China’s Liu He at Davos: Every word was a lie

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Chinese Vice Premier Liu He’s address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was striking for its dishonesty and prevarication. It recalls novelist and political activist Mary McCarthy’s dismissal of fellow writer Lillian Hellman, when she said: “Everything she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’” Liu argued, in essence, that “China is back.” He said China welcomes the return of foreign investment, and contended that investors should view China’s economy with optimism because of reforms and an end to an emphasis on ideology advanced by Xi Jinping, rather than economic prosperity. 

Liu also submitted that China’s economic growth in 2023 will return to “normal,” and that China is a supporter of the international order and the environment.

In reality, China’s economy is in the tank because of anemic economic growth — about 3 percent — due to profound structural problems in the economy, demographic decline, a property downturn, U.S. pressure on its tech sector, investors concerned about Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence, and the viability of alternatives such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam. The most significant cause of its downturn has been the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of its “zero-COVID” policy that is permitting the virus to spread among the population.

In China, business will always be under the influence of Xi and the CCP. The unfortunate case of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who criticized the country’s financial regulators, shows that the Party will not permit even a whiff of independence from its control or a potential political rival to arise from the business or any other community. Rather than supporting the international order, Beijing is doing all it can to weaken and replace it with an order that Beijing defines and controls.

Liu’s remarks on climate change, meanwhile, were a master class of deception. He said COVID-19 revealed the “possible connection between climate change and public health crises.” An honest man would be embarrassed and ashamed after mouthing his words, since the CCP’s actions guaranteed that the virus’s outbreak turned into a pandemic through its deception to global health authorities such as the World Health Organization and public health authorities in other countries.

By Bradley A. Thayer

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Bradley A. Thayer is director of China policy at the Center for Security Policy and the co-author of “Understanding the China Threat.”

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