China offers hope in fight against protectionism
BEIJING - Over eight years after the outbreak of the international financial crisis that took a heavy toll on the global economy, the world recovery remains less than satisfactory. Even worse, waves of anti-globalization and trade protectionism continue to resurge, risking the world down a perilous path that would benefit none.
As a decades-old trend that has driven up productivity by allocating resources more efficiently, globalization, during a period of which the world has enjoyed the fastest growth rate in history, has benefitted numerous businesses, lifted billions of people out of poverty, and led the world to greater prosperity. However, the sentiment towards the one of the greatest feats in human civilization by some developed economies, once strong champions of global free trade, appears to have taken a turn, with an isolationist tendency that seemingly gained steam, especially in 2016.
US President-elect Donald Trump, who is about to be sworn in on Jan 20, vowed repeatedly during his campaign to reverse a US deficit by imposing higher tariffs on foreign imports while keeping jobs from being outsourced overseas with preferential policies for domestic businesses.
Britons voted to withdraw from the European Union (EU) in June, leaving its free trade with rest of the bloc in uncertainty, while out of a trade protectionist agenda the EU disobeyed its international obligations by refusing to abandon the surrogate country approach when calculating anti-dumping measures against Chinese exports.
Sluggishness and gloominess in the global economy have sowed the seeds for a resurgence in nationalism, populism, trade protectionism, and the urge to backtrack on globalization. But these values in the long-run serve the interests of nobody.
Ostensibly, the tariff hike proposed by Trump aims to protect US manufacturers, but most of them also rely on foreign goods for their own production. A recent report by the US-China Business Council found that trade with China supports some 2.6 million jobs in the United States.
A rise in import tariffs is likely to shorten supplies and increase the cost of US products, thus weakening their competitiveness.
Rightist ideas have been fueled across Europe by Brexit, which risks further tearing the EU apart and sending the continent back to the chaos of 1930s, an all-lose scenario European countries cannot afford to let happen again.
The EU's penny-wise old tricks of proposing anti-dumping rules that allows the bloc to impose higher tariffs in the name of protecting European industries have added uncertainty to a "golden era" in EU-China relations.
Unsurprisingly, global trade is slowing down. The WTO cut its 2016 world trade growth forecast to 1.7 percent from its previous estimate of 2.8 percent. Many trade-powered economies are being dragged into deeper stagnation.
The rising trade protectionism that runs counter to globalization could hardly absolve itself of the blame. For a better global recovery, the trend must be reversed as global trade is an indispensable powerhouse of world growth; it should by no means be allowed to stall.
Unlike some of its developed counterparts, China has taken positive approaches towards the global economic slowdown. Besides focusing on its own reforms, expanding innovation and increasing its openness to the globe, the world's second largest economy is also blazing new trails through expanding regional and global connectivity.
For instance, a series of applause-winning multilateral mechanisms initiated by Beijing, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative, have unleased enormous potential and provide great opportunities for regional and international cooperation. Early positive results are beginning to surface, in sharp contrast to the isolationist self-centeredness of the West.
Additionally, it is noteworthy that self-serving trade protectionism in a globalized world is no way out for either an individual, regional, or a global recovery, but could only kick off a vicious cycle of isolation and helplessness. This stands in contrast to the global trend of countries coming together to form a community of common destiny, one with highly interwoven economic, political, security and development interests.
As Western powers seem to shift their policies more toward their own interests, globalization is in dire need of new leadership to seek a more inclusive, sustainable, and favorable track.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be held in the Swiss city of Davos later this month, his first appearance at the international arena.
With the world increasingly pinning its hopes on "China Solutions" in recent years, the 2017 WEF may be the start of China's new role as a leader in promoting globalization and a speedy recovery of the global economy.