Chinese government officials and business leaders are meeting this week, along with high-profile international guests on the tropical island of Hainan for the annual Boao Forum, which has come to be dubbed the “Asian Davos”.
Discussions will cover topics ranging from supply chain disruption to the post-Covid economic recovery to clean energy and geopolitical tensions.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang will deliver a keynote speech at the conference on Thursday. Other participants include Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva and Ivory Coast Prime Minister Patrick Achi.
Billed as an Asian version of the World Economic Forum that takes place each January in Davis, Switzerland, the conference kicked off on Tuesday and is slated to run through Friday. On the first day of the event, the forum’s secretary-general Li Baodong said Asia would be a major “bright spot” for the global economy this year, which is facing a host of challenges from inflationary pressures to climate change.
A rebound in Chinese growth this year will create a positive impact for the Asian and global economy, he said. But the recovery in Asian economies is uneven as many countries in the region have been hit hard by crises in such areas as food, public health, energy and finance. Some countries have even fallen into debt trouble.
China so far this year has seen little sign of so-called “revenge spending”, or the unleashing of pent-up consumption demand, since Beijing scrapped Covid restrictions in December, according to Lin Guijun, a professor of international trade at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
It may take one to two years for consumers to recover their income and start to feel more confident with spending, as many people suffered from reduced earnings over the past three years, he told reporters on the sidelines of the Boao Forum. China will also need to import more goods and help low-income groups increase their wages in order to improve domestic consumption, Lin said.
Moving labour-intensive industries like textiles to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam is a good thing for China, he added, as it helps reduce excessive domestic capacity and pushes China to upgrade toward higher value-added production.
In the longer term, though, this may make it harder for the manufacturing sector to maintain its dominant place in the Chinese economy, and there hasn’t been sufficient discussion of this problem yet, he said.
Green development promises to be a key theme at this year’s forum, with panels on renewable power, energy infrastructure and the impacts of extreme weather, and leading companies from China’s solar and wind industries in attendance.
As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China plays a key role in determining how much the Earth will be impacted by climate change. While it is expanding its fleet of polluting coal power plants to try to ensure reliable electricity supply, it is also the top clean power producer and dominates manufacturing of clean technologies like batteries and solar panels.
What to watch: Premier Li Qiang is scheduled to address the forum Thursday. People’s Bank of China deputy central bank governor Xuan Changneng is scheduled to speak on a panel about carbon neutrality on Wednesday, while Zhao Chenxin, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commissio will discuss the global economic outlook.
Also on Wednesday, a session about the digital economy will feature panelists including a deputy chief of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology as well as top executives from ZTE Corp, China Construction Bank, Intel Corp, Baidu Inc and PayPal Holdings.