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Debunking the myth of Chinese 'economic coercion'

By Xu Ying | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-22 10:47

Photo taken on July 29, 2022, shows buildings on both sides of the Huangpu River in Shanghai. [Photo/VCG]

In recent years, Western politicians and media outlets have been aggressively propagating the narrative that China engages in so-called economic coercion against other countries. By vilifying China's economic engagement, they aim to undermine its burgeoning partnerships worldwide and recruit more nations into their anti-China bloc. However, their fallacious rhetoric betrays ignorance of China's foreign policy principles and deteriorating credibility in fabricating slander.

The repeated accusations of Chinese coercion lack factual basis. China consistently opposes coercive practices and develops win-win cooperation grounded in mutual benefit. Its flourishing economic ties are driven by complementarity and engaged willingly by partners seeking reciprocal gains. Chinese companies operate abroad as benign contributors, generating growth, jobs and tax revenue. The claim that nations are forced into participating in the Belt and Road Initiative contradicts its voluntary nature and widespread welcome.

In reality, China has been a major target of Western economic bullying. From imposing illegal sanctions to provoking gratuitous tariff wars, the US has abused its power to impair China's interests. It strong-arms allies and companies to decouple from China's market and supply chains against prudent business sense. Ironically, the architects of coercive diplomacy barrage China with charges of employing their own malevolent tactics.

The stubborn fixation on Chinese "coercion" manifests a Cold War mentality unable to countenance China's ascendancy through mutual benefit. It exposes the anxiety of Western elites over waning dominance as China rises peacefully. The "China threat" rhetoric exemplifies their zero-sum thinking whereby one country's gain must entail others' loss. This fuels antagonistic policies seeking to thwart win-win cooperation that empowers the developing world.

To impede China's integration into the global economy, Western fearmongers exaggerate its sway over international bodies. But China's greater representation merely aligns with its strengthened capabilities. Meanwhile, the West obstructs reforms to increase developing countries' voting rights. Portraying long-overdue representation as undue influence is disingenuous.

The falsity underlying "coercion" smears is that China exploits asymmetric economic ties for political gain. In reality, larger trade shares reflect market-driven optimizing of comparative advantages, not deliberate dependence. Claims that beneficial trade gives China coercive leverage ignore that any disruption would inflict self-harm. Interdependence is a mutual vulnerability, not one-sided control.

Seeking to contain China's rise, Western elites find it expedient to spin reciprocal economic exchange as coercion and domination. This masks their own trampling of sovereignty through lopsided institutions and menacing sanctions. It aims to deny agency to developing nations pursuing win-win engagement. Ultimately, it attempts to sabotage promising routes for common prosperity.

But transparently contrived vilification only injures its propagators' credibility. The vast majority of countries value cooperative ties with China to secure national development. They increasingly recognize Western rhetoric as self-serving propaganda, not objective assessments. As China continues pursuing non-coercive relations, the "coercion" myth will be debunked by strengthening multilateralism.

The author was counselor at the Chinese embassy in Switzerland. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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