A more open China will bring more opportunities for the world: Li
Global business leaders demonstrate commitment to Chinese market at CDF
Published: Mar 24, 2024 08:39 PM Updated: Mar 24, 2024 09:00 PM
Beijing skyline (Photo: IC)

Beijing skyline. Photo: IC

Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Sunday offered a powerful reassurance for global business leaders about China's economy and its steadfast opening-up, saying at a major forum in Beijing that China's economy has strong resilience, vast potential and sufficient vitality and an increasingly open China will bring more opportunities for the world.  

More than 110 global business leaders and scholars, including a remarkable number of US executives, have descended on Beijing for the China Development Forum (CDF), putting on a vivid display of global businesses' confidence and commitment to the Chinese market, as China's economy continues to recover and the country continues to open up its market to the world. 

Beyond their strong presence at the forum, many multinational executives explicitly stated plans to expand investment in the Chinese market, with some declaring "investing in China is investing in the future." Such a vote of confidence in China's economy by global businesses with "their feet" also underscores the limitations of some Western politicians' attempt to drive multinationals away from China by pushing for an economic decoupling and smearing China.

In a keynote speech at the opening of the CDF on Sunday, Li said China's economic recovery continues to consolidate and strengthen and new industries, new business models and new growth drivers continue to grow. "China's economy has strong resilience, great potential, and sufficient vitality, and its long-term positive fundamentals have not changed." 

The Chinese premier also talked about China's steadfast pursuit of high-quality development and high-level opening-up. "An increasingly open China will definitely bring more opportunities for win-win cooperation to the world," Li said, noting that China stands ready to share great opportunities from its continuous development.

Hosted by the Development Research Center of the State Council since 2000, the CDF has become an important platform for exchanges between Chinese and global business leaders. The opening ceremony was attended by about 400 people, including the heads of the World Bank and the IMF and executives of multinational corporations. 

Specifically, more than 110 international guests, including business leaders and scholars, signed up for the two-day event. The heads of many Fortune Global 500 companies were also in attendance, including the executives of Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and HSBC. Crucially, the number of US business leaders at the CDF this year saw a significant increase. Also notable is the presence of major US chip firms such as Qualcomm, Micron and AMD. Of the more than 80 executives listed, over 30 were from US, or around 40 percent, according to a Global Times count of the list. 

"If I compare the US participation to last year's, it's probably increased two to two-and-a-half times," Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the CDF on Sunday, noting that the increase is due to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many businesses want to understand where China's economic policies are going. 

Also, Orlins said that since April 2023, there have been a series of high-level engagement between China and the US, and the bilateral relationship "has gotten off from the rock bottom and has improved somewhat," though there is still a huge space for further improvement. 

"Most of the attendees are from the US. It's quite obvious," Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China who attended the CDF, told the Global Times on Sunday. "It's a signal for both improving China-US ties as well as US businesses' commitment to the Chinese market. They are basically voting with their feet." 

US businesses have been under increasing pressure, as Washington continues to push for sweeping restrictions on China-US trade, particularly in the high-tech industries, as part of its attempt to "outcompete" China and contain China's rise. Among a growing number of crackdown measures against China, the US is seeking to further tighten restrictions on US and other Western firms' sales of chips and chipmaking tools to China. Still, that has not deterred US businesses away from China, as evidenced by the vast of number of US firms at the CDF.
Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the opening of a new flagship Apple store in east China's Shanghai, March 21, 2024. The new flagship Apple store is set to become the company's second-largest retail store globally.(Photo: Xinhua)

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the opening of a new flagship Apple store in east China's Shanghai, March 21, 2024. The new flagship Apple store is set to become the company's second-largest retail store globally.(Photo: Xinhua)

Firm commitment

"For American businesses, the commitment to China and the deep engagement with the Chinese market have, in my opinion, remained unchanged over the past two or three years," Joseph Luc Ngai, chairman of Greater China at global consulting firm McKinsey & company, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

The strong show of US businesses at the CDF also underscored a major gap between the US business community and politicians in Washington. 

"The business community just wants normal, good relations, so do the American people. Our politicians have a twisted mentality. They want confrontation," Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of center for sustainable development and professor of Columbia University, who attended the opening ceremony of the forum, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Sachs also noted that Premier Li's speech was very business-like, very clear and very straightforward that China is doing well. It's going to continue to do well, and it is open for business for the world. "I thought the message was correct and very clear," Sachs said.

Many global business executives were also encouraged by the clear message of China's continuous development and opening-up.

"I thought the speech was very helpful in understanding China's priorities for how the economy is going to continuously develop," Timothy Creber, general manager of China Operation of American Express, told the Global Times on Sunday. "So the opportunities are huge and the opportunity to continue to partner with different institutions in this market is very good. We're very confident about the Chinese economy over the coming years."

Some global businesses also stated their commitment to expand investment in the Chinese market. 

Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L'Oréal, who also attended the CDF on Sunday, told the Global Times that the company will continue to invest in China, noting the company believes that investing in China is investing in the future. "We believe that the next China is China - and we will continue to develop in China, for China and with China."

China has made attracting foreign investment a top priority this year, and has taken a slew of measures to further expand market access for global businesses and improve the business environment. On Tuesday, China's State Council issued a 24-point action plan to attract foreign investment. On Friday, China released its first nationwide negative list for cross-border services trade, which opens up more areas for global investors. 

At the CDF on Sunday, Chinese officials also vowed to further open up more areas and improve the business environment to support foreign businesses. 

Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planner, said at the CDF that China will steadily expand institutional opening-up, make greater efforts to attract foreign investment, continue to support a batch of major foreign-funded projects and expand market access in areas such as digital products. "China's determination to open up will not change, and its pace of development will not stop," Zheng said.