China's No. 2 leader appealed Wednesday for support for free trade and promised to improve conditions for foreign companies following tit-for-tat US and Chinese tariff hikes in an escalating battle over Beijing's technology policy. Premier Li Keqiang's comments add to Beijing's effort to portray itself as a defender of global trade and multilateralism in the face of complaints by Washington and other trading partners about industry policies they say violate its market-opening commitments, the AP reports. Speaking at the World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin, Li made no direct mention of the dispute but appealed to governments to resolve disputes through negotiation and reject unilateralism.
"It is essential that we uphold the basic principles of multilateralism and free trade," the premier said. China announced a tariff hike on $60 billion of American imports Tuesday in response to President Trump's increase on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Under pressure from the US, Beijing has promised to cut tariffs, open its auto industry, and buy American exports. But none of that was what Trump wanted: An end to development policies Washington says are based on theft of know-how and might erode US industrial leadership. Analysts say Beijing sees those policies as a path to prosperity and is likely to "dig its heels in," contrary to US expectations.
(Read more China