China will “lose out” by not sending its top two finance officials to global economic talks in Japan this week, the IMF’s managing director said yesterday, weighing into a bitter dispute between the Asian giants.
Christine Lagarde called on Beijing and Tokyo — embroiled in a spat over a chain of islands in the East China Sea — to settle their row quickly, adding that “countries in this region are very important for the global economy.”
“We have a lot of substantive issues to discuss, great debates, great seminars organized. I think they lose out by not attending the meeting,” Lagarde said of China’s absent finance minister and central bank chief.
China has not given official reasons for the no-shows at the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, but they come amid simmering tensions over Japanese-controlled islets.
The pullouts also come as world leaders look to China — the planet’s second-biggest economy — to help reinvigorate faltering global growth amid fears of a worldwide slowdown.
People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川) had been due to deliver a lecture on Sunday, the centerpiece of the final day of the annual conference. He will now send his deputy, the IMF said.
The World Bank said it had been told the Chinese delegation would be led by the vice finance minister rather than Finance Minister Xie Xuren (謝旭人).
Several private Chinese banks were also reported to be limiting or canceling their participation in events linked to the meetings, which began on Tuesday and will run until Sunday.
Commentators have pointed to the move as China showing its displeasure with Japan as the region’s two largest economies squabble over islets called Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu archipelago (釣魚群島) in China. They are also claimed by Taiwan.
Lagarde said friendly relations were “beneficial” for Asia-Pacific growth and the broader global economy.
“All economic players and partners in this region are very critical for the global economy,” she said.
On a lighter note, the IMF chief said the two Chinese officials would miss out on seeing Japan’s spectacular autumn foliage.
“[China] will be missing a great meeting because Tokyo is at its best, the colors are beautiful, the trees have the most beautiful colors you could think of,” she said in response to questions about the dispute.