China to be world’s ‘anchor of stability’ to counter rising protectionism: Li Keqiang

Echoing President Xi Jinping at Davos, premier says China will stay the course of economic openness and globalisation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 4:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 11:19pm

Premier Li Keqiang pledged that China will give the world “an anchor of stability” by maintaining domestic reform and championing economic openness, amid a rising tide of protectionism.

Li’s comment is the latest effort by Beijing to call for openness and defending globalisation, in stark contrast to US President Donald Trump’s “America first” agenda.

“This is a testing time,” Li wrote in latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek. “Above all, we remain convinced that economic openness serves [the interests of] everyone better, at home and abroad.”

“It’s far preferable for countries to trade goods and services and bond through investment partnerships than to trade barbs and build barriers.”

Why Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP is a boon for China

The remarks echoed President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month, in which he said globalisation should not be blamed for the Syrian refugee crisis and financial problems.

Xi’s speech and Li’s article contrast with the protectionist sentiments and domestic focus of the newly sworn-in US president.

Trump, on his third day in office, signed an executive order to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal spearheaded by his predecessor Barack Obama that included 12 Pacific Rim countries excluding China after eight years of hard negotiations.

China is widely considered to be a major beneficiary of economic globalisation. Since its accension to the World Trade Organisation in 2001, its export-oriented growth model lead the country’s economic take-off in the first few years of the new millennium to become the world’s top exporter.

During the presidential campaign, Trump threatened to label China a currency manipulator and slap a 45 per cent tariff on all goods of Chinese origin.

Although the Trump administration has yet to address China issues, his decisions to withdraw from TPP, revoke Obamacare and build a wall along the Mexican border point to further trade frictions, if not a full-scale trade war.

“Should differences arise, it behooves us all to discuss them with respect and a keen sense of equality,” Li wrote.

Amid such global uncertainties, the Chinese premier pledged to “offer an anchor of stability and growth with [a] consistent message of support for reform, openness and free trade”.

US trading partners Australia and Chile swiftly woo China after Trump pulls out of Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Chinese government is expected to maintain a growth target of about 6.5 per cent this year, after securing a “healthy 6.7 per cent” in 2016, and will continue its structural reform to find new engines of growth.

The country will “open new sectors”, “widen access” and “ensure all businesses registered in China are treated equally”, Li said.

It has started a negative list for investment in its several free-trade pilot zones, which will be extended nationwide in the future.

China is also expected to push forward the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a China-led trade block, and its One Belt, One Road initiative to advance trade and investment.