By News Desk, with Agency Report,
A top deputy to Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing remained ready to discuss a trade solution with the U.S., but cautioned that the country wouldn’t again be “bullied and oppressed” by foreign powers.
Vice President Wang Qishan — one of China’s best-known economic reformers — told Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Singapore that trade was still the “anchor and propeller of China-U.S. relations.” Wang prefaced his support for talks — a refrain Chinese leaders have repeated for months — with a warning about the dangers of “right-leaning populism” and “unilateralism.”
“The Chinese side is ready to have discussions with the U.S. on issues of mutual concern and work for a solution on trade acceptable to both sides,” Wang told the crowd of more than 400 business and political leaders Tuesday. “China will stay calm and sober-minded and embrace greater openness to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results.”
Still, Wang — a long-time friend of Xi’s — said that China had been “bullied and oppressed by imperialist powers” and must “blaze its own trail.”
Wang was speaking the day after Xi pledged at a Shanghai trade expo to further open his country’s markets, while taking a few veiled swipes at U.S. counterpart Donald Trump. The rare speech by Wang comes amid an effort by top Communist Party leaders to reassure global investors spooked by the U.S.-China trade war and a deepening slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.
‘Dig In Their Heels’
While Trump has asked cabinet officials outline the terms of a possible deal with Xi, Bloomberg News reported Friday, Chinese officials have given no indication they are ready to meet key U.S. demands, such as halting forced technology transfers or rolling back support for state-owned enterprises. On Monday, Trump told a campaign rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that he still believed he and Xi could settle the dispute.
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.7 percent Tuesday, trimming last week’s rally. The yuan weakened as much as 0.16 percent to 6.9240 per dollar in offshore trading after its best week since March.
“We’re going to see these two sides continue to dig in their heels — both sides still think they have the upper hand,” Scott Kennedy, deputy director of China studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Bloomberg Television. “For President Trump, even though he’s signaling that it’s possible they want a deal, there’s actually no monster benefit to him economically or politically. So I think they’ll continue to do this dance and all of us will continue to watch.”
Even as the U.S. and China spar over everything from tariffs to American support for the democratically run island of Taiwan, the two sides have sought to preserve broader ties. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Monday that they would host their Chinese counterparts Friday in Washington for a regular diplomatic and security dialogue.
Wang was introduced Tuesday by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP. The company owns both Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Media Group, which organized the New Economy Forum.
The Chinese vice president, who was making his third overseas trip since assuming the government’s No. 2 post in March, used the speech to express concerns about growing populist sentiment. He said the trend, along with rapid technological advances and global demographic shifts, demanded a new approach to global governance.
“We are facing the challenge of rising populism and unilateralism,” Wang said. “Such rapid changes have split some countries and societies. The polarization of right-leaning populism has manifested itself in political demands, which has led to unilateral policies against globalization and seriously affected the international political ecosystem.”
Wang, who last year retired from China’s supreme Politburo Standing Committee, has been called on to handle some of China’s most difficult tasks over the years. From 2012 to 2017, he oversaw Xi’s unprecedented crackdown on corruption, which ensnared more than 1.5 million officials including the country’s former top general and ex-domestic security chief.
‘Trumpian Rhetoric and Disaster’
Wang also helped set up China’s first investment bank with Morgan Stanley in the 1990s. He maintains close ties with prominent Wall Street figures, including former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, another NEF attendee. He has also played a more diplomatic role, receiving foreign dignitaries, including Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist.
Peter Mandelson, a former U.K. trade representative in Brussels and chairman of Global Counsel, told an NEF panel discussion on trade Tuesday that China must take a more active role, if it wanted to preserve global governance bodies such as the World Trade Organization.
“China has to do very, very much more than it is in taking the initiative and exercising that responsibility in stepping up to the plate in helping everyone else lead a reform process in the WTO,” Mandelson said. “If we don’t see China doing that, then you are going to see more Trumpian rhetoric and disaster.”