News / Asia

    TPP Agreement Fuels Debate Online in China

    Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1, 2015.
    Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations in Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministers meeting post in TPP Ministers "Family Photo" in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1, 2015.

    News that the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations have finalized the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has prompted some soul searching online in China about the world’s second-largest economy and why it is not a part of the globe’s biggest regional trade pact.

    The TPP, which aims to raise trade standards, end more than 18,000 tariffs and open the Internet, even in communist Vietnam, is seen as a key step in Washington’s efforts to rebalance its economic presence in Asia.

    So far, China has been kept out of the discussions, but Beijing has long played a key role in efforts to promote the deal. President Barack Obama echoed that sentiment on Monday in a statement on the agreement.

    “When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy,” Obama said. “We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”

    Boxed in, boxed out?

    For some, the president’s remarks were but the latest confirmation that the key aim of the agreement is to give Washington the upper hand in the region and sideline China.

    A story by the party-backed Global Times on the agreement carried the headline: “U.S., Japan and 10 Other Nations Create Massive Economic Bloc to Rival China.”

    Another story by Xinhua argued that the door to the TPP cannot be closed to China forever.

    It quoted well-known political scientist Yang Xiyu who argued that although the TPP showed up right at China’s doorstep and kept Beijing out, that is only temporary.

    “In the long run, if the body aims to continue its development, it will surely open its door to China,” Yang said.

    But where some saw China being boxed out, others said it was Beijing that had boxed itself in.

    “Nations that are joining the TPP have political systems that have pledged to respect human rights, democracy, rule of law … and universal values,” said one commentator from China’s southern Guandong province. “Do you think China could make such a pledge?”


    On the social media site Weibo, another person noted that China sets up so many barriers, such as quotas for foreign cultural products such as movies, that it has no way of participating.

    “How can other countries compete with you (China) since they can do nothing but wait for you to dump your low-cost products on them, made from sweat factories?” the post asked. “You (China) make no concessions at all. No one should be blamed for [China's] self-isolation.”

    Many were concerned about the impact China’s lack of participation might have, with one warning that China could face “a slow death ahead if it fails to join (the TPP).”

    Others suggested the deal serves as an ominous warning that this is the beginning of the end for China as the world’s factory. Some said the deal might further accelerate the shift of factories away from China.

    One even quoted a popular phrase from the U.S.-television show “Game of Thrones” warning “winter is coming” for the world’s second-largest economy.

    Pressure points

    Some said the pressure that the TPP would exert on China was actually a good thing, arguing that it could push the Chinese government to improve its human rights record and governing transparency.

    “Think of what good the WTO has done on China to improve ourselves,” one posting said.

    William Choong, a senior fellow at International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, said the agreement leaves China with little choice but to push forward with rather intensive reforms.

    “China will have to make some painful decisions about what to loosen up or to institute reforms and so on in the areas, that are required in order to accede to the TPP,” Choong said.

    Whether or not China can do that is less certain, he adds.

    “I am not sure any sitting CCP (Chinese Communist Party) government will have the guts to actually carry (such reforms) out," Choong said.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Le Hung from: Hanoi, Vietnam
    October 07, 2015 3:57 AM
    Almost all Vietnamese people feel very happy when knowing that the TTP was finally signed. I hope that through this agreement, Vietnam economy will grow faster with the support from all related nation especially from the US and Japan.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    October 06, 2015 11:44 PM
    On one YouTube site a study was cited that claims 60% of Chinese millionaires have already emigrated or plan to, mostly to the United States. The main reason is fear of the poor quality of air, water, and risk of being poisoned by their food supply. They're also taking their money with them resulting in massive capital outflows. It is just one more aspect of the fantasy of China as an economic superpower bursting.

    by: chief collins from: fort william first nation
    October 06, 2015 2:54 PM
    this tpp agreement is an absolute shame to first nation members whom have been in this country since time in memorial. We have a treaty agreement to share in the natural resources and this and other prime ministers have not acknowledged this agreement yet they are making deals with other countries

    by: william li from: canada
    October 06, 2015 12:31 PM
    It amazed me how VOA jumped from an economic treaty of TPP so quickly to some nonsense human rights. China has her own strategy which is called one road one belt to connect China with India ocean rim, mid-asia and Europe. lets wait and see who is going to win this match. CCP will reform but only on its own schedule and only because the reform will benefits all Chinese not because of the west pressure.
    In Response

    by: pulse from: World
    October 06, 2015 3:34 PM
    Thanks for the tip building 321r in Beijing.

    by: John P
    October 06, 2015 12:18 PM
    The primary goal of TPP is to keep CCP out of it, it's about time. CCP's head is getting too big.

    by: John
    October 06, 2015 11:06 AM
    What the West fails to understand is we don't need your Hollywood Jewish nepotism. The country with the greatest industrial base wins the war.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    October 06, 2015 9:55 AM
    An effective strategy to cut China down to size is long overdue. However, does this deal compromise American sovereignty by allowing foreign companies to override American laws in our own country because they impact on their profits? I can't imagine this would be acceptable to most Americans. Other trade barriers to China such as import tariffs would accomplish the same goal without giving up Americans' control over their government. This seems like one more step towards a one world government ruled by large corporations. How can Americans accept that?
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    October 06, 2015 1:40 PM
    Free trade is not fair trade. Not when large international corporations can move factories to places where they can pollute the air and water, pay slave wages, and do pretty much whatever they want, then export those product back to the US with no tariffs. American workers cannot compete on that basis. This is not only putting tens of millions of Americans out of work, it is threatening the national security of the US.

    These agreements are passed by Congress because congressmen are bought off by these very same corporations to support this. This is why the US is in serious financial trouble and why so many Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Now that the American market can no longer afford to buy these products, the entire chain of production is collapsing of its own dead weight.

    This is why Donald Trump, a man who can't be bought is so popular. Trade laws should be used to protect Americans. They expect their government to be of the people, by the people, and FOR the people, not for global corporations who have allegiance to no one but their top executives.
    In Response

    by: F-Jet from: Houston
    October 06, 2015 12:07 PM
    One world govt? Lol. Hardly. It's about cutting TARIFFS that block trade and increase prices. I have negotiated in over 50 countries and wrote on this issue in Better Times Ahead April Fool and my Global American Values blog.

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