Xi Jinping urges free trade amid Trump's tariff threats

Leaders at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation yesterday were (from left) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinp
Leaders at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation yesterday were (from left) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping of China, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese leader's speech at Shanghai summit criticises 'self-centred, short-sighted policies'

Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday urged the building of an open world economy while sharply criticising "self-centred, short-sighted and closed-door policies" at a time when the United States' protectionist trade policy is rocking the world.

Speaking at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the eastern port city of Qingdao, Mr Xi also called for the pursuit of "common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security" as a way of achieving security for all. He said: "We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocs and oppose the practices of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of others."

His remarks came as the US named China and Russia its strategic rivals and revisionist powers to be resisted and Washington has mooted the Indo-Pacific strategy with Japan, Australia and India, seen as a way to counter China's increasing clout in the region.

The US under President Donald Trump is threatening heavy tariffs on imports from economies with which it has a trade deficit, including China, Canada and the European Union, which could trigger trade wars.

The Group of Seven advanced nations' summit in Canada last Saturday ended in disarray as Mr Trump withdrew his endorsement of a joint statement amid the US' escalating trade tensions with other members of the informal grouping.

In another speech yesterday, Mr Xi said this summit was of "historic significance" because it was the first time that the enlarged SCO - with the inclusion of India and Pakistan last year - was meeting.

"More member states means greater strength of the organisation as well as greater attention and expectations of people of regional countries and the international community," he said.

"We also share greater responsibilities in maintaining regional security and stability and promoting development and prosperity."

The Eurasian economic and security bloc consists of eight members, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The SCO began as the Shanghai Five in 1996 to resolve border issues and became the SCO in 2001, expanding its functions to include security and counter-terrorism and later, economic cooperation.

While the main drivers of the SCO are Russia and China, Beijing's influence has grown in recent years, with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 to build infrastructure linking Asia to Europe welcomed by member states.

To counter China's influence, Russia brought in India, which has a border dispute with China and is wary of China's influence in South Asia.

However, China and India have sought to improve ties and Mr Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have met twice in two months, including last Saturday when the two sides signed deals on India's export of non-basmati rice to China and the sharing of information on the waters of the Brahmaputra River, which runs between the two countries.

But sticking points among India, Pakistan and China could complicate the enlarged SCO's operations.

Yesterday, Mr Modi said any connectivity project should respect "member states' sovereignty and territorial integrity", in an apparent reference to a China-Pakistan BRI project that runs through a part of Kashmir which is administered by Pakistan but claimed by India.

Still, progress was made, with the bloc signing several agreements to promote security, economic and cultural cooperation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2018, with the headline 'Xi urges free trade amid Trump's tariff threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe