China has set a good example through its own development philosophy and practices while the US has set a bad one
Over recent years, the United States, which has adopted an "America first" foreign policy and resorted to political unilateralism and trade protectionism, has become the biggest obstacle to an open world. The US has not only launched a trade war against China and imposed extra tariffs on other Western countries, but also introduced a string of policies to protect industries at home. These selfish moves have seriously harmed the economic and trade relations among major economies, and fueled conservatism and populism worldwide.
The US has also pushed for the establishment of exclusive blocs such as the chip and supply chain alliances and the "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity", which have resulted in increasingly fragmented global trade, severed the economic ties among countries, and dampened global confidence in opening-up. The unilateralism of the US is a major hurdle to global governance and cooperation, which has hampered global economic recovery, stymied the efforts to form a global alliance in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
The selfish foreign policies of the US are the result of a major adjustment in the country's national strategy, which has its roots in the unfolding changes in the international landscape unseen in a century and the long-standing hegemonic mindset of Washington. The rise of the East and the relative fall of the West is the defining feature of the era, and also an irreversible trend of history. But the US, intent on clinging onto its dominant status, goes against the trend of the world and chooses isolation, divisiveness and confrontation, which demonstrates its Cold War mentality and hegemonic thinking.
With the advancement of globalization, free trade and open markets, de-industrialization has been witnessed in some Western countries, and the consequent unbalanced development among countries and wealth gaps among different social strata within countries have fueled protectionism, populism and anti-globalization sentiment.
According to the World Openness Report 2022 released at the fifth Hongqiao International Economic Forum in Shanghai, the level of world openness continues to decrease. This is against the trend of the times, and runs counter to the interests of people across the world. The report also showed that since the US instigated its trade war against China in 2018, the country saw its steepest yearly decline in the index of openness, with its world ranking dropping by nine places.
According to the report, while the level of openness of many developed countries has declined remarkably, the openness index of the developing world has been on the rise. But since developed countries play a larger role in the global economy, the decline in their openness index has dragged down the general level of openness of the world. Among the developed economies, the US, which accounts for roughly one-fourth in the global GDP, has experienced the sharpest decline, with its global ranking sliding from the 1st in 2008 to 23rd in 2020, during which period the rest of top 10 major Western economies haven't seen marked changes in the openness index.
Opening-up is driven by the development of trade, and has its theoretical basis on the exchanges, division of labor and comparative advantages. History has proved that opening-up is necessary for a country to thrive, and is the inevitable path for the evolution of human history. It also serves as a major impetus for the advancement of civilizations. As the world is in the midst of major changes unseen in a century, and faces strong anti-globalization headwinds, it is time for countries to build consensus and stick to opening-up and win-win cooperation, and jointly respond to challenges and difficulties. This is the only way for the world to keep going forward. In this regard, China has set an example through its own development philosophy and practices.
Since its reform and opening-up policy was introduced in 1978, China has opened its door wider and wider, increasingly integrated with the rest of the world. China has built a high-standard free trade zone network, and has joined many international and regional economic cooperation initiatives. It has also promoted international financial cooperation organizations, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank of BRICS, and the Silk Road Fund and the Belt and Road Initiative. China has been deeply engaged in global economic cooperation.
China is now the largest trading partner of more than 140 countries and regions around the world, and it leads the world in the total volume of trade in goods. It is also a major destination for global investment and a leading country for outbound investment. The country has advanced a broad agenda of opening-up across multiple areas and in great depth. The report also indicates that China's ranking on the global openness list has jumped from 62nd in 2008 to 39th in 2020, making it one of the fastest-rising economies. China's economic success over the past decades and its role as the biggest driver for world economic growth can be attributed to its growing openness.
In the context of the new global landscape, China has elevated its opening-up to a higher level. According to the report delivered at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the nation will push for higher-level opening-up, and expand institutional opening-up with regard to rules, regulations, management and standards, shorten the negative list for foreign investment, and create better business environment for foreign enterprises. It will also open more areas, and better plan regional opening-up. China's opening-up has not only injected impetus into the country's development, but also has brought new opportunities for the world's development. China has become the major driver of the sluggish global economy and is a constant stabilizing force in a changing world.
The author is deputy director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.