Xi extolls free trade at Asia meet as G-7 ends in disarray

Workers prepares to hand agreements to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a signing ceremony for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province, Sunday, June 10, 2018. Xi extolled free trade and criticized "selfish, short-sighted" policies during the closely orchestrated gathering, standing in stark contrast with the G-7 summit that ended in disarray over trade tensions. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)

Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled free trade during the closely orchestrated summit of a Beijing-led bloc Sunday, standing in stark contrast with the G-7 summit that ended in disarray.

QINGDAO, China — Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled free trade and criticized "selfish, short-sighted" policies Sunday during a closely orchestrated gathering of a Beijing-led bloc, standing in stark contrast with the G-7 summit that ended in disarray over trade tensions.

"We should reject selfish, short-sighted, narrow and closed-off policies. We must maintain the rules of the World Trade Organization, support the multilateral trade system and build an open global economy," Xi said.

Though his remarks did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump, Beijing has sought to portray itself as a defender of free trade in response to the American leader's support for import controls. This is despite China's status as the most-closed major economy.

Xi also hailed the entry of new members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, calling the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain "of great historic significance" in opening remarks at this weekend's summit of in the northern Chinese port of Qingdao. Their two South Asian nations joined the bloc as full members last year.

With tight security, closed roads and restricted press access, the summit's choreographed show of unity was a striking contrast to the tumultuous Group of Seven summit of leading industrialized nations that concluded Saturday in Quebec and saw the U.S. and its allies divided by escalating trade tensions.

Trump lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an extraordinary set of tweets from Air Force One, calling him "dishonest & weak" and retracting the U.S. endorsement of the G-7 summit's communique.

The Beijing-led bloc, which experts see as seeking to challenge the Western-led order, is dominated by China and Russia and also includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Founded in 2001, it was originally conceived as a vehicle for resolving border issues, fighting terrorism, and — more implicitly — to counter American influence in Central Asia following its invasion of Afghanistan.

The summit comes as Russia and China have boosted ties in response to the U.S. national security strategy that describes them as America's top adversaries.

"We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocks," Xi said, adding that the countries should "oppose the practices of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of the security of other countries."

In recent years, the Shanghai bloc's economic component has grown more prominent, embodied in Xi's signature, trillion-dollar foreign policy and infrastructure drive known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Xi announced that China would offer 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) in loans through the bloc, highlighting its economic aspect.

Beijing's infrastructure projects in Central Asia make some in the bloc uncomfortable — particularly India, which alone among members has refused to endorse the program. Russia, too, is wary of China's expanding influence, and though it has somewhat reluctantly embraced the Belt and Road, it is also seeking to expand its own economic and political leverage in the region through a customs union it dominates known as the Eurasian Economic Union.

China has sought to downplay concerns that the Shanghai grouping is a way for Beijing to project its strategic influence abroad. The Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, said Sunday in a commentary that unlike Western organizations like NATO and the G-7, which seek to "consolidate the global economic order that is favorable to the Western world," the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is inclusive.

It is "is not a tool for geopolitical games, seeking hegemony or engaging in international confrontation," the paper said.

As trade tensions simmered between China and the U.S. in recent months, Beijing has drawn closer to Moscow and New Delhi.

On Friday, Xi presented Russian President Vladimir Putin China's first Friendship Medal at an elaborate ceremony in Beijing.

Putin said Sunday that the current structure of the SCO is "optimal" and emphasized its combined economic power and political clout.

"In terms of per capita income, the G-7 countries are richer, but the combined size of the SCO economies is bigger and their population is much bigger — half of the world's population."

He emphasized the importance of the SCO's statement in support of free trade and pointed at U.S. plans to raise tariffs on imported cars in contrast.

"This is quite serious. It may hurt the interests of many countries, primarily European," Putin said. "It's very significant for the global economy."

On Saturday, Xi met Modi for the second time in two months, signing deals on the export of non-basmati rice and sharing information on the waters of the Brahmaputra River, which runs between China and India, according to tweets by spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar.

Xi and Modi also found common ground on security. On Sunday, Xi urged closer cooperation on joint counterterrorism exercises and law enforcement, while Modi called security "our top priority" and said India would play "an active and constructive role" in the bloc to work against extremism in Afghanistan.

Beijing sees the bloc as a force for stability in a poor, unstable neighborhood bordering on its volatile region of Xinjiang, where attacks in recent years by radicals among its native Muslim population killed hundreds and prompted a massive security crackdown, while New Delhi is interested in striking Islamic militant groups targeting India.

Related News

China's electric vehicle industry shaken by...

Sep 13, 2016

China's electric vehicle industry, a flagship for Beijing's technology ambitions, has been rocked...

Asian markets lower after Wall Street decline

Sep 15, 2016

Asian stock markets were mostly lower Thursday following Wall Street's decline in light trading...

China launches second space station, Tiangong 2

Sep 15, 2016

China has launched its second space station in a sign of the growing sophistication of its...

China plans 30,000-km high speed rail network by...

Dec 29, 2016

The Chinese government is planning to expand the country's high-speed rail network to 30,000...

DEA opens shop in China to help fight synthetic...

Jan 6, 2017

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration plans to open a new office in southern China and, at...

China pledges further cuts in excess steel, coal...

Jan 10, 2017

China's top economic planner has pledged to continue cutting steel and coal production, which have...

About Us

Daily World Web took the initiative to utilize the development in cloud and AI technology to create a free, instantaneous and borderless flow of news, the way it should be.

Contact us: sales[at]dailyworldweb.com

Subscribe Now!