China is emerging as the world’s strongest proponent of globalization

Round of applause.
Round of applause.
Image: Reuters/Mariana Bazo
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After Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election and the UK’s unexpected decision to Brexit, China is emerging as one of globalization’s strongest proponents.

On Nov. 20 Chinese president Xi Jinping, speaking at the 24th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru, called on the APEC economies to “stay committed to taking economic globalization forward, increasing openness in the Asia-Pacific economy, breaking bottlenecks in regional connectivity, and blazing new trails in reform and innovation,” according to the Xinhua news agency.

In the course of his presidential campaign, on the other hand, Trump criticized nearly every post-World War network the US is part of, from the WTO to NATO, while the decision by the British electorate to abandon the European Union and its common market has been described by its proponents as a way of “bringing jobs back” to England.

China, meanwhile, has arguably benefitted the most from globalization in the past three decades. Blamed by Trump for “stealing jobs,” which were willingly brought over by US business leaders, China is now exporting jobs and goods all over the globe, from the US to Kenya, and building what has been described as the most extensive commercial and military empire in history.

The most ambitious part of this plan is the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, one of Xi’s pet projects. Launched in 2013, the project has taken Chinese engineers and political ambassadors to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in order to build, respectively, the ports of Gwadar and of Colombo.

Of course, China does not have the free press or freedom of protest that would allow a big anti-globalization movement to take shape—but then, tens of millions of Chinese now considered part of the middle class would not have gotten there without globalization. They are not likely to protest it.

So, while the West is retrenching and bemoaning the side-effects of unprecedented interaction and integration among businesses around the world, China, for its part, is happy to let globalization continue full steam ahead. And democracies, at least in the eyes of Beijing’s rulers, have never looked more chaotic and undesirable.