This commitment has positioned China as a global champion of international co-operation.
By Justin Ojangole
Uganda and other developing countries should welcome China's firm commitment to globalisation as the best way to counter increasingly inward looking policies in the western world, especially the United States under the current republican leadership headed by President Donald Trump and the United Kingdom with its Brexit agenda.
This commitment has positioned China as a global champion of international co-operation. This has greatly benefitted countries like Uganda, which have enjoyed decades of close ties with China. Today, trade and development co-operation between China and Uganda is growing in leaps and bounds.
"We need to engage in co-operation for win-win results, build an open global economy, up hold the multilateral trading system to make economic globalisation more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all," Chinese President Xi Jinping said a week ago at the 17th Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference.
The Forum, which was held in Boao, Hainan Province from April 8-11, coincided with the 40-year anniversary of China's reform and opening-up policy. It brought together some of the key players in globalisation, under the theme: "Openness for Greater Prosperity, Innovation for a Better Future."
President Xi Jinping attended together with his wife and over 2,000 delegates who included several presidents and prime ministers. Present also were United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.
"China does not seek trade surplus," President Jinping told the forum. "We have a genuine desire to increase imports and achieve greater balance of international payments under the current account. This year, we will significantly lower the import tariffs for automobiles and reduce import tariffs for some other products."
He told the business leaders, academia and government delegates at the BFA to focus on issues of economics, environment, society, integration and co-operation in Asian countries and global perspectives. Building consensus in Asia, he added, encourages co-operation, promotes economic globalisation and advances the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
In perhaps his most telling remarks, the Chinese leader called for world leaders to embrace globalisation. He called for joint development rather than development in isolation; a win-win approach that will uphold the multilateral trading system and encourage open economies that benefit all.
To practically demonstrate his commitment to globalisation, President Xi Jinping announced new measures to enhance China position as a champion of multilateralism. First is to broaden market accessibility. He assured his audience that China will "implement measures to raise foreign equity caps in the banking, securities and insurance industries. This will include accelerating the opening up of the insurance industry, easing restrictions on the establishment of foreign financial institutions in China and expanding their business scope, and opening up more areas of cooperation between Chinese and foreign financial markets."
The second measure aims to create a more attractive investment environment. "We will enhance alignment with international economic and trading rules, increase transparency, strengthen property rights protection, uphold the rule of law, encourage competition and oppose monopoly," he said.
The other measure aims to strengthen protection of intellectual property rights. This will include re-instituting the State Intellectual Property, step up law enforcement, and significantly raise the cost for offenders. It also includes protecting lawful intellectual property rights of foreign enterprises in China.
Calling on foreign governments to as well protect Chinese intellectual property rights, President Jinping spoke about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); an idea that will immensely benefit the world. "As long as the parties embrace the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, we can surely make the BRI the broadest platform for international cooperation in keeping with the trend of economic globalization," he explained. "Let us dedicate ourselves to openness and win-win outcomes, be brave to change and break new ground, and keep striving for a community with a shared future for mankind and a better tomorrow for Asia and the world."
In September, China will hold another Forum for African countries. Titled, the Forum for China - Africa cooperation (FOCAC), this is an opportunity for African nations like Uganda to critically interrogate China's stand of globalisation, and internalise the potential benefits for the developing world.
President Xi Jinping is expected to preside over FOCAC, and I believe he will reaffirm the need for Africa to embrace the spirit of globalisation. Hopefully, this will encourage Africa nations to challenge isolationist policies like President Donald Trump's clarion call during the last US presidential campaigns, to ‘Make America Great Again.'
His opponents argued that America was already great, hence the need to embrace globalisation rather than isolationism. The elections came and Trump won, dealing a major blow to international cooperation. His policy pronouncements in recent months have only served to confirm fears from different corners of the world; that America is now one of the most inward looking countries around. Should the western world continue down that road, developing nations like Uganda will suffer the impact. We need a shoulder to lean on and the best thing the world can do is not to turn us away.
As Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zheng Zhuqiang has always said, Uganda must take advantage of growing opportunities and tap Chinese market. One example is that Uganda should market its tourism potential to China. This is a concrete example of win-win cooperation.
The same message was reiterated in 2015 when President Jinping met President Yoweri Museveni at the Great Hall in China. They discussed friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation. "The Chinese people offered firm support to the African people when they were combating colonialism and striving for national independence in history," President Museveni said at that time. "The Tanzania-Zambia railway constructed by China lifted the blockade enforced by the west on African countries."
China accepted to share its experience with Uganda in developing special economic zones, industrial parks and other development projects. The two countries also agreed to strengthen cooperation in such fields as infrastructure development, mutual investments and tourism. As the old saying, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
The writer is a publisher of China - Uganda magazine