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At Davos earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech that was a manifesto for China’s global leadership. At the beginning of this month, Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris climate deal and handed Beijing a chance to burnish its leadership credentials.
But it isn’t going according to plan. At the subsequent European Union-China summit in Brussels, the two sides failed to release a much-anticipated joint statement on cooperation to fight climate change. The reason? Beijing’s displeasure with the EU’s continued refusal to back its push to be tagged a market economy under the aegis of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The EU and China are at loggerheads over the former’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against the latter, and being recognized as a market economy would give Beijing more leverage in pushing back at the WTO.
The US might be stepping back from its leadership role in various areas, but for all the hype, China has a long way to go before it can provide credible leadership.