Chinese President Xi Jinping, who begins a week-long visit to the United States in Seattle Tuesday, sought to play down various issues involving China -- ranging from global concerns about its economy to its territorial claims in the South China Sea, and the issue of cybersecurity, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Xi said that despite the recent “downward pressure” faced by China’s economy, it is still operating within the “proper range.” The interview comes at a time when Chinese shares have seen a sharp decline in value over fears of flagging exports and slowing economic growth. Xi was responding to written questions posed by the Journal.
“China’s economic growth is still one of the fastest in the world,” Xi told the Journal, when asked about the recent slowdown, likening the economic turbulence to “unstable sailing” in rough seas.
“Against the overall global economic backdrop, many countries have encountered difficulties. The Chinese economy is also under a downward pressure. But it is a problem in the course of progress,” Xi added. “China has the capacity and is in the position to maintain a medium-high growth in the years to come.”
Over the past two months, China’s stock exchanges have witnessed severe volatility, prompting the Communist Party to undertake several major measures to stem the rout and pacify investors.
However, following the central bank’s decision to devalue the yuan -- perceived as a last-ditch effort to stem the slide -- the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbled about 40 percent since its June high, upending global markets and deepening fears over the health of the world’s second-largest economy.
Xi, however, said that the ups and downs of the stock markets were natural, and defended Beijing’s intervention to arrest the plunge.
“The recent unusual fluctuations in the Chinese stock market were mainly the result of previous rapid surges and big fluctuations in the international market,” Xi said. “The Chinese government has taken some measures to defuse systemic risks. Such steps have proved successful. … Thanks to a mix of stabilizing steps taken, the market has entered a stage of self-correction and adjustment.”
Xi also played down differences between China and the U. S. over matters of cybersecurity and the former’s island-building activities in the South China Sea, claiming that “even family members don’t always see eye to eye with each other.”
“China’s development and maintenance of facilities on some of our garrisoned islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands does not impact on or target any other country, and it should not be overinterpreted,” Xi said, referring to one island located in one of the disputed island chains that are claimed -- in whole or in part -- by a number of countries.
On cybersecurity -- an area in which China’s alleged state-sponsored hacking activities have been labeled an “act of aggression” by the U.S. -- Xi said that the Asian nation itself was a victim.
“China and the United States share common concerns on cybersecurity,” Xi told the Journal. “The Chinese government does not engage in theft of commercial secrets in any form, nor does it encourage or support Chinese companies to engage in such practices in any way.”