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Asia-Pacific Business China says it can achieve sustainable economic development in face of ‘a lot of uncertainties’

Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 23, 2019.

ARND WIEGMANN/Reuters

China’s economy can maintain sustainable rates of growth despite global uncertainties, Vice President Wang Qishan said on Wednesday, days after the world’s second-largest economy posted its weakest expansion in nearly three decades.

In a remark apparently aimed at the United States, Wang also urged countries to uphold multilateralism and “respect the independent choices” of each other on technological innovation.

“There will be a lot of uncertainties in 2019, but China’s economy will continue to achieve sustainable growth,” Wang told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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“Speed does matter. But what really matters is the quality and efficiency of our economic development,” he said.

China does not see its economic expansionary cycle coming to an end, Wang added, seeking to dispel market concerns that faltering domestic demand and bruising U.S. tariffs could spark a major slowdown ahead.

Growing signs of weakness in China – which has generated nearly a third of global growth in recent years – have fuelled anxiety about risks to the world economy and overshadowed the gathering of business and political elites at the Alpine resort.

“Now, we do face a lot of imbalances,” Wang said, urging countries to take measures to combat them. “What we need to do is to make the pie bigger” instead of bickering over how to divide it, he said.

CONFRONTATION HARMS BOTH

His comments came after data on Monday showed China’s economy cooled in the fourth quarter, dragging 2018 growth to the lowest in nearly three decades and pressuring Beijing to roll out more stimulus to avert a sharper slowdown.

With no quick end in sight to U.S.-China trade frictions, Chinese finance ministry officials said on Wednesday they would ramp up fiscal spending this year to spur growth.

With a March 1 deadline approaching to reach an agreement or risk an escalation of U.S. tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, the two sides are still far apart on key structural elements critical for a deal.

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The United States, for one, accuses China of stealing intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to share technology when they do business in the country.

In an apparent retort to such accusations, Wang said it was “imperative to respect national sovereignty and refrain from seeking technological hegemony, interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs, and conducting, shielding or protecting technology-enabled activities that undermine other countries’ national security”.

But, in more conciliatory comments, he said the two economies had become “indispensable” for each other and that confrontation would harm both sides.

“We need to uphold multilateralism, engage in extensive dialogue and co-operation based on mutual respect and mutual trust, and jointly build a system of rules for technology,” Wang said.

Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of China’s Securities Regulatory Commission, told a separate seminar he was hopeful Beijing and Washington would reach a deal on trade.

“I think there will be deal. (U.S. President Donald) Trump measures success of his measures by the rise and fall of the Dow Jones average,” Fang said.

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“Whenever you have difficulties in trade negotiations, Wall Street stocks fall,” he said. “That indication is so strong, I believe it’s in the (U.S.) administration’s interest to have a deal.”

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