China plays down Brexit threat to EU, seeing ‘chances in challenges’

Foreign minister underlines Beijing’s commitment to ‘healthy globalisation’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 8:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 10:53pm

Beijing has downplayed the possible fallout from Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying the challenges facing the continent are a chance to make the EU stronger.

Wang’s assessment on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress on Wednesday comes at a time of uncertainty in Europe.

Britain voted last year to leave the EU, and big European countries, including Germany, France and the Netherlands, will hold key elections this year amid resurgent populism.

“We believe the challenges confronting the EU could be an opportunity for it to mature,” Wang said.

“We are willing to work with Europe to revive the global economy, improve global governance and boost healthy development of economic globalisation.”

Wang repeated China’s support for multilateralism, adding that China valued the strategic importance and status of Europe.

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His comments follow President Xi Jinping’s vigorous defence of globalisation at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

But China has long been accused of protectionism, with some arguing that China is not living up to its pledge as the torch-bearer of globalisation.

China is set to host a Silk Road summit in Beijing in May. Roughly 20 state leaders and 100 ministers from various countries had confirmed they would attend, Wang said.

Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election has also been followed by a backlash against globalisation.

His America-first agenda and criticism of the United Nations has raised international concern that the United States is withdrawing from its long-standing leadership role, leaving China to exploit the vacuum.

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Wang indicated that China did not intend to take up a leadership role in building a new global ­order. “What we are doing is not to build a new system, but to polish and improve it,” the foreign minister said.

He said the UN played an irreplaceable role in advancing ­humanity’s development but the organisation needed to innovate and change to maintain its ­relevance.

“In China’s view, the present international system was built by our forefathers from the ashes of world war two. It is a result of our common effort and wisdom,” he said.

“It is like a well-designed building with multilateralism as its cornerstone and the UN and other international organisations as important pillars.”