BEIJING, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- As roughly 100,000 dazzling fireworks exploded in the air above Sydney Harbour, the Australian metropolis of Sydney became the first major city to celebrate the arrival of 2020 with the brightest beams of light in the Southern Hemisphere.
Freddie, who works in Melbourne and did not give his last name to Xinhua, was among over 1 million local and international revelers witnessing the new year's eve fireworks. Wishing for world peace, he also voiced hope that the wildfires in Australia will go out soon.
Like him, numerous people had expectations and hopes for a new year as they gathered in a festive mood at such iconic sites as Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and the River Thames in London.
The past year was turbulent for many people, as their lives had been impacted by insufficient resources, trade tensions, regional conflicts and wars, and the deteriorating environment. Unity and cooperation is more than ever needed in a new year for humankind to strive for a better tomorrow.
EXCHANGES BRING HAPPINESS
At New York City's Times Square, an hours-long celebration, which culminated in the 60-second countdown to the new year and the following confetti-filled festivities, brought some 1 million revelers from across the world to the heart of the city.
A Chinese folk dance amazed the crowd with the unique beauty of the Chinese culture along the ancient Silk Road and the passion and hospitality of its people.
Co-organized by the Sino-American Friendship Association and the Times Square Alliance, the performance featured over a dozen female dancers dressing like figures of Dunhuang murals in Mogao Caves, a UNESCO world heritage site in northwest China's Gansu Province.
The celebration before the ball drop included an array of kaleidoscopic performances from global artists and pop stars, including South Korean boy band BTS.
In Britain, fireworks illuminated the sky over cities such as London, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Nottingham.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Xinhua he hopes the fireworks display will show the world that London is still a confident "global city," as Britain prepares to leave the European Union on Jan. 31.
"London is open-minded, open to people, trade, and ideas for more than a thousand years. That's not going to change," said the mayor.
He highlighted Chinese tourists, investors and students' contribution to London, noting it's a win-win option for both Britain and China.
"I'm looking forward to even more tourists, visitors, students, investors from China coming to London, investing in our city, and experiencing London's experience going forward in 2020," he said.
DEVELOPMENT REMAINS PRIORITY
In a New Year speech delivered on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to achieve the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects for China in the "milestone" year.
Xi pledged to lift all rural residents living below the current poverty line out of poverty and eliminate poverty in all poor counties.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu in his New Year address described 2019 as "a very challenging year" with extreme weather greatly affecting agricultural production and electricity generation.
He said his government has made plans to get the landlocked central African country out of a harsh economic situation, and pledged the continued empowerment of women in national development.
On the new year's eve, the Palestinians living in the impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza Strip under Israeli siege since 2007 wished for a better life in the year of 2020.
Wassim Abdu, a 40-year-old owner of a flower store in Gaza downtown, said he wishes that Gaza will regain its vitality in the new year, adding, "I also hope that the Israeli blockade will end in a way that improves the dying economy of Gaza."
Not far away from Abdu's store, fruit seller Ahmed Lubbad arranged fresh fruits on his donkey-pulled cart, waiting for customers.
"We need jobs, reconciliation, an end to the blockade and the disturbances to which Gazans have been exposed over the past years," he said.
"Poverty is not the biggest problem in Gaza. The biggest problem is the ongoing political conflicts that have deteriorated the economic conditions," Lubbad said.
UNITY URGED TO COUNTER CHALLENGES
In his New Year speech, Xi also said China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, safeguard world peace and promote common development.
"We stand ready to join hands with people around the world to actively build the Belt and Road, push for the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, and work tirelessly to create a better future for humanity," the Chinese president said.
Many world leaders have called for social cohesion to address challenges and difficulties facing their country and people, and humankind at large.
"We live in a turbulent, dynamic, contradictory time, but we can and must do everything for Russia to develop successfully, so that everything in our life changes for the better," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his New Year speech on Tuesday.
"Only together will we resolve those issues faced by our society and our country today. Our unity is the foundation for achieving the highest goals," he said.
Tackling climate change was a highlight of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's New Year message broadcast on Tuesday.
"The warming of our planet is real, threatening," Merkel said. "The crises arising from global warming are man-made. So we have to do everything humanly possible to meet this challenge to humanity."
Merkel said the younger generation will have to live with the consequences of climate change if politicians do not act, adding that she will do her utmost to ensure that Germany "makes its contribution ecologically, economically, socially" to get the issue under control.