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View China's role in the world fairly

By Zhong Xuanli | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-19 07:15
US Vice-President Mike Pence addresses the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

What has China's development brought to the world? It's not a difficult question, but the United States has recently answered it in an absurd way. Some American observers think that what has come with a rising China are economic aggression, geopolitical expansion and damaged international rules. This is now taken as the official line of the US government. US President Donald Trump said on Sept 17 that Chinese practices "plainly constitute a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy". On Oct 4, Vice-President Mike Pence attributed China's economic success largely to "American investment in China", saying the US rebuilt China over the last 25 years. But that is not true.

Driver of global growth, not economic aggressor

In his speech, Pence accused China of carrying out "economic aggression", saying China has used "an arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade" that "have built Beijing's manufacturing base, at the expense of its competitors-especially the United States of America". He alleged that these actions of China have contributed to the huge trade deficit with the US and urged China to change the "unfair" practices.

But trade is a two-way activity based on mutual agreement. China has never sought to buy from or sell to the US by force, neither has it eyed a trade surplus only. According to the UN statistics, the US exported $129.89 billion worth of goods to China in 2017, an increase of 577 percent compared with 2001, much higher than the 112 percent rise in US global exports over the same period. This happened against the backdrop of tight US restrictions on the types of goods exported to China, especially on high-tech products.

In that sense, a slight easing of the restrictions would reduce the US trade deficit significantly. According to a study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in April 2017, if the US were to liberalize its export barriers against China to the same level as those applicable to Brazil, the US-China trade deficit would be narrowed by up to 24 percent.

Similarly, should the US adjust its export barriers against China according to those applicable to France, its trade deficit with China would decrease by as much as 34 percent. Obviously the US has witnessed such a high trade deficit because it doesn't want to sell products to China, not the other way around.
The service trade between China and the US also needs to be counted in. US statistics show that from 2007 to 2017, US service exports to China grew by 3.4 times from $13.14 billion to $57.63 billion, while its service exports to other countries and regions increased by 1.8 times. The US surplus with China in services multiplied by a factor of $30 billion to $40.2 billion.

The gains and losses of China-US trade, being part of economic globalization, should be calculated from a global perspective. Over the past decades the US has moved its manufacturing industry such as processing and assembly to other parts of the world while keeping services such as design and marketing. China, being the largest receiver of international industrial relocation, has a large part of its exported goods actually produced by multinational companies from countries such as the US. In the value chain, multinational companies take the majority of profits while Chinese ones only take a tiny share for their processing payment.

With dynamic development, China has become an important engine for international economic growth. China's contribution to world economic growth has stayed around 30 percent since 2013, topping other countries, and reached 34.6 percent in 2017, twice that of the US.

China's development has also created a larger market for the world. From 2001 to 2017, China's imports of goods grew at an average rate of 13.5 percent, twice that of the world's average. In the same period China's service imports rose by 16.7 percent on average, 2.7 times that of the international average. From 2011 to 2017, the share of China's total imports of goods and services in the world's total increased from 8.4 percent to 10.1 percent, while that of the US dropped by 0.5 percentage point in the same period.

China is also an important creator of jobs worldwide. So far it has set up more than 80 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in countries along the Belt and Road routes, creating about 244,000 local jobs. And, according to Ernst& Young, China created over 130,000 jobs in Africa from 2005 to 2016, more than three times the number of jobs created by the US. And a study by the International Labour Organization released in 2017 found that between 1990 and 2016, at least 1.8 million jobs were created as a result of China's trade, investment and infrastructure projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Some Americans allege that China has stolen American jobs because some American factories were relocated to China. Yet this allegation doesn't hold water. A report by the US-China Business Council released in early 2017 said the bilateral trade relationship actually supported roughly 2.6 million jobs in the US. And the US has lost more than 7 million factory jobs since manufacturing employment peaked in 1979, with 88 percent of the lost jobs taken by robots and other homegrown factors that reduce factories' need for human labor, according to a 2015 study by Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research. Where to set up factories is decided by US companies on profit-driven consideration, not by China.

It's fair to say that China has not been an aggressor in its development, but a contributor to the world and a strong supporter of the UN Millennium Development Goals and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It has demonstrated a new path toward modernization for developing countries that are home to more than 80 percent of global population, and provided an option never seen before for countries that want both development and independence. Raphael Tuju, secretary-general of the ruling Jubilee Party of Kenya, said that China's achievement has no precedent in the history of mankind and gives African people "a flicker of hope and light at the end of the tunnel".

China's development achievement is not driven by American investment, but the diligence and hard work of 1.3 billion Chinese people. Even in terms of investment, the US is not the largest investor in China. Since the 1980s, US investment has accounted for just 7-10 percent of foreign investment in China, while it has in return earned handsome profits.

Builder of world peace that does not seek geopolitical expansion

The US has accused China of conducting "debt diplomacy" to expand its influence, and Pence specifically referred to Sri Lanka. However, Karunasena Kodituwakku, Sri Lanka's ambassador to China, said in early October that "If anybody is saying that the Chinese government gave its money to put Sri Lanka into a 'debt trap', I don't agree with that. It's an absolutely wrong conclusion". The ambassador clarified that the security of Hambantota Port is entirely a matter for Sri Lankan security forces. Unfortunately in the US' geopolitical mindset, a country is an ally or a rival, there is no other option.

Instabilities and uncertainties are currently the main threats to world peace. To tell threats from efforts to promote world peace, we need to tell behavior that creates conflicts from safeguarding stability. The Belt and Road Initiative accused by the US of being a scheme with "geopolitical intent" has attracted 103 countries and international organizations to sign 118 cooperation agreements under the Belt and Road framework with China. The initiative, together with its core concepts, has been incorporated into outcome documents of important international mechanisms such as the United Nations, G20, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is in fact a "chorus" beyond zero-sum mentality in the spirit of "peaceful cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, mutual benefit and win-win results", fundamentally different from the concept of geopolitical expansion.

China is committed to safeguarding peace and security and promoting global peace and stability through its own development and prosperity. China is the UN Security Council permanent member that dispatches the most peace-keeping troops, and it advocates and is committed to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Till the first half of 2017, China had dispatched 35,000 peace-keeping military personnel who participated in 24 UN peace-keeping missions, and it has been praised as a "key factor and key force of peace-keeping" by the international community. China has never waged a war for the sake of oil or resources, nor has it used languages such as "evil" "loser" or "shithole" that are of no use except for triggering conflicts to attack other countries.

Domestically speaking, China is among the main economies with the best public security. According to a survey by Gallop's 2018 Global Law and Order Report, China ranks among the top 10 safe tourist destinations globally, and among them it is the only main economy. The US, however, suffers from a woeful domestic security situation. Statistics show that from 2014 to 2017, deaths and injuries from gun crimes in the country have risen annually by 5 percent. In 2017 alone, the number reached 61,813, of which 15,637 people have died. On average, 170 people were killed or injured as a result of gun crimes every day in the US.

As the self-appointed global sheriff, the US should have seen peace-keeping as its greatest responsibility, but it has all along been waging wars in the name of "safeguarding world peace". Since World War II, the US has started or participated in more than 30 wars. Its bellicosity has brought disasters for the world and even for its own people.

The Iraq War launched by the US caused the deaths of 655,000 Iraqi people and 2,765 American soldiers from 2003 to 2012, leaving over 20,000 American soldiers injured or maimed. The US has meddled in the chaos in Syria, displacing large numbers of people. Till August 2018, there have been 5.6 million Syrian refugees registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The crisis has created profound implications for the whole world. The Afghanistan War started by the US in 2001 has caused over 300,000 deaths and injuries, and is still a "bleeding wound" today.

New factors including economic security have become vital parts of global peace. Lower trade barriers work to enhance cooperation and foster economic stability. An increasingly open China has never initiated trade conflicts and has fully fulfilled its promises upon joining the World Trade Organization. China has also increased assistance to developing WTO members, especially the least developed countries, to close the development gap between the South and the North. By March 2018, it had implemented zero-tariff policies on 97 percent tax items from 36 least developed countries with diplomatic relations with China. This year, China has again declared that it will expand openness and widen market access, while speeding up all-sector openness in services, the finance industry in particular.

On the other side of the world, however, the US in the name of "reciprocal openness" abuses "national security" and set up the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that includes members from several government departments such as intelligence organs, constantly expanding its coverage and making "national security" a tool to block foreign companies trying to enter its market.

In 2017 alone, CFIUS blocked more than 20 foreign companies from entering the US market in the name of "national security", over half of which were Chinese companies. Both the US and China are WTO members, so economic and trade issues between them should be resolved within the WTO framework. But the US has arbitrarily dealt with trade frictions with China according to its domestic laws despite the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. This deviates from the basic principles of the WTO and runs against its obligations for tariff concession and most-favored-nation treatment. The US president even threatened China by saying, "if China takes vindictive actions against our farmers or other industries, we will immediately take a third step: imposing customs on an extra $267 billion of imports from China". This is exactly the modern example of the saying "one may steal a horse while another may not look over the hedge".

China safeguards rather than breaks the international order

The US often accuses China of "not obeying international rules" and slanders China's role in the international community, calling it a revisionist state. Many things China does are labeled actions that "break international rules."

The fact is, however, China has directly participated in building the post-World War II global order as a founding member of the UN. China's representative Dong Biwu was the first to sign the UN Charter. Since it took its lawful seat in the UN and all its affiliated organizations in 1971, China has continually joined international organizations. Currently, China has joined more than 400 multilateral agreements, all UN organizations and about 90 percent of inter-governmental ones, fully involved in the current global order.

According to the Yearbook of International Organizations 2017-18, China's participation rate in international organizations, the fastest growing among the main economies, is rapidly nearing those of France and Germany. Many studies have concluded that China has been fully integrated into the international system and it stands as a steadfast upholder of and contributor to the global order.

More and more countries expect China to play a greater role in global governance. In recent years, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in the spirit of achieving shared growth through consultation and collaboration and started the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is conducive to the current global order.

China has also hosted major events such as the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, G20 Hangzhou Summit, first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and the ninth BRICS Summit. It has reiterated the concept of deepening reform and expanding opening-up and welcomed other countries to take a ride on China's development. It has been well received by the international community. China's circle of friends keeps expanding.

The US as the leader in global order after WWII, on contrary, now keeps breaking the global order by "exiting", threatening to exit, or even "disbanding organizations". For example, it has withdrawn from Paris Agreement against climate change, United Nations Human Rights Council, UNESCO, Global Compact on Migration, and the Iran nuclear deal. The G7 led by the US used to play an important role in global governance. Nowadays, however, internal rifts have become its focus. Besides, the US intends to reshore industries such as automobile manufacturing, and iron and steel that enjoy a well-established global order, sending shocks through the EU and Japan. It is China that is safeguarding the global order, and the US is the spoiler.

Unilateralism and a zero-sum mentality have no future. However the world may change, China will stay steadfastly with the international community and remain devoted to building a new type of international relations, a community with a shared future for mankind and make greater contributions to the progress of mankind.

The author is a commentator with People's Daily.

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