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Giving neighbors support a key issue, says British scholar

Cecily Liu
Updated: Mar 14,2017 6:48 AM     China Daily

Making sure growth and trade continue in China’s neighbors should be a key topic of discussion at this year’s two sessions, according to a top British academic.

“I hope we will hear more debate on how China’s domestic growth fits with the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Rana Mitter, director of the University of Oxford China Centre.

“Although China’s growth is slowing to what some call a new normal, many of its neighbors are dependent on China’s growth to boost their own economies, so a stress on continued overseas investment should be an important part of the two sessions.”

Mitter, also a professor of Chinese history and politics, said China’s leadership of the Belt and Road Initiative is not just a matter of financial investment, but also social coordination to make the vision possible.

“For example, as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor builds under the initiative, we would expect more Chinese workers in Pakistan and Southeast Asia, so a key question is how this sort of change can be coordinated with neighboring countries,” he said.

The nation’s relationship with the United States and Europe will also be a key topic at the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Mitter said.

“China’s situation is quite stable, but the US and Europe are going through major disruptive changes. The precise shape of the Trump administration has not yet been determined, and in Europe, the effects of Brexit are only beginning to be felt.”

Uncertainties in advanced economies means “many people will look to China for stability”, he said, adding that, encouragingly, the country has taken a leadership role in globally important issues such as climate change.

“President Xi Jinping has made a strong stand on the issue of climate change. Now that there are fears that the US will chip away the terms of the Paris Agreement, it is increasingly important for China to have a clear commitment to the goals all sides signed up to in 2015.”

Matter said that China is also demonstrating its commitment to World Trade Organization rules, with the support of Europe.

“The US may try to weaken the structures of the WTO, but it is important for Europe and China to make clear that international trade rules benefit everybody and protectionism is not the way forward.”