Top US economist warns against American demonization of China

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/15 21:13:40

Jeffrey Sachs, an award-winning economist at Columbia University in the City of New York, the US Photo: IC

"I fear that the Trump Administration has been trying to make China seem like the US' enemy," Jeffrey Sachs, an award-winning economist at Columbia University in the City of New York, the US, told the Global Times in a recent interview. 

"It is easy to stoke hatred in the US toward China," he said.

Sachs, who is also a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocate for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, closed his Twitter account several months ago after criticizing the US' unfair treatment of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in his article "The War on Huawei." He was then accused by many netizens on social media of being in thrall to China. 

Battle for primacy

According to Sachs, the essence of the dispute between China and the US is that much of the US political leadership expects US dominance (sometimes called "primacy") in the world system, and China is threatening that dominance. Too much of the US leadership has yet to accept a multipolar system, with many centers of power, based on the UN Charter and international rule of law.  

 "This realization is key to mutual survival," he told the Global Times via email. 

Sachs criticized US President Donald Trump for portraying the rest of the world as an "unending threat to the US." 

"This is the first time a modern American president has taken a position like this.  It is a huge mistake and very serious for the world, as it undermines the global rule of law under the UN Charter."

"If the conflict [between China and the US] gets out of hand, it will probably make it impossible to achieve the global cooperation needed for sustainable development," he warned. 

In this situation, he calls on scholars, artists, citizens, tourists, local politicians, students and businesspeople both from China and the US to meet regularly to build people-to-people relations and mutual trust.  

Although Sachs hopes China and the US can reach a meaningful trade agreement that lasts, he said he was skeptical of it. "The US wants China to stop its technological advancement. This, of course, China cannot and should not do.  The US also wants China to keep the Renminbi [yuan] overvalued in order to stop export growth.  This too would be a big blunder for China, and China should not do that either, in my view," he said. 

Successful model

Sachs gave credit to China's reform path, praising it as being very "successful." Back in the early 1990s, he advocated free market reforms for some Eastern European countries. 

"Each country and region must choose its own path depending on local context. There is no single prescription for all patients, nor one single economic approach for all nations at all times," he said. 

 According to Sachs, the main development challenges now for China are the need to shift to sustainable development as well as the need to diversify the export economy toward Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the need to make the Belt and Road Initiative a successful sustainable development initiative based on clean energy, 5G, and other advanced technologies.  

"Of course, the US trade actions against China are a challenge. China should encourage the European Union and the African Union to join with China in defending the international rule of law, including the WTO," he said. 

While China is criticized by some countries for not being a pure market economy, Sachs told the Global Times "there can be no such thing as a pure market economy."

 Europe certainly is not a pure market economy. Every country needs a mixed economy, in which the private sector and public sector work side by side, he said. 

The public sector should focus mainly on public good, such as a clean environment, fair income distribution, universal access to quality healthcare and education, safety, scientific advancement, regulation of industry and rule of law, while the private sector has the lead in most production of market goods and services, according to Sachs. 

He stressed the importance of sustainability in China's development.

He noted to the Global Times that the US system has long been an open, dynamic, and technologically-oriented society. Traditionally, the US championed immigration and ethnic diversity.  

"Yet the US has also become highly unequal in income and wealth distribution, and under Trump has reverted to unsustainable environmental practices," he said. "China would make a big mistake if it also created an economy of high inequality, social injustice and environmental unsustainability."

Newspaper headline: The path of reform


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