China entered 2020 with trouble knocking at the door. The deadly attack of COVID-19shook the country. It started from Wuhan and encompasses the whole country. China had to fight multifaceted fight. China was struggling to understand the pandemic and devising strategies to save the people and contain the virus. China was expecting cooperation if not help during the testing times.Unexpectedly, it was struck with a new wave of criticism from West led by USA. China was shocked, as USA administration launched a malicious campaign and used COVID-19 to achieve the objectives of the China containment. Conspiracy theories started to reign the world. It was expected China will scumble to pressure. Though, China felt the pressure but country under the leadership of President Xi, averted the pressure and emerged as victorious nation. China won the war against pandemic by applying Confucius wisdom, Tao believe, Sun Zhu strategy and off course the quality leadership by Communist Party.
The successful execution of anti-COVID-19 strategy strengthen the believe of Chinese nation to face the trouble with grace. Howbeit the malicious campaign compelled China to redefine its engagement policy. In the light of redefined policy China accelerate its efforts to engage with world. China launched an aggressive strategy and held meetings with numerous platforms and countries. The list includes countries from Middle East, North Africa, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia etc.President Xi Jinping himself participated in 87 meetings and phone calls with country heads, organizational heads etc. He also sits in 22 bilateral and multilateral meetings.The process to finalize different agreements also fast-tracked. The prominent agreements signed by China in 2020 were Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) and Comprehensive Agreement Investment (CAI).
RCEP was signed among ASEAN, Australia, New Zeeland, South Korea, Japan and China. It was first major breakthrough for China on different accounts. First, China was successful to secure consensus from Japan and Australia. Australia and Japan are close allies of USA and part of QUAD, which has been built to counter China. Second, some experts consider it the alternative of Tran-Pacific Partnership, which put China as an alternative to USA in global arena. Third, the member countries of RCEP encompasses 30% of global population and GDP. The members are also home to 32% of global investment and contribution in global trade is 28%. The sheer size of block makesRCEP very special. It is expected, the implementation of RCEP will give a boost to global economy, which is direly needed in post COVID-19 world.
EU considers its their right and necessity to sign CAI to come in parity with USA, as USA have already achieved CAI’s concessions in trade deal phase 1.
The most recent success of China on engagement front is culmination of Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). The agreement has been finalized after the 7 years of rigorous negotiations and consultations between China and EU.President Xi Jinping and Chancellor Merkel worked tirelessly to cross the finishing line and meet deadline of 2020.It is anticipated that the process will be completed until 2022, which is also year of France’s presidency of EU.
A quick look at the agreements shows that it covers the important areas for enhancing cooperation. EU will get free access to Chinese market especially in the sectors of automobile, electric and hybrid vehicles, transportation, telecommunication, hospitals equipment etc. China will also be ratifying International Labour Organization basic framework, ensure transparency and sustainable development principles. The biggest catch for EU would be to enter into financial market with open access and no limits on equity. Besides, China also considered the request of EU for enhancing openness of State-Owned Enterprises.
In reciprocation, China will get access to energy and manufacturing sectors. China will also get assurance that there would be stability and no goal post change will be practiced in future. It is key achievement of China, as in past EU keep changing the goal post on one excuse or other.
There is no second opinion that CAI has enormous potential for both parties but before implementation CAI will have to cross many stumbling blocks. First, there are people in EU and EU parliament which considers CAI a weak agreement. Rather, Reinhard Bütikofer, chair EU delegation for relationship with China EU parliament, termed it as a strategic mistake. Thus, it is expected there would be intense debate in EU parliament during the process of approval and ratification. Second, the anti-China lobby in EU and beyond,will try to run campaign against it by engaging human right and environmental organizations. We have already seen glimpse, as liberal experts started to question the CAI on these grounds.
Third, CAI will also have to overcome the bottleneck of geo-politics.The glimpses of the play are quite visible, as Jack Sullivan, nominated national security advisor by President elect Biden, cautiously asked EU to consult to adopt a common strategy to deal with China. Although, he did not mention or opposed CAI, but message was clear that wait until Mr. Biden is in office. However, for the official response of USA, we will have to wait. The official response will tell us whether USA will oppose like it did when Italy signed the Belt and Road Initiative or work with both parties to accrue benefits. The CAI is also being seen as a competitor to Tarns-Atlantic Investment Partnership if not a replacement. However, EU considers its their right and necessity to sign CAI to come in parity with USA, as USA have already achieved CAI’s concessions in trade deal phase 1.
Apart from the geo-politics and stumbling blocks, CAI is a great strategic success for China. Although, China secure less benefits in short term, but in long term it will be a huge success. The combining effect of RCEP and CAI would be huge,and it will pave the way to achieve the goal of prosperity. It has set new benchmarks. China has been successful to show its economic and diplomatic strength to world. Despite, the severe attack of COVID-19, China consolidated its’ stature of formidable power.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/715629/year-2020-china-triumph-fromcovid-19-to-rcep-cai/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.