Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend Jacinda Ardern's 'extraordinary' COVID-19 meeting

China's President Xi Jinping will attend Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's virtual COVID-19 APEC meeting on Friday night, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Ardern announced on Monday that for the first time in APEC history, leaders of member economies will hold an additional meeting with a focus on COVID-19 and its economic implications. She wants a discussion on "immediate measures to achieve more coordinated regional action" as well as on steps for long-term growth.

"Leaders will share information so we can continue to build on our collective understanding of the region's health response to COVID-19, and shape a collaborative economic response," Ardern said.

It was earlier reported that US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin would be among the heads of state attending, but Ardern on Wednesday was unable to confirm if the Chinese President would join in.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has now said Xi will participate "at the invitation of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern". 

"This is an important meeting held at a critical time when the world is facing a resurgence of COVID-19 and the international cooperation against the virus has entered a new stage," spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. "China sets great store by the role of APEC as an important platform for regional economic cooperation.

Zhao goes on to say China hopes all member economies "send a positive message of fighting the coronavirus with solidarity and deepening economic recovery and cooperation".

Newshub has contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.

On Wednesday, in a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, Ardern said the global community must work together to better prepare for the future. 

"There are over 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the APEC region every single day.  And more than 80 million people lost their jobs across our economies last year, during the biggest economic contraction since the Second World War.

"On Friday night I will chair the first ever extraordinary meeting of APEC Leaders.  This will be a unique opportunity to bring APEC Leaders together to discuss how to get the region through the health crisis and accelerate economic recovery in a way that lays the foundations for a better future.

"That better future must surely include better levels of preparedness for the risks we all face. That's a challenge that extends beyond just APEC.

"It is clear our global community was not adequately prepared for COVID-19. It is also clear that COVID-19 will not be the last global health risk that we face."

But she told reporters afterwards not to expect any major announcements. 

"We have used the forum, though, in the lead up to the Apec meeting later this year to bring trade ministers together; they have made a difference for the flow of vaccine consumables. So they have been really useful dialogues," Ardern said.

"Here we literally do want to bring leaders together to discuss economic impacts and the latest from the World Health Organisation."

Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, the APEC Secretariat's Executive Director, said the pandemic provided opportunities for cooperation. 

"Under the leadership of New Zealand as the host of APEC 2021, we are witnessing the urgency from member economies to join, work and eventually grow together," said Dr Sta Maria. "The top priority remains clear and that is to manage COVID-19 effectively and build back better."

"The upcoming APEC Informal Leaders' Retreat is the first one in the forum's history, and it is necessary for pushing forward our collective effort toward the region's recovery."

The informal meeting comes amid strained relations between many of the member economies, particularly between China and the United States, which is becoming increasingly vocal about human rights abuses in the Asian nation. New Zealand has also raised concerns about some activities in China, but ministers say our relationship with it will remain "predictable" and "respectful" despite differences. 

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum with 21 members, representing 2.9 billion people.

The region accounts for 60 percent of the world's GDP and 48 percent of global trade.

This year the summit is being hosted by New Zealand, though all meetings are taking place virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.