The current juncture is awkward for the world economy. The decision of the US President Donald Trump to introduce protectionist sanctions and the tit-for-tat trade spat between Washington and Beijing are creating an unprecedented climate of uncertainty, at least in the years of operation of the World Trade Organization. Against this backdrop, the 2018 Boao Forum for Asia took place in Hainan Province. The presence of President Xi Jinping in it outlines the importance he personally attaches to this multi-level regional cooperation network. It was the third time he delivered a keynote address in the forum in his capacity as president.
Xi’s address should be seen irrespective of the ongoing Sino-American trade dispute. The comments of the Chinese president are not coming as a response to Trump’s approach but fall in line with his country’s general economic policy.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. The process is ongoing and new steps are being taken.
Xi emphasized the broadening of market access in the country, the easing of restrictions on the establishment of foreign financial institutions and expansion of their business scope as well as the implementation of this policy on manufacturing with a few exceptions. He also promised alignment with international economic and trading rules, and increased transparency.
Specifying the general framework outlined by Xi, People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang announced policies that China would implement in the coming months.
These include the elimination of restrictions on the foreign shareholders’ stake in banking and asset management joint ventures with Chinese companies, the development of a mechanism for improved stock connections between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, and the introduction of foreign capital in areas like the trust and automobile sector. Critics of China are seeing delays in practical application of measures and are demanding even higher ownership stakes. But these criticisms are not reversing previous reform achievements or the ones to follow.
In a nutshell, the 2018 Boao Forum constituted another opportunity for China to reiterate its positions and present itself as a force for globalization in an environment of rising protectionism.
The bad news of a looming trade war is shifting world attention toward the second-largest economy. China is responding to the challenge and the growing concern of international markets by showing responsibility and caution.
More importantly, Beijing is looking toward the future continuing, improving and enhancing the policy of reform and opening-up. Xi’s address in Hainan was structured around those pillars, sent vibrant messages to recipients and was complemented by specific measures as announced by his colleagues.