Is China’s Commitment to Economic Opening a Response to Sino-US Trade War?

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The Chinese government has responded to speculation that the declaiming of its commitment to further opening of the economy at the 2018 Boao Forum for Asia is part of efforts to ease escalating Sino-US trade tensions.

President Xi Jinping stressed China’s commitment to further opening of its economy during his keynote speech at Boao, pointing in particular to the easing of foreign ownership restrictions for financial institutions, as well as the the dialling back of barriers to the domestic automobile sector and stronger protections of intellectual property rights.

Central bank chief Yi Gang also focused on the opening of China’s finance sector in remarks made at Boao, outlining a total of six key measures to expedite the process that are slated for implementation over the next several months.

Speculation has since emerged that the Xi and Yi’s focus on economic opening is related to escalating trade tensions with the United States, following the Trump administrations mooting of a 25% tariff on up to USD$150 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing’s introduction of retaliatory measures as well as its filing if dispute proceedings with the World Trade Organization.

In response to this issue, the foreign ministry said at a press conference held on 11 May that China’s economic opening program is a part of broader long-term policy themes, and unrelated to a brewing trade conflict with the US.

“I can clearly inform you that China’s announcement of key measures in relation to the expansion of opening is unrelated to the current Sino-US trade dispute,” said ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang (耿爽).

“Anyone who understands how the Chinese government operates knows that the unveiling of this many key resolutions necessarily requires repeated brewing, in-depth consideration and thorough arrangements, and cannot be decided upon within a brief timeframe.

“Everyone should recall that China has always stressed that external opening is our fundamental national policy…the open gateway to China will not be closed, but can only open further…this has been our consistent stance.

“Last year’s report for the 19th National CCP Congress and this year’s Government Work Report all contain plans and arrangements for further opening work.

“On this occasion China’s unveiling of these measures is just a key step in the implementation of the 19th National CCP Congress report and the Government Work Report, and are key actions for the independent opening of China on the basis of its own needs, and in accordance with its own timetable and map.

“China’s expanded opening is not subject to external interference, and external parties also cannot interfere with us.”

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