As chilly as the Alps winter is the global economic landscape beset with growing backlash against globalization when world leaders and business elites are busy packing up for their annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) next week in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Some of those frequenters of the forum may still remember a keynote speech delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Davos two years ago, in which he championed globalization and pledged a more open Chinese economy.
The past two years witnessed rising populism and trade protectionism, but also a determined China that honored its words and pressed ahead with further opening-up actions, climaxed by an import-themed fair, the China International Import Expo (CIIE), in the metropolitan city of Shanghai lying on the banks of the Yangtze River in November 2018.
Martin Albrow, a British sociologist known for his works on globalization, remembered that the Chinese president had compared the world economy to an ocean to prove countries are growing interdependent and can no longer retreat into isolation.
“The image of an ocean is a very apt image,” Albrow said in an interview with Xinhua on Monday, three days before the two-year anniversary of Xi’s philosophical Davos speech.
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 globalization, Albrow sees a “wonderful” case in the Belt and Road Initiative brought up by China in 2013. “This (the initiative) is not dictated by economic globalization. It fits with it. It fits with the economic globalization,” he said.
China’s contribution is significant as it emphasizes key components of a global strategy for dealing with global issues, he said.
Globalization 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.
Two years since Xi made his Davos debut, China has been playing a more responsive and responsible role in promoting economic globalization with various actions, including broadening market access, improving the investment environment and increasing imports.
The high-profile CIIE, a climax of those actions, attracted 172 countries, regions and international organizations, over 3,600 companies, and more than 400,000 Chinese and foreign buyers.
Shanghai, located at where the Yangtze River flows into the Pacific Ocean, stood out as an ideal venue for the event that is the world’s first import-themed national-level expo and an innovation in the history of global trade.
“Indeed, openness, innovation and inclusiveness have become the hallmark of Shanghai,” Xi said at the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the CIIE. “They are also a vivid reflection of China in the new era and its commitment to development and progress,” he added.
Sadaaki Yokoo, a senior executive with Panasonic Corporation, told Xinhua in a recent interview that China’s opening-up will help countries around the world strengthen economic and trade exchanges and 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, whose company exhibited its products and technology under the theme “A Better Life, A Better World” at the expo.
Also in Shanghai, US electric vehicle (EV) giant Tesla’s Gigafactory, an electric vehicle manufacturing facility, 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 vehicle market, clearly has advantages in promoting EV 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. “That’s quite a natural move.”
Openness as Solution
China not only tethers its fortunes to world trade, but has been making efforts, at various 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,” said Xi at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit held in November on a cruise ship by the coast of Papua New Guinea.
China has become a propeller of free trade, Li Bo, visiting fellow at the International Center for Chinese Studies at Aichi University, Japan, told Xinhua, adding that this is exactly how the world views China today.
In November in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, Xi urged G20 member countries to stay committed to openness and cooperation and uphold the multilateral trading system.
“China upholds free trade and globalization, which injects certainty into the world to give people confidence that the great powers … are embracing globalization and free trade,” Li said.
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, Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, told Xinhua on Tuesday.
The exchanges in trade and economy between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, have been very close and interdependent, Xi told his US counterpart, Donald Trump, at a working dinner after the conclusion of the G20 summit.
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 globalization.