In Face of US Trade War, China Looks for India's Support

"China and India share common interests in defending the multilateral trading system and free trade," the Chinese embassy in India has said.

New Delhi: China on Wednesday called on India to put up an united front against “unilateral protectionism”, even as it asserted that the escalating trade row between Beijing and Washington would also harm the Indian economy.

US and China have been embroiled in imposing an escalating series of retaliatory tariffs against each other over the last few months. About half of Chinese imports to the US have an additional 10% duty, while China has, so far, retaliated with tariffs on US goods worth $110 billion.

“Under the current circumstances, China and India need to deepen their cooperation to fight trade protectionism,” said spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India, Ji Rong, on Wednesday.

She also claimed that had “provoked trade disputes, and China has to make the necessary response, which is legitimate self-defense”.

Explaining the rationale for both countries to work together, Ji said that the two Asian countries need a stable external environment to develop their economies.

“Practicing unilateral trade protectionism in the name of ‘national security’ and ‘fair trade’ will not only affect China’s economic development, but also undermine the external environment of India and hinder India’s booming economy,” she said.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund cuts it global economic growth forecast for 2018 and 2019 to 3.7% based on US-China trade war’s impact on emerging markets.

Asserting that China and India share “common interests in defending multilateral trading system and free trade”, Ji added that both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on similar themes at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

She noted that the declarations issued at SCO summit in Qingdao and BRICS leader’s meeting at Johannesburg, which was signed by both leaders, also gave a “clear message against protectionism”.

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“Facing unilateralism an bullying activities, China and India have more reasons to join efforts to build a more just and reasonable international order,” argued the Chinese embassy spokesperson.

While Sino-Indian trade has increased, India also has its own grievance against Chinese trade practices, especially on non-tariff barriers against pharmaceuticals, IT products, rice and meat which has led to an awning trade deficit of $63 billion.

During his visit to Beijing on October 8, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had conveyed that Washington had no intention to “contain China”, Ji said. “The US is willing to strengthen communication with China, and together work out constructive solution to the current challenges. We believe this represents the mainstream rational voice of the American people,” she added.

US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

In her remarks, Ji also defended against Vice President Mike Pence’s allegations against China on meddling in elections and seeking to undermine American democracy.

She suggested that the “US should reflect on its own practice of interfering in the internal affairs of developing countries such as China and India under the pretext of human rights and religious matters”.

While she argued that India and China had a similar position on a number of issues, her statement also pointed to the diverging world view on other important geo-political matters.

Claiming that US’s claim of militarisation of South China Sea was “distorting of facts”, the  Chinese embassy spokesperson asserted that Washington “should stop making troubles and creating tensions, and respect the efforts of relevant parties to resolve problems through negotiation and consultation”.

India shares a similar perspective with United States on South China sea, with both putting emphasis of freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed region.

She also criticised the “allegation that China has put some developing countries into ‘debt trap’ is nothing but an attempt to sow discord”. India had been the first country to publicly criticise the Belt and Road Initiative, asserting that international connectivity programs should be transparent and financially viable.

United States has been pushing India to be more pro-active in building a new security paradigm in Indo-Pacific, which Beijing views with wariness. “What we are firmly against is attempts to use the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy as a tool to counter China. We are looking forward to the US taking concrete steps to become a trusted partner of the developing countries,” said spokesperson Ji.