China is a developing country despite US move

The US House of Representatives recently passed the "PRC Is Not a Developing Country Act" with a 415-0 vote. If passed by the Senate, too, and signed by US President Joe Biden, the act will allow Washington to pressure international organizations to strip China of its legitimate developing country status.

Stinking of Cold War mentality and aimed at containing China's rise, the act is a continuation of the process to "decouple" the US and Chinese economies. But the act is not beneficial to the Chinese economy or the US economy. Worse, it will slow down global economic recovery.

Last year, Sino-US trade reached a historic high of nearly $760 billion, reflecting the intertwined and mutually beneficial economic relations between the two sides. But the US sees the continued strengthening of China's economy and its growing global influence as a substantive challenge to, rather than opportunities for, cooperation.

Facing the risk of an economic recession, the US administration is using long arm jurisdiction to prevent China from enjoying the status of a "developing country" and dismantle the international exchange and cooperation systems in order to ease the domestic political and economic pressure, as well as to dominate the discourse on Sino-US trade relations.

Such moves inevitably cause a chain reaction leading to the dislocation of division of labor on a global scale.

Thanks to the reform and opening-up launched in the late 1970s, China has not only achieved remarkable results but also become the world's second-largest economy and the largest trading country. But despite all this, China's per capita income is still much less than developed countries. This means it is still a developing country.

The US' attempt to strip China of its "developing country" status has a long history. After realizing that its trade war against China will not succeed, in 2019 the then Donald Trump administration urged the World Trade Organization to change the rules within 90 days in such a way that China loses its "developing country" status.

Such proposals to fundamentally change the WTO rules cannot be passed unanimously by the 164 member countries. In fact, the definition of "developing country" status is formulated mainly by international organizations such as the United Nations and the WTO based on a series of economic, social and human development indexes.

The US' move to strip China of its "developing country" status violates the WTO's non-discriminatory principle. As a responsible trading country, China has never taken advantage of its position as a "developing country" to compete with other developing countries for international resources and markets. Instead, in the years since it joined the WTO in 2001, China has fulfilled its obligations and commitments, for which it has been praised by several WTO directors-general and a majority of the WTO members.

In contrast, the US, as the world's top developed country, has always been found wanting when it comes to fulfilling its international obligations. It has not only shirked its international responsibilities, but also owes billions of dollars to the UN and the WTO.

The proposed US bill reflects Washington's arbitrary export of American values globally and its indifference to, if not contempt for, the possible damage it could cause to China's economy. Its purpose is to force China to abide by the global economic and trade rules formulated by the US, in order to contain and suppress China and promote its "America first" policy.

In other words, the US is trying to build a so-called rules-based foundation for the rest of the world to follow so it can continue to hold the discourse power in Sino-US trade relations.

The fundamental basis of major country competition lies in geopolitics, which is subject to geoeconomics. China has not only become the top goods' trading nation. It has also gained substantially in terms of economic strength, which is growing year by year. And this is precisely what the US is unwilling to accept.

The Biden administration has realized it cannot achieve its goal of restructuring Sino-US economic and trade ties in its favor even by resorting to trade protectionism. Hence, it has abandoned the previous administration's rapid and extreme pressure tactics and, instead, is using a composite containment strategy against China. Some US politicians have been trying to decouple the US and Chinese economies and block the flow of investment and technology to China. By doing so, however, the US has been undermining the international economic and trade environment, and gradually restructuring a new Sino-US trade relationship that is favorable to the US.

The practice of promoting economic unilateralism on the basis of discriminatory trade partners further exacerbates the already fragile Sino-US economic and trade relationship and pushes the global economic trend toward severe imbalance.

The author is a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Commerce.

The views don’t necessarily represent those of China Daily.