Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday that China will open up its market further to the services trade and called upon other countries to help forge an “open and inclusive” environment, promoting China as the leader to restore global trade and growth after the coronavirus outbreak.
Xi’s advocacy of international cooperation at the opening ceremony of the China International Fair for Trade in Services, the first big trade fair since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, came as opposition to China has been building in Washington and New Delhi.
India this week banned an additional 118 Chinese apps following a new border conflict with China, while Washington has ordered Chinese-owned popular video-sharing app TikTok to close unless it can be sold to US buyers.
China has “overcome many difficulties” to host such an international trade event, Xi said, and hopes “to work with every other country … to jointly promote global services trade and promote the rapid recovery of the world economy”.
Xi did not mention the United States or India in his speech. But he made an attempt to position China as a fighter against “unilateralism” and a power that could be relied upon when the world faces the “unprecedented challenges” of shrinking trade and economic growth.
“China will unswervingly expand opening up [its economy] … lower market access barriers for the services industry, and actively expand imports of high-quality services,” Xi said. He did not provide any details of how this would be translated into policy.
Xi added: “China will actively … promote the coordination of services trade rules, improve global economic governance, and promote inclusive growth of the world economy.”
It is not the first time that Xi has delivered a strong message on free trade and defended globalisation. In a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland three years ago, Xi positioned himself as a strong advocate for globalisation, rejecting US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy without directly referring to it.
Xi had attended China’s import expo in Shanghai for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019, pledging to the world business community that China’s market would be opened wider despite its trade frictions with the United States.
However, Beijing’s pro-trade message faces scrutiny as barriers remain high for foreign investors to access the country’s 1.4 billion consumers. In online services, China has banned Google, Twitter, Facebook and Netflix. In financial services, China continues to impose many restrictions on foreign banks and financial institutions despite recent increases in access for selected firms.
Xi said the world was undergoing major changes that were accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Telemedicine, online education, sharing platforms, collaborative offices and cross-border e-commerce have all played important roles in stabilising the economies of various countries and promoting international antivirus cooperation during the pandemic, he said.
“Looking to the future, open cooperation in the service industry is becoming an increasingly important force for development,” he said.
He also called on all countries to work together to eliminate the “digital divide” between rich and poor countries and promote the digitalisation of the service trade.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
More from South China Morning Post:
- China pitches services trade fair as proof of ‘unwavering confidence in opening up’ to foreign firms
- China’s Xi Jinping marks WWII victory, slams those who ‘vilify Communist Party’
- Chinese President Xi Jinping turns focus onto Tibet border security
- China keen to work with ‘US states, local councils, businesses’ despite Washington’s hostility, Xi Jinping says
This article Xi Jinping calls for freer service trade as China tries to counter decoupling first appeared on South China Morning Post