The winter Alps are an appropriately chilly backdrop for the World Economic Forum in Davos next week as the world witnesses a growing backlash against globalisation.
Some members of the forum may remember a keynote speech delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Swiss ski resort two years ago, in which he championed globalisation and pledged a more open Chinese economy.
The past two years has witnessed rising populism and trade protectionism, but also a determined China that has pressed ahead with further opening-up.
This culminated with the China International Import Expo in November.
Martin Albrow, a British sociologist known for his works on globalisation, remembered the Chinese president compared the world economy to an ocean to demonstrate that countries are growing interdependent and can no longer retreat into isolation.
“The image of an ocean is a very apt image,” Albrow said.
When addressing issues connected with the ocean, one has to first of all understand one’s own position, and then to decide what the best uses one can make of it are, he said. To make the best use of the tide of globalisation, Albrow sees a “wonderful” case in the Belt and Road Initiative established by China in 2013.
The initiative “is not dictated by economic globalisation,” he said. “It fits with it. It fits with the economic globalisation.”
China’s contribution is significant as it emphasises key components of a global strategy for dealing with global issues, he said.
Globalisation is neither invented nor designed by one person, but is an aggregate effect of human actions and policies, and it calls for collective leadership and the people working as a whole to meet it, he said.
“China offers us the understanding of this global situation,” the sociologist added.
Responsive and Responsible
Two years since Xi made his Davos debut, China has been playing a more responsive and responsible role in promoting economic globalisation with various actions. These include broadening market access, improving the investment environment and increasing imports.
The high-profile China International Import Expo in Shanghai attracted 172 countries, regions and international organisations, more than 3,600 companies, and more than 400,000 Chinese and foreign buyers.
Shanghai stood out as an ideal venue for the event that was the world’s first import-themed national-level expo.
“Indeed, openness, innovation and inclusiveness have become the hallmark of Shanghai,” Xi said, in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the expo.
“They are also a vivid reflection of China in the new era and its commitment to development and progress.”
Sadaaki Yokoo, a Senior Executive with Panasonic Corp, which exhibited at the import expo, said China’s opening-up will help countries around the world strengthen economic and trade exchanges as well as cooperation.
It also promotes the development of an open world economy, and provides more and better growth opportunities for businesses around the world, said Yokoo.
Also in Shanghai, US electric vehicle giant Tesla’s Gigafactory is under construction, as one of the largest foreign-invested manufacturing projects in the city.
Tesla’s Shanghai factory is also the first US plant that benefits from China’s new policy that allows foreign carmakers to set up wholly owned subsidiaries in the country.
China, now the world’s largest auto market, clearly has advantages in promoting electric vehicle production, said Albert Keidel, an adjunct graduate professor at the Economics Department of George Washington University.
“It’s not a surprise that the world’s automotive industry makers want to move their EV industries there,” said Keidel.
China not only tethers its fortunes to world trade, but has been making efforts, on bilateral and multilateral occasions, to persuade other players to follow suit for the benefit of all.
“I was looking at the vast ocean when I boarded the ship, and it struck me that we are all indeed fellow passengers in the same boat,” Xi said at the APEC CEO Summit held in November on a cruise ship off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
China has become a propeller of free trade, said Li Bo, visiting fellow at the International Center for Chinese Studies at Aichi University in Japan.
In November in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, Xi urged G20 members to stay committed to openness and uphold the multilateral trading system.
It was also in line with the approach with which Xi addresses the differences between his country and the United States in the field of trade and economy, said Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.
The differences between the two countries can only be resolved through consultations and cooperation, Zheng said, adding that these were the approaches upheld by Xi to resolve other problems derived from globalisation.