03/07/2023, 13.46
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NPC: Qin Gang does not rule out 'war' with the US. Export data advise caution

by Emanuele Scimia

The new Foreign Minister to Chinese 'Parliament': Washington a source of global instability. Support for Russia reiterated, even if Ukraine invasion is contrary to the new international order desired by Beijing. Saving Putin means continuing the war, which threatens China's economy: Chinese exports in January-February register -6.8%.

Rome (AsiaNews) - A long tirade against the United States. In his first meeting with the press on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's new Foreign Minister Qin Gang said today that "if the US does not hit the brakes but continues on the wrong path, there will surely be conflict and confrontation."

In line with Xi Jinping's thinking, Qin's anti-US rant was expected: there are too many points of contention between the two powers, from Ukraine to Taiwan to the technology and trade wars. 

In Qin's view, the US is the 'invisible hand' pushing to exacerbate the Ukraine crisis. The Biden administration is also guilty of wanting to create an 'Asian NATO' and of creating a global 'debt trap' by raising interest rates.                 

Qin has denied that China has supplied arms to Russia, but contends the US arms Taiwan while sanctioning other nations that do the same to Moscow. The obvious answer is that Taiwan has not broken international law by invading a sovereign state and violating its territorial integrity.

International law, non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, sovereignty and territorial integrity are on paper the cornerstones of China's foreign policy. Qin himself reiterated this today, referring to China's "peace plan" for Ukraine and Xi Jinping's 'Global Security Initiative', both unveiled last week.

Instead of being consistent with the official guidelines of national diplomacy, Qin continued to give Russia cover, stressing that Beijing and Moscow have 'set a good example for international relations'. In the case of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China turned a blind eye and let the Russians trample on the principles on which its "new multipolar world order" should be based.

Since the outbreak of the conflict a year ago, the Chinese have covertly shown their displeasure at the Russian invasion of Ukraine several times. In the midst of geopolitical competition with the US, however, Xi cannot afford to see his "partner with no limits" lose the Ukrainian war, with the risk of finding a destabilised clay giant on China's borders.

Leaving the 'Russian czar' standing, however, means accepting that the conflict will continue. And despite economic advantages, such as the possibility of buying gas and oil at discounted prices from Moscow, the global instability following the Russian armed blitz threatens the Chinese economy.

In January and February, China's exports - the engine of China's economic miracle - fell by 6.8% year-on-year, after a 9.9% drop in December: high energy prices, partly due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, are pushing down global demand.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and US trade restrictions, Xi has focused on growth in domestic consumption to reduce the country's dependence on foreign trade. However, domestic spending is not taking off, while the share of GDP covered by exports increased from 19% in 2021 to 19.8 last year.

In real terms, per capita spending in China fell by 0.2% in 2022, after growing by 12.6 the year before - the baseline was very low, however, given the Covid peak in 2020. This is only the third decline since 1980, when the authorities started publishing such statistics. Retail sales, the metric of domestic consumption, also contracted by 0.2 % - the second worst figure since 1968.

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