In a speech in front of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chinese President Xi Jinping cast himself as the world’s defender of globalism and free trade against threats of trade wars and protectionism from US President-elect Donald Trump.
While Xi failed to actually name Trump in his hour-long speech, it was clear that many of his remarks on the benefits of globalization were aimed directly at the outspoken president-elect who has proposed protecting American manufacturers with heavy tariffs on foreign goods.
“Pursuing protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room, which would seem to escape the wind and rain, but also block out the sunshine and air,” Xi said to a ripple of applause ringing out across the conference hall. “Waging a trade war will only cause injury and loss to both sides.”
The main hall was packed to full capacity to hear the first-ever Chinese head of state to address the annual gathering of billionaires and global leaders at the wintry Swiss resort town. The Chinese leader didn’t disappoint his supporters with a wide-ranging and analogy-filled speech that referenced Charles Dickens (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”) and ancient Chinese proverbs (“Honey melons hang from bitter vines”) in discussing the advantages and disadvantages of global trade.
Xi told his audience that there were three major problems with the global economy: no new growth drivers, bad global governance and growing inequality; and called on them to “relentlessly pursue” innovation and improve financial regulation to remedy these issues. While he acknowledged that for some globalization was a mixed bag, he said that it was not to blame for the world’s problems.
“There is no point in blaming economic globalization for the world’s problems because that is simply not the case,” he said. “The history of mankind has shown us that problems are not to be feared. What should concern us is the refusal to face up to the problems.”
“Any attempts to cut off flows of capital, goods and people between economies and channel the waters of the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible and runs against historical trends,” he continued. “We should not develop a habit of retreating to the harbor whenever we encounter a storm, for this will never get us to the other side of the ocean.”
Xi’s comments mark his first public rebuttal of Trump’s policy proposals and continues a trend of China stepping forward to grab the lead in global capitalism following Trump’s election. Thanks to global trade, China has done rather well for itself over the past 40 years, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.
“China will keep its door wide open, and not close it,” Xi promised, ending his speech by urging: “History is created by the brave – let us boost confidence, take action, and work together for a bright future.”
You can watch the full speech below:
[Video via World Economic Forum]
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