China Says It Remains Open to the World, but Wants to Dictate Terms

The New York Times | Steven Lee Myers and | Nov 24, 2020

xi jingping global politics - China Says It Remains Open to the World, but Wants to Dictate Terms

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is pursuing a strategy to make the country’s economy more self-sufficient, while making other places more dependent on it than ever.

After Australia dared last spring to call for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, China began quietly blocking one import after another from Australia — coal, wine, barley and cotton — in violation of free-trade norms. Then this month, with no clear explanation, China left $3 million worth of Australian rock lobsters dying in Shanghai customs.

Australia nonetheless joined 14 Asian nations and just signed a new regional free-trade deal brokered by China. The agreement covers nearly a third of the world’s population and output, reinforcing China’s position as the dominant economic and diplomatic power in Asia.

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It’s globalization with Communist characteristics: The Chinese government promotes the country’s openness to the world, even as it adopts increasingly aggressive and at times punitive policies that force countries to play by its rules.

With the United States and others wary of its growing dominance in areas like technology, China wants to become less dependent on the world for its own needs, while making the world as dependent as possible on China.

“China wants what other great powers do.  It wants to follow international rules and norms when it is in its interest, and disregard rules and norms when the circumstances suit it.” said Yun Jiang, a researcher and editor of the China Story at the Australian National University.

China’s strategy is born out of strength. The coronavirus has practically disappeared within its borders. The country’s economy is growing strongly. And China’s manufacturing sector has become the world’s largest by a wide margin, leaving other nations heavily dependent on it for everything from medical gear to advanced electronics.

Beijing is also pushing back against President Trump and his administration, taking advantage of the political disarray that has followed his electoral defeat. Beijing’s confidence on the global stage now compounds the challenge China will pose for the incoming administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

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In a flurry of speeches over the last week, Xi Jinping, China’s ambitious, authoritarian leader, laid out his vision for this new world order, while making clear his terms for global engagement.

“Openness is a prerequisite for national progress, and closure will inevitably lead to backwardness,” Mr. Xi said in remarks that seemed to take a swipe at Mr. Trump’s America-first agenda.

“While making the Chinese economy more resilient and competitive, it also aims to build a new system of open economy with higher standards,” he said. “This will create more opportunities for the world to benefit from China’s high-quality development.”

Mr. Xi’s own economic and political policies this year have been the mirror opposite. China’s plan, Mr. Xi has said, is to lessen dependence on imports, insulating the country from rising external risks, including the threat of a long, pandemic-induced global economic downturn and the severing of Chinese access to American high-tech know-how.

“The world as it exists today cannot be reduced to the rivalry of superpowers” Laurent Bili, the French ambassador to China, said at a conference organized last week by the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing research group.

“The United States is still in electoral chaos, while China is forming the world’s largest trade agreement,” the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing wrote on its official website recently.

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