President Xi Jinping´s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos has been greeted with enthusiasm by global corporate leaders, confronted with opposite movements from Donald Trump and the Brexit. But political analyst Victor Shih warns it does not mean China is heartily embracing economic liberalism, he tells the LA Times.
“China certainly seems to be taking advantage of the U.S.’ increasingly shaky commitment to global free trade to portray itself as a potential new leader,” said Victor Shih of UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy.
The country last year launched an international lending organization, which pours millions into ramshackle roads and water pumps. China continues to expand its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, an effort to revive the ancient Silk Road trade routes and spread its influence west.
Chinese leaders have increased the nation’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea’s disputed waters through artificial islands and the installation of military infrastructure. And they recently offered an alternative to a U.S.-backed Pacific trade pact that withered last year, handing the country an even greater voice in Asian economic affairs.
But Shih cautioned against assuming the communist nation had fully embraced economic liberalism. He noted that China has pursued “aggressive mercantilist” policies and advocated replacing foreign imports with “made in China” products for more than a decade. Such a policy is far harder to impose in the U.S., he said, despite Trump’s rhetoric.
“Other industrial economies will find China a troublesome trading partner for some time to come,” he said.
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