China Won’t Watch Globalization Die

By Wang Wen – Global Times

When new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Beijing in the past weekend, I was attending a forum on the “Air Silk Road” in Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China’s Henan Province. I was quite nervous, frankly speaking, and I kept my face mask on in the meeting room and didn’t shake hands with anyone. After my speech, I left the forum quickly. Having been through the about-five-month fight against the novel coronavirus, I am cautious. And I, who came from Beijing, was afraid of becoming a new source of infection in Zhengzhou.

This was in contrast to how certain European ambassadors who travelled from Beijing appeared at the conference – they were very relaxed. They said they are very confident in China’s epidemic control measures and spoke highly of the Air Silk Road, or a cargo air route, that links Zhengzhou and Europe. They were optimistic about further prospects for development in China and specifically Henan Province. Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel sent a video clip to compliment Henan’s global contribution. The province’s governor Yin Hong hopes that Henan will open up more and take advantage of the Air Silk Road.
At the moment, it is unthinkable for any city outside of China to organize such a forum now to push for greater integration with globalization. This seems to be out of the mainstream when many Western media outlets believe “globalization is dead,” and that their own countries should come first.

The forum in Zhengzhou was an energizing catalyst that reinvigorates the sick state of globalization, which has suffered even more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data has proven that China is stabilizer of globalization. The WTO on April 8 said that world trade is expected to fall between 13 percent and 32 percent in 2020. The drop will mainly come from the US, whose imports declined 20.5 percent in April from January while exports fell 28.1 percent in the same period. But China’s imports and exports in the first five months of 2020 have maintained a slight year-on-year dip of 4.9 percent. Meanwhile, exports in May increased 1.4 percent. China has become ballast stone of world trade.

In other words, the declining US has worsened world trade while the revival of China has been striving to save the world from more losses. Given data of the flow of international investment, mergers and acquisitions, logistics, and currency, people can see that China is rising and that the US is clearly declining. In addition to the variables of the reckless Trump administration, globalization is becoming more de-Americanized and more sinicized.

Globalization will not die. The process of globalization is a part of the process of human civilization. Before the 16th century, globalization in its early stage was fragmented and unsystematic. It was about spices and silks trade between Eastern and Western civilizations. After that, with the colonial expansion of European powers as the main driving force, globalization showed initial signs of the popularization of technology, population mobility, and civilization integration. After the 20th century, the US made a great contribution to globalization, primarily with an information revolution.

It’s a pity that the US-led globalization hasn’t brought about a win-win result. Most of the over 100 Asian, African and Latin American countries that gained independence after WWII so far are still low-income countries. Only a few countries such as China and South Korea have emerged from cycles of poverty. Worse still, some rich countries are now facing the dilemmas of falling into the middle-income trap. These have all become excuses of anti-globalists and protectionists.

China has learned lessons about globalization and has hence advocated that it should be win-win, inclusive, equal, safe and interconnected. This suggestion greatly differs from the US-style of globalization that is unilaterally benefited, exclusive, asymmetric and in which countries are divided into those at the center and those being marginalized.
In the post-pandemic era, it’s not easy for China to revitalize globalization. In addition to winning trust from the outside world, China must also curb the possibility of a large-scale epidemics rebounding. At the same time, China needs to stimulate the next round of globalization through domestic economic recovery. An urgent task now is to reduce infections and deaths and introduce enough effective policies, create as many as possible jobs, and bail out enough companies.

I have confidence in China and Beijing. The virus is mutating, and developing a vaccine is very difficult. It’s inevitable that a small rebound will appear in one or several Chinese cities. However, the Chinese people aren’t afraid of fighting a virus battle 2.0. Chinese people are being accustomed to the social habits that need to be formed to cope with this infectious disease. The preparation in terms of social psychology, number of masks, testing kits, big data tracking, and medical supplies are far superior to what the country had in January. There is no reason that China will not do a better job in the new test this time.

The author is professor and executive dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His latest book is Great Power’s Long March Road.