China and East Asia in the Age of Regionalization and globalization.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, November 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

China and East Asia in the Age of Regionalization and globalization.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


(Speech of Former President FIDEL V. RAMOS of the Republic of the Philippines and Chair, Boao Forum for Asia (B.F.A.) at the International Think Tank Forum 2002 on the Theme "China in WTO: Global Economy in Transition and the Role of China" Wuzhou Hotel, Shenzhen, China, 18 November 2002.)

I. China in the WTO: The Implications for ASEAN

OVER these last 50 years, China has loomed larger and larger in our view: a continent-sized country dominating the Asian mainland - with the world's largest population and the world's oldest continuous civilization.

After 150 years of dynastic weakness - during which predatory powers had sliced up its territories (in Sun YatSen's phrase) "Like a Melon" - China has stood up, and after many vicissitudes, has become once again an economic and political power - as it had been for thousands of years.

For ASEAN and for East Asia, China today poses both a challenge - and an opportunity.

The economic challenge is already upon us. China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) has sharpened its competitiveness for ASEAN's own labor-intensive exports and for foreign direct investment (FDI) into Asia.

No country has expanded its foreign trade as fast as China has done over these past 20 years.

In the post-war period, Japan doubled its foreign trade over a 20-year period. China's foreign trade, on the other hand, multiplied five times between 1980 and the year 2000.

Already China is the world's seventh-largest trading economy.

In just the first two months of this year, China's exports - buoyed up by the modest global economic recovery from the shock of 9-11 terrorism - accelerated by 14 percent to some USD 41 billion. Foreign direct investment surged 28 percent to some USD 6 billion. And contracted foreign investment - a good gauge of future growth - climbed 24 percent to more than USD 11 billion.

Already China has become the pre-eminent producer of labor-intensive manufacturing goods in the world. And its low-end exports - such as garments, household appliances, TV sets and motorcycles - are defeating domestic manufacturing in many third world countries.

WTO Membership: Changes in China's Economy

For the Chinese economy, entry into the WTO will mean even more openings - and its greater competitiveness in global markets.

Already foreign direct investment going into China (which makes up nearly fourfifths of all the FDI coming into East Asia) has surpassed that going into the United States - traditionally the number one destination for migrant capital.

Over this past decade, the FDI that went into the Chinese economy added up to USD 350 billion. And for any developing country - as we know - the industrial and managerial technology the foreign investor brings in is often even more welcome than his money.

For this year, Beijing forecasts GDP growth of 7.8 percent - against the average 5 percent for East Asia the World Bank projects. And already, China has launched a program to multiply the size of its economy (right now worth some USD 1.1 trillion) four times between now and the year 2020.

But entry into the WTO will also mean more short-term pain for the Chinese people - as their still strictly regulated market opens up under the country's commitments to adhere to the established rules and standards of the international trading order.

Chinese agriculture will be one early casualty - since the country is still relatively inefficient in producing major grains. Lower tariffs may make many farming communities non-competitive - and increase the exodus of rural people to China's already overcrowded cities.

The cradle-to-the-grave social security China's stateowned enterprises offer their workers will have to be restructured and, eventually, dismantled.

The mountains of bad bank loans - estimated by some analysts to be larger, proportionally, than those of Japan - will have to be liquidated, if a financial crisis is to be averted sometime in this next decade. …

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