China is signalling that it is open for business by resuming its high-profile Boao Forum for Asia, an opportunity for the government to redouble its efforts to attract foreign investors in a post-pandemic world.
The annual conference, which brings together government leaders, senior officials, and business executives, began Sunday and will run through Wednesday on the tropical island of Hainan. The Boao case, which has been dubbed China’s equivalent of the World Economic Forum in Davos, was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
About 2,000 people will attend in person, making it the world’s first big meeting to be held entirely online this year. Tuesday morning, a Chinese state leader will deliver a virtual address to the conference, while another leader will attend and participate in a meeting with domestic and American entrepreneurs.
“China will use this opportunity to reinforce the message that China is a friendly country that welcomes all investment,” Chris Leung, chief China economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong, said. Leaders would downplay competitiveness with the US and highlight opportunities for collaboration on issues ranging from climate change to pandemic preparedness, he said.
The conference will include a number of prominent US business leaders, including Tim Cook of Apple Inc., Elon Musk of Tesla Inc., Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group Inc., and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates. The event provides another opportunity for the Chinese government to help mend ties with American investors amid the two countries’ heightened economic tensions.
Inbound investment is already booming this year, increasing nearly 40% to $45 billion in the first three months of 2021, according to data released Thursday by the Ministry of Commerce, the highest level for that time since 2002.
The Boao forum “has played a unique role” in promoting dialogue and cooperation among Asian countries, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier this month during a press briefing.
Investors will be keen to hear about any new proposals by China to liberalize its economy and financial markets in order to attract foreign investment, given the country’s stated goal of promoting global integration through a “dual circulation” strategy. Previously, officials have announced significant reforms at the Boao conference, including the establishment and extension of the stock connect program, which connects mainland exchanges with Hong Kong.
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Another area of focus will be Beijing’s latest climate targets, following US and Chinese commitments to collaborate on climate change following US global climate envoy John Kerry’s visit to Shanghai last week to meet with Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua. According to experts familiar with climate diplomacy, China will announce new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the tropical forum as a response to President Joe Biden’s climate summit with 40 world leaders later this week.