A tourist site in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province overwhelmed by crowds during this year's National Day holidays, an indication of the country's increasing consumption in the tourism sector. Photo: CFP
Nicolas Berggruen, former chairman of the 21st Century Council Photo: Courtesy of Berggruen Holdings
China's shift toward a consumption-driven growth model and efforts to allow private firms more development space will not be easy but are necessary for the country's economic prosperity in the next decade, Nicolas Berggruen, former chairman of global think tank the 21st Century Council, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Friday.
"China needs to strengthen the diversity of the economy. A lot of growth has come from State-owned enterprises, and the country will need to give more chances to private firms," said Berggruen.
Meanwhile, "shifting the economic focus from investment toward consumption and innovation will help China continue to grow," he said.
"The transition is also the main challenge for China over the next 10 years … partly because it means giving more room and freedom to civil society and non-State-owned businesses. But it is necessary for a healthy and vibrant economy," Berggruen noted.
The 21st Century Council Beijing Conference, held over the weekend and ahead of the opening of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, served as a platform for the council, composed of former heads of state, top global intellectuals and business leaders, to better understand China's development strategies and reforms, according to Berggruen.
The veteran investor and chairman of Berggruen Holdings said that one of his main interests is how China will further open up its economy.
"China really does not need so many foreign investors, but if China can open up more, the country will gain more from it, because foreign investment means not just money but also ideas and technology," he said.
Berggruen noted that the economic health of China is also vital for the rest of the world. In today's multi-polar world, China is a key player, and if the country continues to succeed, "it will help the West and at the same time push the West to conduct reforms, which would be a good thing," he said.
As a businessman and a scholar, Berggruen has been actively engaged in global public and political affairs by initiating the 21st Century Council, and holds the view that businessmen should make contributions to the development of society.
In China, there have been debates about the extent to which businessmen should get involved in public affairs. For instance, Liu Chuanzhi, honorary chairman of computer maker Lenovo Group, advised his business peers earlier this year to "stay out of politics and talk only business."
But other entrepreneurs have been more politically active, with some being selected as deputies to the National People's Congress and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Everyone has his own choice, Berggruen noted, adding that it's important for businessmen to separate business interests and civic interests.
"For those assuming political positions, they should not use political access for business purposes," he said. On the contrary, "they should make sure business access helps them contribute to the country in a non-self-interested way."