Chile will hold a high-level meeting this week about trans-Pacific economic cooperation and China has expressed that it is actively considering attending this gathering. Since Chile is a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, like most of the other participants in the upcoming conference, the event is widely considered as a TPP member states' meeting. Under the circumstances, China's attendance is interpreted as a signal that Beijing intends to join the deal.
According to information the Global Times has received, the meeting will not purely focus on the TPP, but has a wide range of topics, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). Apart from China, other non-TPP member states such as South Korea and Colombia will also attend.
After the withdrawal of the US, the question over whether China will join the trade deal and play a leadership role in the group is of concern to many. But this question is too simple.
The TPP was considered as an economic tool by former US president Barack Obama's government in its rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy. Therefore, geopolitical factors can be found in the deal. China will never remold it, turning the spearhead of the tool against Washington. Beijing has neither the power nor the interest to do so.
When the deal was dominated by the US, it contained some factors which are specifically against China. How many of those factors are there and if there will be any changes to them under the new circumstances will need careful study. For the moment, TPP members have differing attitudes over whether to maintain the deal without Washington and whether to invite China to the group. Therefore, the conditions are not ripe for Beijing to apply or make the decision whether to join the TPP.
China is keen to promote free and fair trade while opposing turning international trade into a geopolitical game. As long as Beijing holds on to that, most of the economies in the globe will form solid free trade ties with China in different ways. Regional economic organizations will also find it hard to exclude Beijing, because China's trade volume is simply too big.
Washington's protectionism will be bound to shock the global trade system. No country in the world can now raise the banner against it and win widespread support. Even if there have been constant appeals calling on China to be the standard-bearer, it is believed that China won't do it.
However, China can support free trade without aiming at, edging out or fighting against any one.
Obama chose a winding course of politicizing trade. His successor Donald Trump
denied him, but he seems to have politicized trade in another way. However, free trade is a realistic demand of today's world.
The future life or death of the TPP and whether China will join will be determined by the common interests of each country.