Chinese State media reports reaffirmed China's determination to continue its opening-up policy and maintain its role in safeguarding free trade and the multilateral system over the weekend.
In an article published on Saturday, the Xinhua News Agency said that 40 years of reform and opening-up in China has "proved the efficiency of the market and the power of opening-up."
"In the new era, China's widened opening-up will lend powerful support to free trade and multilateral cooperation," the article said, adding that China is expected to import a total of $24 trillion worth of goods in the next 15 years.
Also on Saturday, the People's Daily reported that China has completed its free trade agreement (FTA) with Mauritius, marking China's first FTA with an African country.
China is also negotiating upgrades to a total of 12 FTA deals with 27 countries, the report said.
Experts said the news was a reaction to the latest developments in China-U.S. relations. Last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made a speech criticizing China, intensifying the strain on the relationship between the two countries.
Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade, said that China has for a long time been recognized as a major beneficiary of open and free trade, but mentioning the scale of China's potential imports can promote something that gets less attention: China's contribution to global trade.
"The message is that whatever the consequences of the trade war, China will stick to its path of reform and opening-up, with wider market access for foreign investors," Li told the Global Times on Sunday.
Dong Yan, a research fellow with the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the official media reports could be seen as a bid to emphasize the efforts China has made to remove trade barriers.
"The U.S. has kept making accusations against China, but China has done a huge amount of work in reducing trade barriers. For instance, the general tariff level has been lowered by a sizable margin," Dong said, noting that China's incremental approach may have resulted in less media attention.
"The news could be seen as the result of a belief that China's great efforts have not been fully recognized by the rest of the world," Dong told the Global Times on Sunday.
China has lowered tariffs on imported goods multiple times so far this year, reducing overall tariffs by 23 percent from 2017, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The report also said that China's contribution to global economic growth exceeded 30 percent during the past five years.
As China's imports increase, the opening-up process will be widened, Li said, and China will take more initiative to promote free trade.
Experts said the media reports could also serve as a sign of China's desire to bring the FTAs with its partners to a wider and higher level.
Globally, there have been some changes in trade structure recently. The U.S. has set out on its own to renegotiate trade deals with Mexico and Canada. And many WTO members have expressed the need to reform the WTO, but few concrete results have been achieved, Dong said.
With the U.S. gaining a head start in its trade talks, it can be expected that China's FTA negotiations with its partners will speed up, experts said.