ON Monday, Xi Jinping once again pledged to further open the Chinese import market, giving Donald Trump a free trade lesson to America and critics who accuse Beijing of backtracking on its reform promises.
In front of an audience of world leaders gathered at the very first Shanghai Import Fair, the Chinese president assured that his country would “increase its efforts” to open its market and increase its purchases abroad, but without announcing concrete measures.
“We are going to encourage a world-class business environment,” said the leader of the world’s second-largest economy, which this year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the era of reform and openness.
“The door of China will never close, it will open more,” said the Chinese leader in front of personalities such as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the boss of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde or the founder from Microsoft Bill Gates.
China is holding its first “International Import Exhibition” this week in its economic capital, a protest perceived as a response to the trade war launched in July by US President Donald Trump, dissatisfied with the colossal deficits accumulated by his country.
Without naming the United States, the Chinese president has denounced “protectionism” and “isolationism” one by one, and said that all countries should clean their doors before attacking others.
“They should not blame others for their own problems,” said the strong man of the communist regime. “They should not walk with a flashlight aimed at the faults of others without lighting up theirs.”
Beijing and Washington have raised punitive tariffs on their mutual imports in recent months, but the Chinese bilateral surplus has only continued to break records.
While about half of Chinese imports into the United States are already subject to these sanctions, Donald Trump has threatened to hit all Chinese products and the Trump administration is not represented at the Shanghai Fair.
Messrs. Trump and Xi, however, are expected to meet face-to-face at the end of the month on the sidelines of an international summit in Argentina, an event that raises hopes of easing trade tensions.
But the phenomenal success of Chinese trade is also generating criticism outside the United States.
Speaking after Xi Jinping, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said trade between China and China had increased nearly eightfold in 10 years, a reflection of Beijing’s huge investments in Africa.
“This trade is, however, heavily imbalanced in favor of China. It is therefore important that we correct this imbalance in order to achieve equitable sharing of the fruits of trade, “he said.
More than 3,000 foreign companies from 130 countries are attending the Shanghai Motor Show, including several US giants such as General Motors, Ford, Walmart or Tesla.
The inauguration of the show was preceded by calls for China to open its market further. In a column published in the Chinese press, the ambassadors of France and Germany asked Beijing last week “to do more” to ensure “fair competition” to foreign companies.
Obscure regulations, bureaucracy, discrimination against Chinese state groups, and the relative protection of intellectual property: companies and foreign governments regularly complain about the barriers they face in China.
China ranks 59 out of 62 countries surveyed by the OECD for their openness to foreign investment.