Domestic and world representatives reiterate confidence in China's economic prospects
By Tao Xing  ·  2024-04-01  ·   Source: NO.14 APRIL 6, 2023
The China Development Forum underway in Beijing on March 24. This year's event was themed the Continuous Development of China (COURTESY PHOTO)

People listening, people talking, people standing on tiptoes to get a clear view of the keynote speakers... This was the scene that unfolded at the venue of the China Development Forum in Beijing on March 24.

Economists and business leaders from China and abroad, top Chinese officials and representatives from international organizations attended the event with a strong desire to exchange ideas on the Chinese economy. 

"BMW has been involved with the forum since 2017, with Oliver Zipse, Chairman of BMW's Board of Management, serving as the cochair in 2021. For us, it's a great platform," Sean Green, President and CEO of BMW Group Region China, told Beijing Review on the sidelines of the conference, adding the company wants to connect with other global businesses, but also with the experts and policymakers in their related field.

The forum, hosted by the Development Research Center of the State Council, China's highest state administrative organ, took place on March 24-25. The theme of this year's edition, the Continuous Development of China, underscored the collective attention and expectations across sectors for the long-term, stable and high-quality development of the Chinese economy, as emphasized by Chinese Premier Li Qiang during the opening ceremony.

Stimulating confidence 

Noting that China had accomplished its main targets and tasks for economic and social development in 2023, Li added that the Chinese economy shows strong resilience, great potential and vitality, with the fundamentals for its sustainable sound growth remaining unchanged.

The premier further stated that China will take practical and effective actions to promote high-quality development and inject more certainty and momentum into the recovery and stable development of the world economy.

He said China will consistently work to foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based and globally integrated. In that light, it will continue to steadily advance institutional openness and lift its international engagement to a higher level of openness.

China is ready to share with the world the great opportunities of its sustained development and work with all parties involved to create a bright future of common development for all, the premier added.

"Premier Li gave a very good report to the business and academic community here. He explained how China is progressing. He explained China's vision for continued rapid development. And I found it very clear and very convincing," Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist and professor at Columbia University, told Beijing Review, adding that the prospects of China's economy are good because the country is making many advances in key technologies, including electric vehicles, clean energy and digital technologies. These developments, according to Sachs, contribute to China's long-term strength and resilience.

The Chinese economy has started the year on a positive trajectory, supported by effective macro­economic policies, Zheng Shanjie, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, said at the forum. He added that with stable growth in production, ongoing recovery in demand and other favorable factors, the country is optimistic and well-equipped to achieve its major economic and social development goals for this year.

The country set its 2024 GDP growth target at around 5 percent, among other goals, according to the government work report approved at the annual national legislative session in early March.

Zheng highlighted that China's proactive development of new quality productive forces not only promotes its own economic growth but also injects much-needed momentum into global economic recovery and expansion.

In the bigger context of the country's economic development, new quality productive forces represent enhanced productivity that moves beyond traditional economic growth models and paths of productivity development. These forces emphasize hi-tech solutions, efficiency and quality, aligning with the principles of China's high-quality development philosophy.

Green remains optimistic about China's long-term health and future. "I've seen, over the last 40 years, phenomenal growth in China, and I think it's not unusual to see that's not going to continue at some point, but that it instead starts maturing," Green said. "In any mature economy, you start to see some cycles, as we've seen in the West in 2009, with a big financial crisis. We now see some stuttering in the Chinese economy as well. But the long-term health is not in question."

According to him, car ownership in China is less than 200 cars per 1,000 residents, with the range in the U.S. or Germany being typically between 600 and 800 per 1,000. "The potential of vehicle consumption growth is here in China," he added.

Household deposits, or savings, are the main domestic source of funds to finance capital investments, a major impetus for sustainable economic growth, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organization that aims to promote policies that improve the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world.

At the end of 2023, renminbi deposits recorded an outstanding amount of 284.26 trillion yuan ($39.3 trillion), rising 10 percent year on year.

Green said the massive savings volume reflects China's consumption potential. He believes consumer confidence will bounce back and the country will witness growth again. "And this year already, the target is set for around 5-percent GDP growth. We're still confident that the Chinese economy will make a strong performance again this year."

A robotic arm welds a vehicle body in the workshop at Plant Lydia of BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd. in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, on February 16, 2022 (XINHUA)

International contributor 

"Most of the world wants good, strong, economic and political relations with China," Sachs said.

"I think what China is doing is maintaining good political and economic relations with all of the world that will have it. And the business sector can see that China is continuing rapid growth and rapid advancement in technology. That's why the business community will want to invest," he explained.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, said at the forum that China is at the forefront of emerging economies in terms of artificial intelligence (AI) preparedness, with its well-developed digital infrastructure providing a head start.

Establishing a robust AI regulatory framework and strengthening economic ties with other innovative countries will help China power ahead, Georgieva said, adding that in the medium term, China will continue to be a key contributor to global economic growth.

Milind Pant, CEO of Amway, a global direct selling company that specializes in health, beauty and home care products, said at the forum that China's economy is resilient, has great potential and is full of vitality. China is still a hot spot and a highland for multinational enterprises to invest, according to him.

Amway has been investing in China for nearly 30 years. The country has been the company's largest market for 21 years as well as its fastest growing market at present, according to Pant. 

Over the past three years, Amway (China) has seen an average annual sales growth of 7 percent. This growth demonstrates the strong and dynamic nature of China's thriving health and wellness industry.

Raj Subramaniam, President of U.S.-based express courier service provider FedEx Co., said the company's growth has been greatly empowered by the long-term commitment to invest in and grow with China. Over the past 40 years, China has become home to one of the largest FedEx operations in the world.

"We believe that open markets and collaboration are critical to expanding growth and prosperity for all. We're committed to exploring new opportunities in China and leveraging our digital innovations to build the world's most flexible, efficient and intelligent network," he added.

"I think if China takes the high road, the positive view, the positive relations with other countries, expanding the Belt and Road Initiative (a China-proposed initiative to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes), and expanding trade relations with other countries, this will carry the day," Sachs concluded.

(Print Edition Title: Open Doors, Open Minds) 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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