China’s premier calls on nations to ‘oppose decoupling’ at economic forum

Li Qiang tells World Economic Forum conference that countries should work closely together, abandon rival camps.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is tasked with managing economic affairs [Pedro Pardo/AFP]

China’s premier has called for countries to “oppose decoupling”, as economic tensions simmer between Beijing and the European Union ahead of the imposition of new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles.

Friction between the West and the world’s second-largest economy has intensified in recent years, as geopolitical hotspots crop up around the world and Beijing and Washington compete for supremacy in advanced technology.

“We should broadly open our minds, work closely together, abandon camp formations, (and) oppose decoupling,” said Li Qiang, China’s second-ranking leader who has been tasked by President Xi Jinping with managing economic affairs.

Li’s comments came during a speech at the opening of a World Economic Forum conference known as the “Summer Davos”, held this year in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian.

The premier also called on parties to “maintain the stability and smooth operation of industrial and supply chains, promote the liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment, guide and promote healthy global development, and gather powerful efforts for world economic growth”.

Worries about a disengagement between China and major economies in the West have rumbled for years as they clash over a range of issues including trade and technology.

Last month, the United States hiked tariffs on $18bn worth of imports from the country, targeting strategic sectors like electric vehicles, batteries, steel and critical minerals, a move Beijing warned would “severely affect relations” between the two superpowers.

China is also facing heightened scrutiny from the European Union, which is preparing to impose tariffs of up to 38 percent on its EVs by July 4, citing concerns over unfair competition caused by heavy state subsidies.

The duties will be provisional until November when they are set to come into full effect.

European leaders including Commission head Ursula von der Leyen have insisted the bloc does not intend to decouple from China, seeking instead to “de-risk” its market as political confrontations with Beijing mount.

China’s government has continuously denounced the pending tariffs as “purely protectionist”, arguing that the success of its domestic EV industry is due to innovation and supply chain efficiency rather than government support.

Beijing has agreed with European counterparts to enter into negotiations as an investigation by Brussels into the matter continues.

Source: AFP