By Zhou Pingjian
China-US trade talks are catching the eye of the Nigerian media recently. Around the world, there have been widespread concerns over the new round of additional tariffs between China and the US. Some believe escalated disputes will bring more uncertainties to world economy. Some have described the global economic landscape as “unpredictable” and labeled the trade issue as “the biggest uncertainty”.
We have noted the reactions of the international community and understand the concerns of various parties. Indeed, the escalation of China-US trade disputes is not in the interests of either side and will put a drag on world economy.
But the facts are clear to all: it is the US that provoked the trade disputes, not China; it is the US that fired the first shot in raising tariffs, not China; it is the US that repeatedly resorted to maximum pressuring, not China. What China has done so far is entirely self-defense against the unreasonable acts of the US side. By so doing, we are not only defending our own legitimate rights and interests, but also safeguarding multilateralism and the free trading system. The international community has its fair judgment on who is the initiator of the latest round of a tariff war, the rule-breaker in free trade and the generator of risks in global economy.
The underlying reason that the 11 rounds of consultations failed to yield an agreement is that the US attempts to achieve unreasonable demands through maximum pressure. This wouldn’t work from the very beginning.
The simplistic view that the US is “ripped off” in its trade with China is unscientific and unprofessional. Economic globalization by nature is a process during which countries leverage each other’s respective strengths and each supplies what the other needs. What we call reciprocity and mutual benefit in trade refers to the overall reciprocity and balance of interests in the open market of all industries. It is only unrealistic to pursue absolute reciprocal openness in real trade practices. Therefore, the negotiated trade agreement itself can by no means ask for absolute equality in all fields and it must be equal and mutually beneficial with two-way balance. There is hope for success only when the consultations proceed on the right track of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.
The US side claimed on May 17th that the two sides actually had a deal, but China broke it.
We are not sure what “deal” the US was referring to. Perhaps it has bore in mind all along “a deal” of its own wild wish, one that China has certainly not agreed on however. When its threats didn’t work and instead led to widespread doubts and market fluctuations at home and abroad, the US resorted to muddying the waters and shifting the blame.
That, too, is futile as the international community see clearly which side has been flip-flopping all along in the past 11 rounds of trade talks. In May last year, China and the US reached consensus on trade and issued a joint statement in Washington, D.C. But just a few days after that, the US abandoned the agreement. In December last year, the two sides reached consensus on the value of China’s purchases from the US, but in the following talks the US wantonly rejected the agreement and asked for more. It is never China that backtracks and breaks commitments.
The issue of forced technology transfers is sheer fabrication. In fact, China attaches great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights. There is never any policy forcing foreign actors to transfer technology. The recently-adopted Foreign Investment Law by China’s top legislature stipulates explicitly that there shall be no forced technology transfer through administrative means. There have been mutual investment and technology transfers between China and foreign countries, which is the result of consensual cooperation between market entities, a win-win cooperation by nature.
For some time, out of political motives, the US has been abusing its national power to tarnish the image of and suppress specific Chinese companies while making “national security” a catch-all phrase, which is disgraceful and unjust. This is entirely against market rules and the principle of fairness, which does not serve the interests of the US either.
The US side recently told reporters many times that China’s economy was not so good, and that China very much wanted to make a deal.
Such remarks are just baseless. The fact is that the Chinese economy is growing steadily with a positive momentum. Trade protectionist measures of the US side will have some impact on our economy, but we can totally overcome it. We have the confidence and capability to guard against any external risks and impacts.
In the first quarter this year, China’s GDP grew by 6.4% year on year, which is more than expected. In particular, domestic demand has become the main driver for growth. Last year, consumption contributed 76.2% of our economic growth. In its recent World Economic Outlook report, the IMF downgraded its outlook for global economic growth to 3.3% while upgrading China’s growth from 6.2% to 6.3%. China was the only country that got upgraded in the forecast among all major economies.
From January to April this year, China’s import and export increased by 4.3% year on year, with dramatic increase in export to the EU and ASEAN. With trade partners all around the world, China is turning more rapidly into a strong trading nation. Many countries would like to share China’s development dividends. If some country does not want to do business with China, others will soon fill in the vacancy.
The US side is reported to claim that China will be hurt very badly if it doesn’t make a deal because companies will be forced to move to other countries.
Frankly, the US doesn’t need to worry at all on China’s behalf. Over the past four decades of reform and opening up, enormous achievements have been made in economic and social development in China. As foreign investment environment keeps improving, China has become one of the most popular destinations for global investment for many consecutive years. When choosing investment destinations and business partners, enterprises make decisions based on their own interests and market principles rather than empty words from certain persons.
As a matter of fact, despite the constant US threats to impose additional tariffs on Chinese products for the past year or so, China remains a popular destination for foreign investors as their enthusiasm remains high. The number of foreign companies newly set up in China in 2018 topped 60,000, up by 69.8%. It is worth mentioning in particular that the biggest US oil company Exxon Mobil Corp decided to set up a wholly-owned large-scale petrochemicals project in September last year. In January this year, US company Tesla officially kicked off the construction of its first overseas factory in Shanghai.
As the top two biggest economies in the world, the economic and trade relations between China and the US are of great significance to the two countries and the global economy. The US should have worked with China and shouldered its responsibilities for global growth. But on the contrary, it insisted on staging a trade war unilaterally and repeatedly increased tariffs on Chinese goods against standing consensus while China has kept full sincerity for the consultations.
China has made it very clear on many occasions, raising tariffs won’t solve any problem, and starting a trade war will harm not only others, but also oneself. China doesn’t want a trade war, but is by no means afraid of fighting one. China never succumbs to external pressure. We have the resolve and capability to defend our lawful and legitimate rights and interests. If someone brings the war to our doorstep, we will fight to the end.
We hope the US will heed the international community’s call of ration and justice, keenly grasp the situation, return to the right track as early as possible, meet China halfway and strive for a mutually beneficial agreement on the basis of mutual respect. It will serve the interests of China and the US and is the shared aspiration of the international community.
(Zhou Pingjian is the Ambassador of China to Nigeria)