Which side will win out in the ongoing trade war, China or the US?
That was a question I was asked the other day, when I had the honour and pleasure to address hundreds of students in the prestigious University of Abuja on China’s development and its foreign relations.
No one will emerge as the winner in a trade war. China wants trade, not war. Honestly.
Since it took office in 2017, the new US administration has threatened additional tariffs and other measures and provoked frequent economic and trade friction with its major trading partners. In response to the economic and trade friction unilaterally initiated by the US since March 2018, China has had to take forceful measures to defend the interests of the nation and its people.
At the same time, committed to resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation, China has engaged in multiple rounds of economic and trade consultations with the US in an effort to stabilize the bilateral commercial relationship.
China’s position has been consistent and clear — that cooperation serves the interests of the two countries, that conflict can only hurt both, and that cooperation is the only correct choice for both sides. Concerning their differences and frictions on the economic and trade front, China is willing to work together with the US to find solutions, and to reach a mutually beneficial and win-win agreement. However, cooperation has to be based on principles. There are bottom lines in consultations.
“China will not compromise on major issues of principle,” the newly-issued white paper by China, namely China’s Position on the China-US Economic and Trade Consultations, reaffirms, “ China does not want a trade war, but it is not afraid of one and it will fight one if necessary. China’s position on this has never changed. ”
Besides a preface and a conclusion, the 8,300-character white paper issued on June 2 by State Council Information Office devotes three sections to elaborate on the damages of the trade frictions provoked by the United States, the U.S. backtracking on its commitment in the consultations, and China’s commitment to credible consultations based on equality and mutual benefit. It offers a complete and accurate account of the whole process of consultations and presents the facts and truth.
As it clearly states, every setback in the trade talks was caused because the US side was flip-flopping and breaking commitments. Its accusation on China’s “backpedaling” is merely an attempt to distort the facts and blame the innocent party for its own wrongdoing.
You may also recall, on September 24 last year, in response to the US accusation on China’s “unfair trade practices”, China issued the white paper, namely The Facts and China’s Position on China-US Trade Friction, which was an authoritative response and refutation to the baseless blames by the US on trade deficit, intellectual property rights and technology transfer.
The two white papers provide a comprehensive picture of the China-US economic and trade consultations, and present China’s policy position on these consultations.
I didn’t talk much on the white papers while I was in UniAbuja, though. My response to that big question kept a focus on some fundamentals of China. My argument was, people could draw their own conclusions on any big issue concerning China, such as the outcome of the China-US economic and trade consultations, once they truly understand China as it is.
I mentioned the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Founded in 1921, came to power in 1949, the CPC has always been the backbone of the Chinese people. From a extremely humble beginning, the CPC is now the largest and strongest ruling party in the world. Over the past 98 years, whether in times of weakness or strength, whether in times of adversity or smooth sailing, the CPC has never forgotten its founding mission, nor wavered in its pursuit.
It has united the Chinese people and led them in conquering countless challenges, making enormous sacrifices, meeting setbacks squarely, and courageously righting wrongs. Thus the Chinese people have, time and again, overcome the seemingly insurmountable and created miracle upon miracle.
China’s development may not be all smooth sailing. Difficulties or even perils are inevitable. Whatever the future might bring, China, under the leadership of CPC Central Committee with President Xi Jinping as its core, is confident of meeting challenges head on, turning risks into opportunities, and opening new chapters. No challenge will hold back China’s development.
I mentioned the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
With a history of more than 5000 yeas, the Chinese nation created a splendid civilization, made remarkable contributions to mankind, and became one of the world’s great nations. But with the Opium War of 1840, China was plunged into the darkness of domestic turmoil and foreign aggression; its people were ravaged by wars, saw their homeland torn, and lived in poverty and despair. Foreign bullying and domination persisted. All those unequal treaties imposed on China.
No sovereignty and dignity to speak of. Humiliation diplomacy was the norm for China for over a hundred years, until the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
The People’s Republic of China has been pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace since its founding 70 years ago. The new China advocates the five principles of peaceful coexistence. It has not and will never give ground on issues of principle.
China is committed to credible consultation based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. However, China will not bow under pressure and will rise to any challenge coming its way. China is open to negotiation, but will also fight to the end if needed.
I also mentioned China’s commitment to reform and opening up. Openness brings progress, while self-seclusion leaves one behind. China will not close its door to the world; we will only become more and more open.
President Xi Jinping announced in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that China would adopt a number of major reform and opening-up measures, strengthen institutional and structural arrangements, and promote opening up at a higher level.
Measures to be taken include expanding market access for foreign investment in broader areas, strengthening international cooperation on intellectual property protection, increasing imports of goods and services, implementing more effective international coordination on macro-economic policies, and putting more focus on the implementation of opening-up policies.
A more open China will have more positive interactions with the world, which in turn will advance the development and prosperity of both China and the world.
“Cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the US and win-win is the only path to a better future,” concludes China’s newly-issued white paper, “As to where the China-US economic and trade consultations are heading, China is looking forward, not backward.
Disputes and conflicts on the trade and economic front, at the end of the day, need to be solved through dialogue and consultation. Striking a mutually beneficial and win-win agreement serves the interests of China and the US and meets the expectations of the world.
It is hoped that the US can pull in the same direction with China and, in a spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, manage economic and trade differences, strengthen trade and economic cooperation, and jointly advance China-US relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability for the well-being of both nations and the world. ”
(Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)