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President set to elaborate on growth in Boao speech

By XU WEI | China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-19 15:05
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Mike Wells said he has high expectations about this year's Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, even though travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that he can only participate in the event via video link.

The chief executive of Prudential Plc, Britain's largest insurer, said conversations at this year's forum, which concludes on Wednesday, have offered him some of the most interesting insights on China.

"It is an important opportunity for honest dialogue with policymakers and thought leaders from across the region. This year I am looking forward to contributing on a subject I am passionate about-the drive to open up the financial sector in China," he said.

Wells said he was fortunate to witness a landmark moment at the forum-when President Xi Jinping delivered an important keynote speech in Boao in 2018 and announced a host of decisions that charted the course to open up various sectors in China, including banking, securities, insurance and automobiles.

This year, the fifth time he will attend the forum, Xi will deliver a keynote speech via video link at its opening ceremony on Tuesday.

Looking at the current international situation and global risks and challenges, the president will elaborate on the Chinese concept and Chinese solution on promoting Asian and global growth and prosperity, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a news briefing on Monday.

The opening ceremony on Tuesday will also bring together leaders from 14 countries, mostly in the Asia-Pacific region, President of the 75th United Nations General Assembly Volkan Bozkir and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva, all of whom will participate in the ceremony via video link.

As the forum celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, analysts and business leaders have underlined the key role of the forum for China to champion multilateralism and free trade, and to announce more opening-up measures.

Shen Jianguang, chief economist at JD Technology, the technological arm of Chinese e-commerce giant JD, said China has evolved from a newcomer to globalization to a champion of multilateralism and free trade over the past 20 years.

China had just joined the World Trade Organization when the forum was launched in 2001, and the nation became the largest recipient of foreign direct investment last year, Shen said.

"The pace of China's opening-up has never come to a stop, and China has continued to be a hot destination for foreign investment over the years," he said.

He noted that the speech by Xi in 2018 came as globalization was facing severe setbacks amid the unilateral moves of the Trump administration in the United States.

"It was against this backdrop that President Xi made a strong case for China's opening-up at Boao, and the speech went on to hugely lift the confidence of international investors," said Shen, who is taking part in the forum this week.

He gave examples of the success of Tesla Inc's gigafactory in Shanghai, benefiting from policies allowing foreign carmakers to set up wholly owned subsidiaries in China, and German chemical giant BASF's largest-ever investment project, which was the first wholly foreign funded project in China's heavy chemical industry.

After having signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with another 14 participating nations and concluding in principle negotiations on a comprehensive agreement on investment with the European Union, China is also considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Leading the way

This year, the forum is expected to help Asian economies and different countries in the world build consensus on development and reshape confidence in growth, according to Li Baodong, the forum's secretary-general.

A key focus of this year's forum is to advance Belt and Road cooperation as the initiative has promoted economic recovery in Asia and adjacent regions, demonstrated the determination of Asian countries to promote international cooperation, and also provided an "Asian perspective" for improving global governance, he said.

Zhu Feng, executive director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, said the forum has also become a key occasion for China to exchange its ideas with the global community.

"With the pandemic yet to be brought completely under control and the world struggling to recover from its fallout, the Chinese leadership's call to expand opening-up and strengthen global governance will be greatly welcomed," he said.

He went on to say that the role of Asia has been amplified in the global economic landscape, and the need for better alignment in international policies to strengthen global governance is now more prominent.

"I believe Chinese leaders will seek to inject more confidence into regional economic cooperation, stability and security," he said.

Key platform

Chi Fulin, president of the Haikou-based China Institute for Reform and Development, said the forum has become a key platform for dialogue between policymakers and business leaders.

He noted that more foreign business leaders are paying attention to the latest developments in the Chinese market, and the forum has enabled foreign entrepreneurs to learn about the general trends of China's reform and opening-up.

The forum will also usher in discussions about how China can promote economic globalization and ensure the stability of industry and supply chains against the backdrop of the nation's ongoing efforts to foster a new development paradigm with the domestic market as the mainstay and the domestic and international markets reinforcing each other, he said.

Sylvain Laurent, executive vice-president of French software company Dassault Systemes, said Boao provides a very high-level dialogue platform for countries, government officials and enterprises to build consensus and jointly promote the process of regional economic integration.

"It has become an important bridge connecting China and the world, and an international exchange platform with global influence," he said.

"The attraction of the Chinese market is not only in the more standardized business and investment environment, but also in the Chinese government's opening-up and cooperation attitude. We believe that the Chinese market will be more dynamic and contain more potential in the future," he said.

Shen, the economist, said the Asia-Pacific region has become the greatest powerhouse of global growth, and China in particular is leading the global economic recovery from the fallout of the pandemic.

As China is showcasing its growing vitality in economic growth and the resilience of its industry and supply chains, the nation will again make a new appeal for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, he said.

Wells from Prudential Plc said the company has keenly felt support from Chinese regulators as it sought to further explore the Chinese market with its Chinese partner CITIC Group.

"We are very positive about China. Opening up China's financial sector creates new opportunities for collaboration between policymakers and international businesses on solutions to broad-ranging issues ranging from poverty reduction to access to healthcare.

"The drive to open up China aligns with our business objective to deepen our presence in the market and further invest to address the health, financial protection and savings gaps," he said.

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