TRANSPORTATION ARTERY: Workers are busy setting down tracks for the China-Kazakhstan freight railway at a construction site in Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu Province, on January 12 (CFP)
The most robust economic region in the world is about to become an even greater engine for growth, as the irresistible trend of economic integration continues in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific is home to 40 percent of the world's population; represents 57 percent of the global economy; and takes up 48 percent of total trade.
China will work together with regional countries to forge links and confront obstacles. At the just concluded annual session of the National People's Congress, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stated that the country will speed up its "going global" strategy this year, encouraging Chinese enterprises to invest in more overseas projects and accelerate regional interconnections, as well as expand free trade. Other countries are welcome to collaborate with Chinese companies to jointly promote regional prosperity.
A tight-knit market
In 2014, four of the Chinese mainland market's top five trade partners were located in the Asia-Pacific: the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Hong Kong of China and Japan.
China and the United States are each other's second largest trade partner. China also stands as the largest trade partner of Canada, ASEAN and the Latin-American region. The whole Asia-Pacific region is growing increasingly interdependent via close economic links.
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed building a common Asia-Pacific dream with the help of China's efforts in his keynote speech at the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing last year.
Peng Zhao, Vice Chairman of Guangxi Regional Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said President Xi's speech illustrates China's willingness to take on greater international responsibility and provide opportunities to create a prosperous Asia-Pacific region.
Peng said that economic development and the improvement of people's lives are at the top of the agenda for Asia-Pacific countries, who share much in common in terms of both development strategy and vision. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Initiatives (the Belt and Road Initiatives) proposed by President Xi in 2013 could thus enhance regional connectivity regarding policies, transportation, trade, currencies and communication. All countries should seek consensus on staging development and creating a mutually beneficial trade environment.
Free Trade Areas (FTAs) present a key method for China to advance economic cooperation with other countries. At present, the China and ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) is moving along smoothly. China and South Korea have wrapped up FTA talks, and the core negotiations for a China-South Korea-Japan FTA will soon be concluded. China has also signed FTA agreements with a number of Latin American countries, which will significantly boost trade figures. And other countries in the Asia-Pacific have increasingly come to regard China as a trustworthy trade partner, since it seldom puts a political price tag on outbound investment and trade.
In the future, the Chinese economy will play a more important role in promoting regional growth. China's outbound investment will also continue to rapidly increase. According to the Ministry of Commerce, China last year invested in over 6,128 entities in 156 countries and regions around the globe, reaching a new record high of $102.9 billion--a year-on-year growth of 14.1 percent from 2013. The paid-in foreign direct investment in China last year was $119.6 billion, a year-on-year growth of 1.7 percent. If including indirect investment, China's investment abroad has likely exceeded inbound investment for the first time in 2014. China has become a net capital exporter, with the largest portion of capital going to the United States at a rate of 23.9 percent over 2013.
The Belt and Road Initiatives offer more impetus for China's capital to go abroad. A year after the plan was unveiled, China proposed the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and a Silk Road fund, which aim to provide financial support for partner countries in the areas of infrastructure construction, resource development, industrial and financial cooperation.
At the Beijing APEC meeting, President Xi said that China's investment abroad will reach $1.25 trillion in the next decade--a triple growth over last year's base. Chinese investment will provide a wealth of opportunities for those markets that are in serious need of funding.
China's growing demand for imported goods will boost the export markets of other Asia-Pacific countries. According to China Customs, China imported 12.04 trillion yuan ($1.93 trillion) worth of goods last year. Premier Li said in March that the country's trade in 2015 could grow 6 percent year on year--meaning imports in 2015 could total as much as 13 trillion yuan ($2.06 trillion).
In 2014, China's rising appetite for imports is a boon for its major trade partners. For the first three quarters in 2014, exports from the EU, the United States and Japan to the Chinese market accounted for 9.5 percent, 7.2 percent and 18.3 percent respectively in their international trade figures.
Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Sun Jiwen said China's growing prominence in the global economy is a natural result of the country's higher stage of economic development. As a global economic powerhouse, China is now poised to bring greater prosperity to the Asia-Pacific region.