By Mark Magnier
BEIJING--China's government said its leader would signal at a global forum next week that Beijing supports multilateralism and is a responsible global power, as the incoming Trump administration strikes a different tone.
President Xi Jinping will emphasize China's support for global cooperation and free trade at a keynote speech on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and in an address to the United Nations in Geneva the next day, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. He will be the first Chinese head of state to attend the Davos forum.
Mr. Xi will assert that China is a "responsible country" and will "contribute China's wisdom" in his meetings withpolitical, economic and academic leaders and the media, said Vice Minister Li Baodong. Mr. Xi also will address the bigger questions of "where mankind came from, where we are and where we're going."
The divisive U.S. election and President-elect Donald's Trump's "America First" approach presents China with a chance to extend its global sway and present itself as a force for stability.
Mr. Trump, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, has said he will pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership global trade group that was a cornerstone of the Obama administration's goals in Asia. Mr. Trump also has said he will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, build a wall on Mexico's border, curb Muslim immigration and impose tariffs on some foreign nations, including China, and U.S. domestic producers with operations abroad.
Mr. Trump has singled out China for scorn, saying it fabricated global warming for its economicbenefit, flouted the rules of free trade and unfairly devalued its currency to help boost exports. In fact, China's central bank in recent months has often done the opposite, intervening to prop up the yuan.
"Before when China said it's a responsible power, everyone thought 'Who are you kidding,'" said National University of Singapore professor Huang Jing. "China wants to use Davos as an established platform to demonstrate that it will play a 'positive' role in peace and stability."
"It's quite ironic that the U.S. established this global order and now China is acting as its defender," he added.
Still, China has come under growing criticism for protectionist policies and unfair trading practices. During the first 11 months of 2016, 16 countries and regions launched 41 investigations over $6.8 billion in steel products imported from China, according to Chinese official figures.
Mr. Li defended China's trade stance on Wednesday. "Some people may accuse China of trade protectionism," he said. "These are unjustified. We have always been very open and inclusive in this area."
China has taken advantage of unexpected global events before to burnish its global image. In 2001 it was among the first countries to express strong support for the U.S. after Sept. 11 and offer to share intelligence, which helped soften President George W. Bush's wariness of Beijing. And in 2009 its $578 billion stimulus program helped calm markets in the wake of the global financial crisis.
But China's image has suffered from its sometimes blunt foreign policy statements and territorial disputes in the South China Seas. China's soft power, the use of non-military persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives, rated 28 in the 2016 Soft Power 30 index, compared with the No. 1-rated U.S.
"Trump's election is a political earthquake and China is seizing the opportunity to turn around its image," Mr. Huang said. To further improve its soft power, however, China needs to ease tension over its trade policies, territorial disputes and ensure that its massive Silk Road infrastructure initiative benefit other countries and aren't just promoting China-centric interests, he added.
The international community needs to see "whether they play fair or just talk the talk," Mr. Huang said.
Write to Mark Magnier at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 11, 2017 03:47 ET (08:47 GMT)
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