China rebuts U.S. accusations, says efforts to balance bilateral trade will continue
The U.S. government is using accusations against China such as insufficient protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and non-market economy status as leverage to tackle its trade gap with China, experts said on Thursday, adding that a response may be needed if there are further actions.
According to an article published by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, some members of the U.S. government are launching measures to combat Chinese "mercantilism."
The article cited the example of Robert Lighthizer, chief trade negotiator for the administration of President Donald Trump. According to the article, Lighthizer has initiated an inquiry into Chinese intellectual property abuses. He has also referred to some trade concessions offered by the Chinese government during Trump's visit to China as "half-measures."
The article said that almost nobody in the U.S. "now argues that the U.S. should assist China's rise on the expectation it will emerge as a democratic free-market partner."
The U.S. government will shortly reveal new legislation that will strengthen scrutiny on overseas investments, particularly those from Chinese companies, according to a report by CNBC in October. The U.S. government published a memo on October 31 that labeled China a non-market economy.
Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said that the actual intention of the U.S. is to rectify its trade gap with China.
Trade the key issue
Data from the General Administration of Customs on November 8 showed that China exported 7 billion worth of products to the U.S. in the first 10 months this year, while it imported 3.8 billion from the U.S. during the same period.
"They are using these accusations to push China to further balance its trade status with the U.S. It's a kind of political bargain," Chen told the Global Times on Thursday.
China has already taken measures to "placate" the U.S., Chen noted. For instance, China signed deals worth more than 0 billion with the U.S. during Trump's recent visit to China.
"China is taking measures to solve the imbalance in trade. We will do what we can do," she said.
Chen said such trade disputes are quite normal, and countries like India have also complained to China about the trade gap issue. "I don't think we should care too much about what certain U.S. government officials say about China. But if the U.S. takes concrete measures against trade with China or Chinese investors, China must take countermeasures through imposing sanctions on U.S. companies as well," she said.
Ma Xiushan, a domestic IPR expert, also said that the U.S. accusations about China's failure to protect IPR are ungrounded.
"First, the development stage of the two countries' intellectual property rights protection is different, as intellectual property rights protection is a part of the U.S. Constitution, while the Chinese government didn't start to get to know IPR until its reform and opening-up began about 40 years ago. I think it's unfair that the U.S. expects China to catch up with it in terms of intellectual property rights," he told the Global Times on Thursday.
According to Ma, China's property rights protection has significantly improved in recent years. "The emergence of knowledge-sharing platforms such as the Fenda app is a good example," Ma said.
He added that many domestic companies have an enhanced awareness of IPR protection. "There has been a shift from cheap copies to innovation in China in the last few years," he said.
For example, Zhuhai Gree Electric Appliances Inc had applied for 27,487 patents as of the end of 2016, according to media reports. Haier, also an electric appliance manufacturer, has patents in 25 countries and regions globally, the company said in a statement it sent to the Global Times earlier.
A report published by the World Intellectual Property Organization on Monday also noted that Chinese companies used to pursue a low-cost and low-price strategy, but gradually "they were able to raise prices and quality, thus moving from largely generic products to premium brands."
Ma said that the government is also taking measures to perfect the legal system for IPR protection. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during a State Council meeting on Wednesday that the government would take effective measures to implement protective measures for IPR, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.