China’s vice president mounted a vigorous defense of globalization and offered a thinly veiled rebuke of President Donald Trump’s economic policies, warning the international order was under assault from “unilateralism, protectionism and populism.”
In a carefully scripted keynote address Wednesday to the business leaders gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wang Qishan didn’t mention Trump by name.
But in a speech that detailed China’s economic history from its 19th century isolation to its recent emergence as an economic power, he voiced objection to America’s growing hawkishness toward China’s policies.
“We reject the practices of the strong bullying the weak and self-claimed supremacy,” Wang said, in an apparent reference to Trump’s “America First’’ foreign policy.
Wang defended globalization as an ”inevitable trend of history’’ and said that rather than reject it, the world needed to work together to address the challenges. He also cautioned against the scapegoating of China for the dislocation caused in some rich countries by the movement of manufacturing jobs to developing nations.
“What we need to do is make the pie bigger while looking for ways to share it in a more equitable way,’’ Wang said. “Shifting blame for one’s own problems onto others will not resolve the problems.’’
Globalization had helped China transform from what he called “a weak and impoverished agrarian country” and given the world nearly 1.4 billion Chinese who are “enjoying greater prosperity’’ and “ have unleashed huge demand backed by purchasing power.’’
“This has unlocked enormous market potential that no one can afford to ignore,’’ he said.
The answer was not a new wave of isolationism and protectionism, Wang said in a dig at the U.S. imposition of tariffs on $250 billion in imports from China as well as new barriers being erected to Chinese investment in both the U.S., Europe and other countries such as Australia.
“Many countries are increasingly looking inward when making policies, barriers to international trade and investment are increasing, and unilateralism, protectionism and populism are spreading in the world,’’ Wang said. “All these are posing serious challenges to the international order.’’
Wang also defended China’s record of innovation against the charges leveled by the U.S. that the rise of Chinese companies and the economy as a whole have come on the back of a state-directed campaign of intellectual property theft.
“The advances in China in the past 70 years are not a godsend, nor a gift from others. Rather, they are made by the Chinese people through vision, hard work, courage, reform and innovation,’’ he said.
Also looming over this week’s meeting has been anxiety about possibility of a trade war with the U.S. resuming with the March 1 end of a temporary truce approaching and another senior Chinese official, Vice Premier Liu He, due to visit Washington for important talks next week.
Wang, 70, has long been one of China’s best known economic reformers. He has taken an increasing diplomatic role since his appointment as vice president last year. But he missed an opportunity to hold talks with senior U.S. officials in Davos, after Trump called off his delegation’s trip because of the government shutdown in Washington.
By Shawn Donnan