CHINA / POLITICS
China repels US bullying at WIPO
Beijing slams Washington for interfering in election of global IP body
Published: Feb 26, 2020 10:06 PM Updated: Feb 27, 2020 12:19 PM


Chen Xu, China's permanent representative to the UN's Geneva office, states China's position on the WIPO director general election at a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday. Photo: Liu Xin/GT



China on Wednesday vigorously pushed back a US attempt to block the Chinese nominee from leading the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which oversees the massive global IP system, slamming Washington for interfering in the elections and bullying other countries and regions for its own political and economic interests. 

The US campaign against China's efforts in IP protection and its nominee, Wang Binying, a highly-regarded professional who has spent nearly three decades at the agency, represents the latest example of Washington's growing disregard for and disruption of the global multilateral system and its ideology-driven, relentless push to contain China at all costs, Chinese officials and analysts said. 

Global stakeholders must join hands and stand up to US hegemony and bullying to preserve established international rules and norms that, in spite of its existing flaws, have ensured a relatively peaceful and prosperous world for decades, the officials and analysts urged.

Stopping bullying

"The story could be very much simpler. It should be a fair competition among professionals. But the US is turning this election into a political game," Chen Xu, China's permanent representative to the UN's Geneva office, told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday, noting that Wang enjoys great respect and is highly competent.

The WIPO, an agency under the UN that specializes in global IP services, policies and cooperation, will hold an election on March 4 for its next director general to replace the current leader, Francis Gurry of Australia, whose second six-year term will expire in September. China nominated Wang, who has spent 28 years in the agency and has been serving as a deputy director general since 2008. Wang is facing competition from five other candidates from Singapore, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Colombia and Peru, according to Chinese officials.

Following Wang's nomination, the US, which does not have a nominee, launched a smear campaign at China and lobbied other countries not to support the Chinese nominee. In December, several US Senators wrote a letter to US President Donald Trump urging him to take "the necessary diplomatic steps" to sway its allies and partners to oppose China's nominee, while listing the US' long-held unproven accusations against China, including "theft" of IP and trade secrets and warning against China's leadership at the WIPO.

"Suggestions by some in the US that Wang's [leadership] would lead global IPR protection to go backward is absurd," Shan Xiaoguang, dean of Shanghai International College of IP at Tongji University in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

As of 2019, China was the leader in new patent filings for a ninth consecutive year and in trade trademark applications for an 18th straight year, according to data from the National Intellectual Property Administration (NIPA). Chinese companies Huawei, Sinopec, and Oppo topped the rankings for new approved patents filed by domestic firms last year, the NIPA said.

China's rising status as a global leader in innovation and its experience in creating a robust IP protection system both in terms of legislation and enforcement could also offer valuable lessons in the WIPO's mission to enhance IP protection around the world, particularly in developing countries, analysts said. 

Aside from the smear campaign against China, US officials have even threatened to stop aid and other "dishonorable" measures to force other countries to abandon their support for Wang, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which has called the US move at a time when the world is reeling from the coronavirus epidemic "immoral."

"Some WIPO member states expressed their resentment to US pressure," Chen said, adding that the US is said to have threatened "small countries" of consequences such as weakened relations with the US if they support Wang, who, he said, is a "unique" candidate for the post and meets the expectations of many member states.

A worker stands by a display showing China's homegrown deep-sea robot, with the Exposition on China Indigenous Brand set to kick off in Shanghai on Thursday. Intellectual property rights (IPR) have become a pillar of Shanghai's economy, and as of the end of 2017, the municipality had 100,433 IPR inventions, up 18 percent year-on-year, according to media reports on Tuesday. Photo: IC



Unique expertise

Wang, 64, educated both in China and the US, has held various positions at the WIPO since joining the agency in 1992, including assistant director general between 2006 and 2009 and deputy director general in charge of brands and designs sector since 2009, according to the WIPO website. She has extensive experience in areas such as development cooperation, strategic planning and policy development.  

"In promoting IPR protection in developing countries, she has extensive experience and broad vision. She can not only see the requirements from developed countries but also feels the strong pursuit of developing countries to improve their IPR protection environment," said Shan, noting that Wang's leadership would be perfectly balanced between developing and developed countries.

Developing countries have long been wary that changes in the WIPO could force them to make additional commitments in favor of developed countries and deny them proper access to global IP. The US and other developed countries have long been pushed for stricter enforcement rules of IP laws that could be difficult for many developing countries to follow. 

Such a widening gap is also seen in other global bodies. The US, under its "America First" agenda, has crippled the World Trade Organization by denying new appellate judges approved by all other members and have threatened to reduce funding to the UN and other international organizations. 

The attempt to sway the election is "a concrete indication of Trump's 'America First' policy," Tao Xinliang, honorary dean of the Intellectual Property Institute of Shanghai University, noting that the intellectual property agency is an international organization rather than a US proprietary asset.

Aside from the WIPO, the US has also been seeking to prevent China, the world's largest developing country and second-largest economy, from taking more responsibility and roles in global organizations. It has been spreading fear about how China is taking "control" of the global system.

At the press conference, Chen said that Chinese nationals who are holding post at global organizations acted at the will and interests of all member states and some of them will leave office in the next two years. 

Several global bodies, including the Food and Agricultural Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, are headed by Chinese nationals. 

Chen argued that Wang will also be able coordinate different concerns of the member states. Apart from her unique expertise in the IP field, Wang's nomination is also in line with member states' efforts to promote gender equality in international organizations, he said. 

If elected, Wang would be the first Chinese national and first female to lead the WIPO in its 52-year history. Before Gurry, the post had been held by three other people, including Kamil Eltayeb Idris from Sudan and Arpad Bogsch, an American who held the position for 24 years.


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