President Xi Xinping renews his claim to be free trade champion after China agrees to free trade with Australia

Jasper Jolly
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President Xi Jinping is the "core leadership" of the Chinese communist party (Source: Getty)

China’s leader has made another pitch to be the world’s leader of globalization after the country yesterday agreed to promote free trade with Australia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the world to follow a “more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable economic globalization process” in a letter to attendees at the Boao Forum for Asia, Chinese state-controlled news service Xinhua reported.

Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli asked Asian countries to promote economic globalisation and free trade, emphasising intra-Asian links as the world’s second largest economy looks to secure its growth with Sino-American trade under threat.

Read more: Xi and Trump have fired the opening salvoes of the coming trade war

On Friday the country’s premier, Li Keqiang, met his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull at a forum in which they “agreed to promote trade facilitation and liberalization,” Xinhua reported.

The cooperation agreement and the clear pro-globalisation message come as China aims to take the free-trade initiative and counteract the protectionism of new US President Donald Trump.

President Xi announced this intention to the world emphatically at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. The gathering of global leaders has in the past been seen as the epitome of Western liberal economics, but Xi stole the show with a speech which championed free trade.

China has been the most spectacular beneficiary of globalisation, as massive exports of products made by its relatively cheap labour force have seen its GDP more than double in the time since 2009.

Read more: Xi Jinping in Davos: “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war."

This growth has come despite the one-party Chinese state's iron grip on the country, which has seen controls on capital flows and suppression of any sort of dissent. President Xi has installed himself as the "core leadership" of the Chinese communist party.

Trump’s embrace of a protectionist, anti-free trade agenda presents China with a threat to its own prosperity as it prepares for lower growth amid a slowing expansion, but it has also presented it with an opportunity to lead the way in protecting the trade which has made hundreds of millions of its citizens better off.

China recently adjusted its growth target to around 6.5 per cent expansion this year, the lowest in more than 20 years, as the potential for catch-up growth dissipates.

Read more: China sets lowest growth target in more than 20 years

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