Wang Qishan

China’s Wang Qishan vows to deepen ties with Russia, takes veiled swipe at US

Vice-president tells forum in St Petersburg there will be no winners from a trade war between China and America, and Beijing has to be ready

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2018, 9:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2018, 11:39pm

Wang Qishan vowed to deepen cooperation with Russia and made a veiled attack on US protectionism on Saturday during his first overseas trip since he became Chinese vice-president in March.

He told an economic forum in St Petersburg that China had been in frequent talks with the administration of US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to slap tariffs on numerous Chinese imports and wants to narrow the trade gap between the two countries.

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The vice-president said there would be no winners if there was a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, but Beijing had to be ready for any turn of events.

“Putting just one country’s interests first will only get the opposite result,” Wang told the forum on Friday. “We must avoid a trade war because there won’t be any winners in such a war.”

Wang emphasised the importance of the China-Russia relationship, saying Beijing was willing to deepen strategic ties and forge a partnership with “mutual trust and support as well as common prosperity and friendship for generations”.

In his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Wang also said China wanted to develop more strategic and long-term cooperation with Russia to upgrade and improve relations and deepen their common interests.

Wang’s choice of Russia for his first diplomatic trip as vice-president follows in the footsteps of Xi Jinping, who visited Moscow a week after he became Chinese president in 2013. Wang will also visit Belarus on the six-day trip.

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It comes as ties between Beijing and Washington are under strain amid conflicts over trade and regional geopolitical issues such as the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, China and Russia are strengthening trade ties. Two-way trade reached US$84 billion last year, up 20 per cent from 2016, and the two sides have 73 cooperation projects worth more than US$100 million, according to Wang.

Putin will visit China next month to attend a summit in Qingdao of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security bloc led by Beijing and Moscow. It will be his 26th meeting with Xi, and the first since he began a fourth term as president earlier this month.

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During Friday’s speech, without naming the United States or Trump, Wang said countries should try to remain calm, confident and composed, broaden their horizons, and avoid blind fear, suspicion and arrogance.

He also said countries should properly identify their own problems based on the facts and figures, instead of blaming internal issues on others.

“Politicising the trade issue and wielding the stick of economic sanctions damages market certainty,” he said.

Wang called on all countries to jointly resist protectionism, stick to multilateralism and defend a stable global economic order. He said a mutually beneficial arrangement needed to be found and spoke out against what he called a zero-sum game.