UK expects Beijing to lead on globalization
China has a great opportunity to take the lead on advocating for globalization and greater openness at a time of uncertainty in the West, says Richard Graham, the British MP who is chairman of the All Party Parliamentary China Group.
|Richard Graham, British MP|
"The danger of 2017 is the world closes in on itself," he said. "The question is: What can be done to maintain globalization and retract protectionism? So, China's role is particularly important because of the size of its economy and her ambitions overseas."
Graham spoke to China Daily ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which China's President Xi Jinping will attend.
Xi led a forum of Asia Pacific leaders in Peru in November that vowed to fight protectionism, just days after Donald Trump won the US election after pledging to pull out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Graham said China has a chance to spearhead growth through large umbrella projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, that will enhance trade and investment between Asia and Europe through infrastructure spending.
"That benefits wide parts of the world, and influences economic expansion," said Graham.
The UK can contribute valuable cultural understanding in parts of Africa and the Commonwealth and its expertise in project management, planning and design could also be useful in infrastructure projects, he explained.
Graham said the countries discussed collaboration on such projects in Afghanistan, when Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met Prime Minister Theresa May in London in December.
The British government has announced it will invest up to $50 million in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for a fund to help Belt and Road countries prepare infrastructure programs.
This month saw another milestone reached with the launch of a new Chinese rail freight service along the Belt and Road route.
Graham said China has shown increased international leadership due to its growing ambitions and confidence.
Xi's attendance at Davos is "another symbolic step forward in China's presence on the global stage" which has "been accelerating considerably, partly as a result of the growth in confidence, continued economic success and very stable political situation, against a situation in the West where we've had a major financial crisis, from which many countries are still recovering".
The 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath have led some in the West to question the benefits of globalization, leading to support for protectionism. But in China, outward expansion and domestic market liberalization momentum are continuing, Graham said.
He hopes the UK will welcome opportunities to "engage more and more with China" on such things as the UK China Free Trade Agreement suggested by British Chancellor Philip Hammond in July.