BEIJING — Despite a still anemic world economy charged with rising isolationist sentiment, China’s cooperation with other countries keeps growing, with recently released data showing that it became Germany’s largest trading partner in 2016.
The increase of China-Germany trade, observers say, serves as yet another signal indicative of Beijing’s steadfast commitment to its decades-old opening-up policy, which has benefited both China and the world at large.
Official statistics showed that the China-Germany trade amounted to 170 billion euros ($180 billion) in 2016, which meant China overtook the United States as Germany’s top trading partner.
Beyond Germany, the broader Europe is also witnessing an increasingly active and fruitful cooperation with China. Trade between China and the European Union grew by 3 percent year-on-year to over 3.6 trillion yuan ($525 billion) in 2016.
Against the backdrop of a gloomy world economic growth, that once again demonstrated China’s willingness to establish closer ties with the rest of the world, said Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.
Other indicators abound. For example, China has established railway connections with five of its 14 neighbors and the number is expected to increase soon. It has been the largest source of outbound tourists since 2013, contributing more than 13 percent to global tourism revenues.
In the eyes of foreign investors, China is becoming an increasingly attractive destination. A report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development said that China received $139 billion of foreign direct investment in 2016, ranking third in the world.
In 2016, Beijing amended laws on foreign investment and rolled out measures to further simplify approval procedures for foreign companies. In January, the government announced that it will further open the mining, infrastructure, services and technology sectors to foreign investment.
China will continue to be one of the most alluring destinations for foreign investment due to its fast growth and easier access, said James Zhan, a UNCTAD official in charge of investment and enterprise.
“China will keep its door wide open and not close it,” said President Xi Jinping in a keynote speech at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos in January.
In the coming five years, Xi added, China is expected to import $8 trillion of goods, attract $600 billion of foreign investment, and make $750 billion of outbound investment, and Chinese tourists will make 700 million overseas visits.
“All this will create a bigger market, more capital, more products and more business opportunities for other countries,” said Xi.
While China is opening its door wider to the outside world, some other countries are seeking to retreat into the cocoon of their borders, pointing an accusing finger at economic globalization.
In response to the rising anti-globalization sentiment, Xi said in his Davos speech that “many of the problems troubling the world are not caused by economic globalization”.
“Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war,” said Xi.
China’s firm stance against protectionism is gaining broader consensus. During their respective visits to China last week, French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that his country is ready to work with China to oppose protectionism, and Italian President Sergio Mattarella expressed his support for an open multilateral trading system.
Amid such anti-globalization currents as populism, protectionism and isolationism, China’s active involvement in global economic cooperation and support for open, free global trade will have a positive impact upon itself and all nations around the world, said Gerrishon Ikiara, a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
As a major Chinese endeavor to promote global cooperation and common development, the Belt and Road Initiative, which is aimed at building an infrastructure and trade network along the ancient trade routes, is attracting more support and reaping early fruits.
So far over 100 countries and international organizations have given support to the initiative, and more than 40 of them have signed cooperation agreements with China.
Speaking in Jakarta last week on globalization, former World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy said the Belt and Road Initiative will be “the future engine” of globalization.