champion economic rejuvenation and the pursuit of sustainable development and economic prosperity for all. The statesman elucidated that, in light of the damaging effects of Covid-19, cooperation in orientating global development to be based on symbiosis in economic growth and development benefits was crucial (Xi 2021). The GDI seeks to propel the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development towards its fruition and ensure that all humankind enjoys development benefits (Xi 2022).

Recognising and treating development as an apex global priority

Xi Jinping asserted that the macro policy focus of the international community needs to prioritise development and that mechanisms to address policy divergences and undertake robust mutual supporting behaviour among the world’s leading economies were critical for realising this end. He noted the importance of ensuring that policies are continuous, consistent and sustainable and that the practice of forging joint programmes based on equality and balance can stimulate stronger links in international development programmes while significantly boosting the fruition of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Xi 2021). President Xi’s passion for a system of international relations in which development is the centrepiece has consistently been demonstrated in his proposals and programmes in various settings of international engagement. For example, in his statement at the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, President Xi (2015) made a clarion call for decisive action to advance development when he urged the international community to reject cold war thinking and pursue more resolutely the new (sustainable) development to eradicate challenges such as extreme poverty, high child mortality, and lack of education access affecting approximately 60 million people at the time. As detailed in The Sustainable Development Goals Report (2021:26-28), it is noteworthy that Covid-19 has pushed up the number of people living in extreme poverty from 650 million to approximately 800 million; about 200 billion people face a lack of food security; nearly 250 million children experience malnutrition; the Covid-19 pandemic reversed significant progress achieved in the improvement of maternal and child health, paving the way for an increase in child mortality. This ugly reality underscores the essential nature of the GDI as a tool for furthering a type of development that empowers and betters every nation.   

Being engaged consistently in programmes and endeavours that enhance people’s welfare.

Xi Jinping stated that it was vital to use development to better humanity’s wellbeing, nurture a human rights culture and create an enabling environment for everyone to experience the benefits of (sublime) development (Xi 2021). In the last six months alone, protests calling on the governments to address socio-economic crises like inflation and high cost of living have been organised in countries like Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Peru, Ecuador, Turkey, the United Kingdom, South Africa, etc. Indeed, as reported by Global Citizen’s Lowery (2022), because of events like conflict, humanitarian crisis and drought, tens of millions of people, including children, suffer or have suffered hunger and anguish in countries like South Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Nigeria. China’s provision of close to 8 million US dollars of humanitarian assistance to an earthquake-hit Afghanistan, which lost over 1000 people during the disaster, in June this year (Goh 2022). Also, her swift delivery of humanitarian assistance comprised of 3000 tents in Pakistani’s Karachi, reported by China Daily (20220, just a few days after the floods ravaged many areas in the country, corroborates Xi Jinping’s grit for defending people’s livelihoods.

Notwithstanding Xi Jinping’s effort to promote people-centredness in political, economic and environmental governance, bashers have expressed their displeasure at China’s leadership in the international arena. Obviously, President Xi has been criticised in the West for not implementing a western-style political system in China, with some leaders suggesting that the Chinese government is engaged in gross human rights violations. However, no solid evidence has been presented to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, as reported by the Consulate-General of The People's Republic of China in Brisbane (2021), a survey conducted by the University of California China Data Lab showed that the Chinese government enjoys high support in China, and the Chinese population is happy with life in China, and they appreciate the competence and efficiency of the Chinese state, thereby leading to feelings of satisfaction. President Xi’s focus on human welfare and nurturing a human rights culture by fostering inspiring emotional and psychological bliss has created a leadership model that many leaders in the world can emulate.

Global focus on initiatives to support less developed nations and ensuring equitable development that benefits all countries

Xi Jinping underscored the necessity of creating a fertile ground on which third-world countries could thrive. He suggested interventions such as debt relief and development assistance for less developed countries, particularly programmes for eradicating imbalances and constraints in the development of the world (Xi 2021). As Bartlett (2022) explains, for a very long time, many cynics, especially the Americans, have accused China of using its economic might to trap poorer nations in debt and rapidly expand its influence. However, as reported by Onukwue (2022), China’s recent announcement of its decision to cancel the 23 zero-interest loans that 17 African countries owe her disproves this thinking and positions China as a dependable partner poorer nations can work with in pursuing betterment and development. Undoubtedly, this move is an implementation of Xi’s global development agenda and an affirmation that China favours a more mutually beneficial development than a master-slave economic relationship with developing countries. Indeed, President Xi’s vision of diplomacy makes clear that all nations deserve betterment and bliss and propels more energetically his dream of a shared future in which global development works as a rising tide that lifts all boats in the sea.

Invigorating development by leveraging frontier technology and cutting-edge innovations

XI Jinping called on the nations of the world to make the best use of their pioneering spirit and cutting-edge technology by embracing new opportunities, optimising technological advances to enhance productivity and creating an optimal situation for developing scientific and technological know-how based on openness, fairness and equity. He proposed that after the prevailing over the Covid-19 pandemic, the nations of the world stimulate better sources of growth and work towards getting to the stage where they have state-of-the-art technology (Xi 2021). President Xi sees innovation as the best propellant for development, and facts are on the side of his point. As President Xi said at this year’s BRICS summit, human ingenuity and innovation and the enhancement of international high-tech management are requisite for enabling all humankind to benefit from new technology. Under President Xi, China has been at the centre of championing the establishment of the BRICS Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution Innovation Center and the now completed formulation of the Digital Economy Partnership Framework to seize new opportunities. China has also striven to unleash people’s inventiveness and spirit of enterprise by forming the Alliance for Vocational Education, which will nurture the skills and creativity BRICS needs to shape the future (Xi 2022).

The dynamic growth of Chinese technological power has created fears about what it might use its power and influence for. Many leaders, thinkers and commentators in the Western world have accused China of not genuinely caring about cooperation and of instead seeking to dominate high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence and advanced technologies. However, there is no compelling evidence to prove that China seeks to use its technological power to subdue nations. On the contrary, there is abundant evidence showing that China’s devotion to pro-innovation international cooperation is the instrument the developing world needs to rise again and seize the opportunities of the future. For instance, as shown in Global Innovation Index (2021), almost all the top 50 most innovative countries in the Index are developed or semi-developed, self-sufficient and economically flourishing countries, while nearly all the ones on the bottom are economically struggling low-income countries.

As is well-known, the slow growth situation in third-world countries is a consequence of a lack of pioneering spirit and technological advances in various fields, including industry, agriculture, health, finance, education, and others. In fact, Africa is a case in point because the African Development Bank Group (2014) maintained that Africa would find it very unlikely to achieve high growth and sustainable development because of its lack of profound technological know-how. Indeed, a 2019 World Bank report entitled Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa cited Africa’s technological backwardness as a significant growth constraint and predicted that by 2030, 90% of the world’s poverty would be in Africa (World Bank 2019:6). Interestingly, essential development frameworks designed since the 1980s by African states consistently affirm technological and scientific know-how as the most indispensable ingredient needed to unleash Africa endogenous development potential. These include the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980, the Final Act of Lagos of 1980, the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community of 1991, and the African Union Agenda 2063 of 2013. President Xi has thus correctly and prudently made the mastery of science and technology the cornerstone of development and dedicated himself to the injection of dynamism in the technological transformation desired by developing countries.

Promoting environmental protection and mitigating climate change

President Jinping noted the essence of bolstering the laws and programmes for environmental conservation, fighting climate change and nurturing coexistence between humankind and the environment (Xi 2021). At the World Economic Forum in January, Xi (2022) reaffirmed China’s commitment to protecting the natural environment and warned against pursuing economic growth by combating environmental damage. He asserted that China has “carried out holistic conservation and systematic governance of its mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands and deserts” and built the most extensive national parks system in the world. The 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is a United Nations institution, detailed that environmental degradation was happening at a catastrophic pace, leading to the perdition of ecosystems and wildlife extinction, among others (United Nations 2019). About 25% of species are facing the possibility of extinction, the natural ecosystems have seen a 47% decline, and the global biomass of wild mammals has declined by 82% (McGrath 2019). To play its role in building a future of environmental conservation, in 2021, China was the host of COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Xi 2022). China’s efforts, as mentioned above, could not have been more crucial for ecological conservation.

Xi (2021) highlighted the urgency of prudently moving away from burning fossil fuels to stimulating growth and development based on the use of renewable energy. He announced that China will seek to shrink greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade and achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2060. He vowed to increase China’s assistance to less developed nations in their development of clean energy and that his country will invest in no new energy projects that use coal in foreign countries (Xi 2021). Indeed, China has received intense scrutiny and immense criticism for being the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gas (Brady 2021). However, as Brown (2021) argues, China has been engaged in a national endeavour to transition significantly from fossil fuels to renewable energy and more environmentally friendly practices, which the population supports. President Xi has touted China’s building of a clean power generation system that is the biggest in the world (Xi 2022). China has also endeavoured to help developing countries facing climate crisis-related phenomena. The recent perils caused by massive flooding in Pakistan, where more than 1100 people died (half the number of people Pakistan lost in the 2010 floods), and the submergence of more than a quarter of the country’s territory by flood water, as reported by Sands (2022), is a clear indication that President Xi’s longstanding commitment to coupling development with the mitigation of the climate crisis could not have been more prudent. In the last 12 months alone, disasters like floods and drought have killed hundreds of people in Indonesia, South Africa, Germany etc. As the World Bank’s Rentschler and Salhab (2020) study established, 19% of the global population lives in areas likely to experience flooding. In light of these events, one can argue that President Xi’s treatment of the climate crisis as a critical development issue reflects his devotion to the forging of a bright future for the world and a realistic approach to pursuing sustainable development.

Bolstering efforts aimed at fulfilling humanity’s survival and development imperatives

President Xi’s clarion call for vigour, speed and efficiency in the journey to balanced and more fruitful global development indicates his clear-eyed understanding of the urgency of the pro-development interventions the international community should be demonstrating. Xi Jinping noted the importance of investing more substantially in development, making top priorities joints efforts to reduce poverty, boosting food security, tackling Covid-19, improve the financing for development, combating the climate emergency, spearheading ecologically and environmentally friendly development, developing modern industries, and supplementing the internet economy. Xi Jinping encourages these seemingly prudent actions to speed up the fruition of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development to forge a future in which all humanity enjoys durable peace, harmony, and shared prosperity. In pursuit of this goal, China made a pledge to spend at least three billion US dollars in the years 2022 to 2024 to assist less developed countries in confronting the Covid-19 effectively pandemic (Jinping 2021).

As a champion of a collective battle against the pandemic and in an effort to promote equitable vaccine distribution and end the big immunisation gap, China provided to over 120 nations and international institutions more than two billion doses of Covid vaccines and resolved to donate 750 million doses to African and East Asian countries (Xi 2022). The necessity and prudence of these actions are validated by the fact that when the developed nations were administering booster shots, developing nations were yet to vaccinate a quarter of their populations. As reported by the United Nations Press (2021), during the 76th session of the UNGA, most leaders from developing, including South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana, Montenegro, Bolivia, Guyana etc., expressed displeasure at the vaccine inequity and the negation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the inconsiderate rich nations that did not care about lack of vaccination in less developed countries. In fact, The Sustainable Goals Report of 2021 details that “for every 100 people, around 68 vaccines were administered in Europe and Northern America, compared with fewer than 2 in sub-Saharan Africa” (United Nations 2021). By insisting on stronger action to improve people’s lives, find a bright future and invigorate sustainable development, President Xi distinguishes himself as a statesman, a defender of international programmes and a champion of civilisation on earth.


In sum, Xi Jinping’s launch of the Global Development Initiative accords him the role of being a global development pathfinder as he champions an agenda that is in the best interest of humanity. His programme could yield several benefits, including giving the international community impetus to fight for better development, fostering people-centredness in governance, creating a fairer international economic order, boosting technical or scientific know-how and innovation, balancing resource consumption with environmental care, and deepening commitment to development initiatives. Mindful of the hardship of the Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 era, it is clear that President Xi’s statesmanship and stewardship in global affairs is what the world needs to achieve dynamism and success in development. Moreover, as the Confucian value system is cherished throughout China, President Xi has derived inspiration to undertake initiatives that benefit all of humanity. Thus, the Global Development Initiative is likely to give China’s diplomacy extraordinary vibrancy and inevitably lead to unprecedented political, economic, environmental, political and technological cooperation that will cultivate a more balanced development. Such a glorious success will inspire people of many developing nations to emulate the monumental endeavour and outstanding Confucian leadership Xi Jinping has shown in this critical time in the history of humankind.

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