GENEVA — One of China’s most senior diplomats on Thursday signaled here that a U.S.-China deal is still doable if tensions between the world’s two biggest economies are limited to the trade conflict but not if they went beyond to policies aimed at containing China’s further development.
Chen Xu, China’s new ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, and for many years the top official at the foreign ministry in Beijing responsible for multilateral diplomacy and European affairs, told a news conference that if the issue is limited to the trade conflict “we can work out a package. Maybe not 100 percent satisfactory to both sides, but both sides can go along with. “
“That is a win-win situation,” he added.
Beijing, he noted, “is still ready, the door is still open” to work out a package, but he also pointed out “if we have to face a trade war…we don’t have another choice but we have to fight to the end.”
The Chinese official also said, “to me it’s not a wise choice to resort to tariffs and trade war and extreme pressure.”
A recent analysis by International Monetary Fund economists concluded that that U.S. trade tensions marked by tariff hikes by the U.S. and retaliatory measures by China “have negatively affected consumers as well as many producers in both countries.”
“The tariffs have reduced trade between the U.S. and China, but the bilateral trade deficit remains broadly unchanged. While the impact on global growth is relatively modest at this time, the latest escalation could significantly dent business and financial market sentiment, disrupt global supply chains, and jeopardize the projected recovery in global growth in 2019.”
But if it goes beyond trade conflict, Chen indicated, then the story is different.
If the overall strategy, he said, is to “demonize” and to “try and suppress, and contain, China’s further development — that is to pin China down as a developing country forever — if that is the case, the benchmark will be different.”
He also dismissed claims China’s development has been, as some believe (and assessments by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative) “due to stealing intellectual property,” “is a free-rider of globalization,” or because of “forced technology transfer.”
The achievements, he said, were due to policies of reform; the opening up of the Chinese economy to the outside world, and hard work.
Asked about claims by the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump that Beijing has been backtracking in the bilateral Sino-U.S. negotiations to try and broker a deal, Chen stressed “we never committed ourselves to some of the elements, and then, if we are going to talk about a joint result then we have to take on board the major concerns of both parties, otherwise its a nonstarter.”
World political and business leaders are anxiously awaiting to see if Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping can narrow the divide when they are expected to meet (but not yet formally confirmed) on the sidelines of the G20 summit to be held in Osaka, Japan, June 28 and 29.
Chen admitted the leaders’ role “is irreplaceable.”