We are confident about the role of China in driving global development
From the standpoint of the world’s poor, the G20 Summit that concludes on Monday, Sept. 5 in Hangzhou is especially significant. For the first time, this annual gathering of leaders of the world’s largest economies has made eradicating poverty and improving global health a top priority.
This is an important step in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unanimously adopted last year by the United Nations. Taken together, the SDGs lay the groundwork for creating the better world we all want by setting targets to end poverty, improve the well-being of people in the poorest countries, and combat climate change.
▲Artists dance during an evening gala for the G20 summit at the West Lake scenic zone in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 4, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua)
That the G20 took this action in China is entirely appropriate because the world can't achieve the SDGs without China's leadership, participation, and innovation.
One obvious reason is China's size. As the world's most populous country, its progress on the SDGs will have a large impact on global measures of wellness and prosperity.
China's recent advances in these areas were a major factor in progress on the previous global development agenda – the Millennium Development Goals. Extreme poverty fell by half worldwide between 1990 and 2010, thanks largely to gains made in China and South Asia. China alone lifted 600 million people out of poverty over the past 30 years.
Reducing poverty and improving health care in China have saved the lives of millions of new mothers and young children, contributing to a drop of about 50 percent since 1990 in worldwide mortality rates for both.
China still faces many significant development challenges. But in light of the country's momentum and determination, it's realistic to think that China will once again lead the way in creating the better world we all want.
I have visited China many times and am always impressed by the commitment of government officials, entrepreneurs, and scientists to realize the vision – shared by our foundation – of a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.
That commitment is one reason why we opened a foundation office in China nearly a decade ago and why we work closely with a wide variety of partners in government, business, and the non-profit sector.
Our early work was focused on China's domestic health challenges -- helping reduce tobacco use, control tuberculosis, prevent HIV transmission, and improve treatment and care for people living with AIDS.
While we continue these initiatives, our work in China is evolving along with China's changing needs and priorities.
For example, we are working with our Chinese partners to explore how we can best support China's goal to eliminate poverty by the year 2020. Drawing on our global experience, we hope to assist with needs such as improving nutrition and rural healthcare and expanding access to financial services for the poor.
We are excited about these efforts, especially because we believe lessons from China's development can aid progress around the world. As China increases its commitment to development cooperation, our foundation has partnered with the Ministry of Commerce to facilitate sharing of China's knowledge and expertise, particularly in agriculture and public health, with developing countries in Africa.
Another way China increasingly plays a global role for good is as a center for innovation. China's private sector is developing and manufacturing important health and agricultural products, including affordable vaccines, diagnostics for tuberculous, and machinery to help small farmers increase their crop yields.
To help accelerate innovation in global health, our foundation has partnered with the Beijing government and Tsinghua University to launch the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute. With a rich talent pool and $200-billion in annual R&D investments, China has an expanding capacity for innovation that can benefit the world.
China's growing global leadership is evident in other ways, too. Last year, China was a leader in launching Mission Innovation, a commitment of over 20 governments to double research into new technologies that can provide reliable, affordable energy to help alleviate the climate crisis.
This year's G20 Summit comes at a pivotal moment in the advancement of China's role in the world. As world leaders depart Hangzhou, I'm confident that China will continue to make great progress in its own development, and I'm optimistic it will play an even greater role in helping other countries achieve significant progress of their own.
Bill Gates is co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation