China’s Vice-President Wang Qishan hits out at ‘protectionism and populism’, as trade deal with US hangs in balance

Amanda Lee

Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan has criticised protectionism and reaffirmed China’s commitment to letting the market play a decisive role, after US President Donald Trump raised fresh doubts about an interim trade deal.

Without naming any particular nation, Wang said the international order was “under attack” because of protectionism and populism.

“The rise of protectionism and populism have given a shock to the international order and economic globalisation,” Wang said on Thursday in a speech at the New Economy Forum in Beijing, organised by Bloomberg. “We should abandon the zero-sum thinking and cold war mentality.

“We should continue advocating multilateralism and democratisation of international relations, building up a fair and reasonable global governance mechanism.”

He said each nation needed to manage its affairs well instead of “blaming and resenting others”.

Wang’s speech came amid wider tensions in the China-US relationship. The two nations have traded barbs over issues from human rights violations in Xinjiang to military deployment in the South China Sea.

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The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the Senate’s version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – legislation that could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong – to send it to the president to approve or veto.

Trump was expected to sign the bill into law, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

China and the US are working to assemble a partial trade agreement, but Trump said he was reluctant to conclude the deal because China was not offering enough.

“I can tell you this: China would much rather make a trade deal than I would,” he said while touring a manufacturing facility that produces computers for Apple.

“I don’t think they’re stepping up to the level that I want.”

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Wang did not mention the prospects for a trade agreement in his speech, but he stressed that China was facing several external and internal challenges.

“We have to be proactive, stable, calm and cautious in every step we take while exploring the development path, taking into account the immediate and long-term situations we are facing and ensuring the steps we take are plausible,” he said.

He said China would follow through on policy changes despite the challenges, saying the market would have a decisive role to play in economic development and Beijing would stick to a path of peaceful development.

“Between war and peace, the Chinese people are determined to choose peace, which is cherished by humanity,” he said.

“Development must be balanced and inclusive. We need to work together to make economic globalisation work for all people across the world.”

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