“Will China join the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership)?” a director of a TV news show asked me on a midnight phone call last week. “Are you kidding?” I sleepily murmured. “No,” he said, “President Xi Jinping just announced it this afternoon!” OK, that was a call I had to take.

According to the director, Xi told a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting hosted by Malaysia that China would "actively consider" joining the CPTPP (or TPP-11), an economic partnership agreement among Japan and 10 other regional economies. The United States withdrew from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in 2017.

He then told me that President Xi also urged countries to "defend multilateralism" and called for the establishment of an "Asia-Pacific free trade zone at an early date." I growled, “When has China become a champion of multilateral free trade?” and told him “It's typical Chinese propaganda.”