China Continues to Eliminate Tariffs as Part of Historic Drive For Enhanced Economic Openness

Chinese officials have just announced plans to significantly lower or entirely drop import tariffs on hundreds of goods, while several major free trading agreements have been streamlined and expanded. These developments are part of the overall drive to create more open trading arrangements with multiple partners that was encapsulated at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) held recently in Shanghai.

As China is now both a major producer and importer of goods, the expo helped to show rather than tell in respect of the win-win import/export partnerships that China seeks to expand throughout the world. As the power of technology looks to revolutionise medical science, business, education and entertainment while new methods of food distribution and modern trends in agricultural growth look to make hunger a thing of the past, the expo stands as a signpost of a world embracing a spirit of opportunity and optimism as the essence of the Chinese Dream helps to inspire innovative individuals from throughout the world.

China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Bingnan said the following prior to the CIIE’s official opening,

“Through the expo, we hope to provide a channel for exporters to China, and build a platform for commercial cooperation between Chinese and foreign enterprises”.

It is this spirit of interactivity through commerce that can help to create a more prosperous and culturally harmonious world so that the 21st century’s geopolitical relations can be based on people-centred initiatives rather than hegemonic conflicts and human strife. As multiple nations look to secure long term development goals and growth opportunities, exposure to modern China in a spirit of openness can help to elevate the condition of working people and innovative minds from throughout the world. In this sense, the opportunities implicit in the expo represent a golden win-win development for all of the participating nations and people.

For China, the CIIE was an opportunity to attract new long term import partners to the country’s vast market. This week’s announcement of Beijing lowering ever more trade barriers for those seeking to enter the Chinese market will help to make the benefits derived at the CIIE all the more apparent for both importers and consumers.

China’s Global Times reported the announcement in the following way:

“China announced on Monday that it would adopt favorable tariff rates on hundreds of foreign goods next year, significantly lowering or cancelling tariffs on certain imported materials and high-tech products, as part of the country’s push to expand imports.

Starting on January 1, China would impose provisional rates on more than 700 foreign products, including zero tariffs on ingredients for livestock feeds and certain medicines, according to a statement from the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

It would also cancel tariffs on four types of solid waste such as manganese slag and lithium ion cells for new-energy vehicles, the statement said. Lower provisional tariff rates would also be adapted to aircraft engines, robots and other advanced equipment”.

The report further stated,

“Also, starting on July 1, China will impose most-favored-nation rates for 298 information technology products, according to the MOF.

Under new bilateral or multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) or upgraded FTAs, China will also adopt agreement rates on imports from countries including New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia and South Korea”.

For China, the economic theme of the new year will be one of peace through prosperity that is made possible by opening up free trading avenues to a diverse set of economic partners. This is true not only in terms of goods but also in terms of foreign direct investment and services. For Chinese companies, the atmosphere of intensified economic openness presents opportunities to partner with new foreign companies on joint projects in fields ranging from hi-technology to consumer electronics, art and design, as well as cars, trains and aeronautics. For the foreign corporation looking to partner with Chinese companies at the forefront of artificial intelligence, modern medicine, micro and nano technology, 5G network building and high speed rail, an era of further openness looks to benefit economies throughout the world. Finally,  people-centred projects will help to make these progressive trends in the improved material condition of multiple economies benefit the people directly through improved living standards.

For Chinese consumers, freer trade in respect of imports will mean an ever growing diversity of options at all levels of the economy while China’s goal of further reciprocal free trade agreements will lead to healthy economic exchange at both a corporate level and at the level of individual entrepreneurs. Furthermore, such agreements will help to create new job among all partner nations engaged in freer trading arrangements with China and its vast consumer base.

In terms of the geopolitical climate, China continues to demonstrate that its openness to new imports is a readily available opportunity for any and all partners. In respect of the United States, the only country keeping American exports out of the Chinese market is the United States government itself. By launching a malicious trade war against China at the very time that China seeks to open its markets to the entire world, the US is scoring an own goal by doing to its own agricultural, technological and automotive exporters what it falsely accuses China of doing- namely prohibiting them access to China’s markets.

But beyond China’s openness to both trade and foreign direct investment, an economy with open doors is not only beneficial for multiple world economies vis-a-vis systems with an upturned drawbridge, but it is also beneficial to global peace and stability.

For those who espouse the false premise that the 20th century’s Cold War was bloodless, they should ask the civilians of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Mozambican, Zimbabwe, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Argentina, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Libya just how bloodless such a Cold War is. While the US and Soviet Union and for that matter the US and China did not fight against one another directly after 1953 (at the end of the Korean War), multiple conflicts across the world continued to claim the lives of millions of civilians as well as soldiers throughout the Cold Era epoch.

Thus, while the streets of Moscow and New York did not fill with blood between 1945 and 1991, the streets of many other capitals did flow with much blood as a result of the rivalry between superpowers. Likewise, while a trade war is often characterised as even more bloodless than a Cold War, this is historically not the case.

There is a powerful argument to be made that economic protectionism (now perversely called economic nationalism) was the primary cause of the First World War. As businesses in one given nation became increasing cut off from customer bases, supply chains and business partners in rival states and alliances, there became an impetus among the private sector to encourage the military-industrial complex of its day to destroy rival nations so as to open their protected markets to businesses from the militarily victorious nation.

By contrast, in a system based on and reliant on the free flow of goods and capital throughout the world, it is in the mutual interests of the wider business community to seek peace as any conflict along the belts and roads of a free trading network can have adverse effects on continued growth, innovation and progress in the marketplace. It is this model of free trade through which China seeks to build a world predicated on the principle of peace through prosperity within the framework of international connectivity, multilateral cooperation and rules based respect for national sovereignty and each nation’s cultural characteristics.

While Donald Trump is often called a racist within the context of US politics, it is important to realise that he is not a racist in the sense of the 20th or 21st century definitions of the term. 20th century racism reached its peak during the 1930s and 1940s in Europe. It was then that racist ideas led to the systematic genocide against those deemed inferior to a master race. In the 21st century, racists who realise the visual horror and high cost of 20th century style genocides have instead decided to promote their racist ideology by using the power of censorship and economic sanctions to remove those speaking and thinking freely from the digital as well as the physical public square.

19th century racism expressed itself in a rather a different manner. In the 19th century, racist ideologies were seen as important motivating factors to encourage the growth of economic and military imperialism. While a lust for stolen resources and strategic geographical spaces was the desired outcome of 19th century imperialism, its clarion call was that of racism. This was expressed by justifying the theft of land, goods and even human chattel through theories that attested to the “fact” that some races have a kind of divine right to rule over others because of an inherent superiority.

It is through this 19th century prism that Donald Trump views nations like China. While China aims for win-win relations with all foreign powers based on mutual respect, dialogue and pragmatic people-centred rational thinking, for Trump, the 19th century’s zero-sum mentality is very much at play. Trump seems to believe that America has an inherent superiority in the world and this means that the US can act in a criminally lawless way against foreign powers, including and especially China. This reality is made all the more surreal when one realises that Trump seems not to realise that China is an economic and military superpower in the 21st century but instead imagines that China is the broken state that it was in the 19th and early 20th century.

Thus, one sees the flowering of 19th century racism combined with post-modern delusions of grandeur in Trump. This was indeed the motivation behind his protectionist/nationalistic trade war.

And yet because of China’s long term vision of global cooperation on the peace through prosperity model, Beijing does not seek to extract anything remotely punitive against a US government that has behaved recklessly towards not only China but against its own vast business sector, financial sector and consumer base. Instead, China seeks a swift resolution to a trade war which in the minds of Chinese policy makers and businessmen and women, should have never occurred in the first place – of course the vast majority of US businessmen and women, as well as consumer rights groups share this assessment of the trade war.

The openness of China to foreign goods, services and capital means that economic growth can create new trends in innovation and material social improvement. Such positive developments are a two-way street when openness is conducted on a bilateral level with respectful partners. The only ones who will lose out are those who shut their own doors to China as China’s doors are open widely for all.

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