President Xi Jinping on Monday pledged to widen access to China’s economy, while delivering a veiled rebuke to Trumpism, as he kicked off an import expo amid foreign accusations that he has backtracked on promises to play fair on trade.
Xi said China would “step up” efforts to stimulate imports, lower tariffs, ease customs clearance procedures, and implement harsh punishments for intellectual property infringements.
“It is our sincere commitment to open the Chinese market,” Xi said in an address launching the event in Shanghai.
China would “foster a world-class business environment” and its doors will open “ever wider”, he said.
But Xi also pushed back at foreign pressure in comments clearly aimed at US President Donald Trump and the trade war he started.
Nations “should not just point fingers at others to gloss over their problems”, Xi said, decrying “protectionism”, “isolationism” and “the law of the jungle”.
“They should not hold a flashlight in hand, doing nothing but highlighting the weaknesses of others and not their own.”
Beijing has touted the first annual China International Import Expo as a sign of its willingness to open its markets despite mounting criticism to the contrary and the worsening trade war with Washington, which has seen both sides impose punitive tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods.
‘Beacon of globalisation’
Organisers say more than 3,000 foreign companies from 130 countries including the US and Europe are present, including General Motors, Ford, Microsoft, Samsung, Walmart and Tesla.
In a speech at Davos nearly two years ago, Xi presented China as a beacon of globalisation, in a counterpoint to Trump.But critics say he has yet to demonstrate it and they are tired of empty promises.
Kenneth Jarrett, president of the US Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said the association welcomed the fresh promise to strengthen intellectual property protections.
But he said Xi’s latest comments came “with few specific solutions” and that the chamber wants to see the rhetoric match by actions.
“Now that it is the world’s second-largest economy, China can afford to open its doors all the way,” Jarrett said.