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Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 09:15

Global elites look for big things from China

By Zhao Yinan in Beijing and Liu Jia in Brussels
Global elites look for big things from China

Participants at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2012 engage in informal networking at the Congress Center in the posh ski resort community of Davos, Switzerland. This year's event gets underway on Wednesday. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Global elites look for big things from China

As Premier Li Keqiang departs for Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday to attend the World Economic Forum meetings, global business and opinion leaders are expecting the second-most-powerful man in China to demonstrate active engagement in international affairs and a strong resolve for deeper economic reforms against a backdrop of a global recession.

Li, the first Chinese premier to attend the exclusive fair of opinions, is due to arrive on Tuesday afternoon in Zurich, a major European financial hub. He will meet members of the forum's International Business Council before sharing his views on economic and geopolitical challenges with an audience of 2,500 attendees at Davos, including Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

Roger Moser, professor and director of the University of St. Gallen's Asia Connect Centre, said he believes Li's presence at the forum is an excellent opportunity for the rest of the world to read the positive signals that China is currently sending to its partners.

"The business world, as well as many political leaders in Europe, will benefit much for their own decision-making, if they would be able to appreciate the tremendous success that China has achieved in the past," he said.

The biggest challenge for the Chinese economy, as Moser put it, is not based on the actual economic activity or investment behavior in the country but on the tendency to see every underdevelopment that does not set a record or an all-year high as a negative signal for China and the rest of the world.

Global corporate and political leaders need to assess the ongoing economic developments in China more carefully and evaluate how they fit into the broader context of China's transformation process, he said.

Chen Fengying, of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Moser's concern highlights the importance of Li's visit in boosting global investors' confidence and consolidating an outlook on the Chinese economy.

"The world is expecting Li to play a more active role in global affairs than in 2010, when China was still the world's third-largest economy, behind the US and Japan, and when Li attended the annual meeting as vice-premier," Chen said.

In that context, Chen said, this visit, whose first goal is to firmly establish global confidence in the Chinese economy, will be part of a bigger diplomatic strategy showing China as a responsible player in global affairs.

China's biggest contribution to the world at the moment is to faithfully execute reform initiatives that it has committed to in the past two years, Chen said.

Rolf Langhammer, retired vice-president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany, generally considered among the top four think tanks in the world for economic policy, echoed Chen, saying he would be pleased to read a message in Li's speech that China's economic slowdown is nothing to worry about but merely an entry into a new stage of economic development that is more consumer-oriented and more targeted at deepening social and economic integration inside China.

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