By Ni Feng
President Xi Jinping is the first Chinese head of state to take part in the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, scheduled from January 17 to 20. The theme for this year’s gathering is Responsive and Responsible Leadership. As President of the world’s second-largest economy, Xi’s attendance is of particular importance to the world economy and politics.
Globalization is one of the most effective ways to allocate resources. Regrettably, the past year, perplexed by the debt problem, the refugee crisis and a string of terror attacks, saw the rise of anti-globalization sentiments. Britain voted to leave the EU; Donald Trump, known for his isolationist tendency, has been elected as the US president. The public seems to grow more skeptical of globalization. This is a worrying sign. At this crucial stage where globalization either advances or withdraws, Xi is expected to voice China’s concerns and stance at Davos.
In the meantime, a sluggish economic growth is plaguing the whole world. Statistics from the WTO suggest that the past year marked the slowest pace of trade and output growth since the financial crisis of 2008. The relationship between trade and GDP growth is weakening as well. 2016 is the first time in 15 years that the ratio between world GDP and trade growth has fallen below 1:1, according to reports. This is not good news for sustainable economic growth as trade is a significant factor in the prosperity of world economies.
More efforts should be devoted to promoting economic growth and globalization for mutually beneficial results. As an emerging power, China plays a vital role on the world arena. It is not only the world’s second-largest economy, but also the largest trading partner for more than 130 countries.
“China has become a bedrock for protecting global free trade,” according to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Xi’s attendance at the Davos forum highlights China’s responsibility as a major power.
China’s current challenges also make promoting globalization a priority for the Chinese government. Industrial overcapacity, which surged in recent years, is one of the biggest headaches for China. The nation pledged to push forward various reforms and take necessary measures to tackle this problem. Globalization is an exchange of products and capacities in nature and thus, will help alleviate China’s oversupply. Taking part in the annual gathering of the world’s political and economic elites to promote globalization is a wise choice for the Chinese government.
Some observers argue that Xi’s attendance at Davos is a sign that “China is starting to fill the space being potentially vacated by the US under Trump.” It should be noted that while the US-led developed countries and China-represented emerging entities were the two largest engines for economic globalization in the past, the former seems to have lost growth momentum following Brexit and Trump’s election win. This prompts China to bear more responsibilities.
Some worry that Trump may be tough on China over trade after taking office. The President-elect criticized China for manipulating currency. Although there is no need to take Trump’s remarks too seriously before he is sworn in, China should continue to facilitate trade and provide more favorable conditions for its partners.
On the one hand, Beijing should stick to the policy of reform and opening-up. A more open market is what the international community expects. On the other, the Chinese government can put more efforts into the One Belt and One Road initiative so as to aid connectivity and improve infrastructure in countries along the route. This is a new form of globalization that is worthy of attention. Above all, globalization is mutually beneficial, and Xi’s attendance at Davos is of vital importance especially when the world is plagued by a slowing economic growth.
[The author is deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. firstname.lastname@example.org] [Global Times]
Xi’s Davos attendance highlights China’s responsibility
By Ni Feng