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Major highlights of Annual Conference 2019 of Boao Forum for Asia

The 2019 forum was held in Hainan, from 26–29 March 2019. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the keynote speech at the opening of the annual conference. The forum intended to conduct around 50 official sessions, including the opening ceremony, sub-forums, CEO dialogues and roundtables are expected, categorized into five modules – Open World Economy; Multilateralism, Regional Cooperation and Global Governance; Innovation-Driven Development; High-Quality Development; and Critical Issues. It must be noted that:

  • The Boao Forum is a useful vehicle for China to propound its world views.
  • That importance has been heightened by the Trump Administration’s apparent turn to insularity.
  • The Forum ties in closely with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, being in the vanguard of Hainan Province’s ties with the ASEAN countries.
  • Hainan’s geographic location, coupled with the Forum’s increased salience, could make it the model for similar Chinese initiatives in the future.

At the opening ceremony, BFA Chairman Ban Ki-moon delivered a welcoming speech. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon of the Republic of Korea, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus of Sao Tome and Principe and representatives from the business circle successively delivered speeches.

Keynote Speech by Premier Li Keqiang

On the morning of March 28, 2019, Premier Li Keqiang attended in Boao of Hainan Province the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2019 and delivered a keynote speech titled “Jointly Tackling Challenges for Common Development”. Over 2,000 representatives from political and business circles and scholars from think tanks of more than 60 countries and regions in five continents were present. Li Keqiang expressed that the BFA, with its founding focus on Asia and a global perspective, has evolved into an influential high-level dialogue platform for Asia and beyond. At the opening of its annual conference last year, President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech. The conference this year has chosen a highly relevant theme of “Shared Future, Concerted Action, Common Development”. I hope various parties will build consensus and actively contribute to promoting peace and development in Asia and the world.

Major highlights of his speech are:

State of Chinese economy and major developments

Li Keqiang briefly introduced China’s economic situation, and pointed out that this year, the Chinese economy has maintained a steady momentum and showed some positive changes that have improved market expectations, with the increase of uncertainties and destabilizing factors as well as externally-generated risks. We will carry on with our policies and will not resort to massive stimulus measures, or return to the old approach of expansion in scale and inefficient growth. We will make greater efforts to ensure full delivery of our policies, firmly depend on opening-up and innovation, make good on the promises of larger tax and fee cuts, energize market entities, boost internally driven growth, and counter the downward pressure, so as to keep the economic performance within a proper range, and ensure the long-term, positive and stable development of the Chinese economy.

Need for mutually beneficial international cooperation amid today’s complex changes in the international landscape and economic headwinds

  Li Keqiang said that we meet at a time of profound and complex changes in the international landscape. In the face of world economic headwinds and other common challenges, no country can stay immune. It is time to jointly seize the opportunities and rise to the challenges, and seek an inclusive path of mutually beneficial cooperation. All parties need to jointly uphold the international system with the United Nations as the core and the rules-based multilateral trading system, and work together for common development. It is time to actively advance reform in the global governance system to move it toward a fairer and more equitable direction.

Taking regional integration to a higher level

Li Keqiang pointed out that Asia is an important force for world peace and stability, and a strong engine for global growth. In a complex and fast-changing world, Asian countries should, like passengers on the same boat who need to help each other, work together for common development. We must jointly uphold the overall environment of peace and development, deepen strategic mutual trust and preserve the sound momentum of peace and development in Asia. All parties concerned must jointly elevate regional integration to a higher level, work for an all-win outcome from the negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as early as possible, and advance the synergy between the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and development strategies of other countries. We need to jointly break new ground in innovation-driven development, and make our business environment open, fair, transparent and predictable.

China’s commitment to opening up and institutional reforms

Li Keqiang stressed that opening-up is China’s fundamental state policy. The Foreign Investment Law is a crucial step toward building a world-class and business-friendly environment governed by a sound legal framework. He assured that China will move quickly to formulate relevant matching regulations soon and to complete drafting of regulations by the end of this year to implement  the new regulations as of 1st January next year. He also assured to widen market access further for foreign investment. He revealed that the management system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list will be implemented across the board. The opening up, according to Li will also extend to China’s financial sector and modern services sectors wider. All companies registered in China, be it domestic or foreign-invested, will be treated as equals. The premier also assured that China will strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights and safeguard the lawful rights and interests of foreign investors.

Maintaining stability and continuity of policies

Li said that China will maintain the continuity and stability of its policies for investors from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and continue to support their development. We will also promote trade facilitation at a faster pace. We will notably reduce the customs clearance costs this year and make the process more efficient.

Conclusion

The 2019 annual Boao Conference thus intended to highlight China’s intentions and policies with regard to Openness, multilateral cooperation and innovation. It also released four major academic reports including the annual reports of BFA Progress of Asian Economic Integration, BFA Asian Competitiveness, and BFA Development of Emerging Economies, a routine practice of the BFA. Furthermore, the forum had a plan to issue a new report on Asian financial cooperation this year, jointly compiled by the BFA Academy and three international organizations in Asia. Notably, in recent years, China has used the opportunity of scientific revolution and industrial transformation to promote the booming development of emerging industries, accelerating the upgrade of traditional industries. China said that it intends to continue to innovate new technology for its own growth and growth of other Asian Nations. The country has contributed over 30 percent to global economic growth for years, with innovation playing a significant role. According to China’s position expressed in the conference innovation-Driven Development module the major innovations on which China is working include 5G, artificial intelligence, and big data. It also showcased and used intelligent Connected Vehicle, one of China’s newest technologies, in Boao, the conference’s host city, to better serve the event.The technology combines the Internet of Vehicles and smart automobiles, and is equipped with advanced sensors and monitors. It can obtain information exchanges among the drivers, vehicles, roads and the system, and make driving safer, more comfortable and energy-friendly.

Background

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) is a non-profit organisation that hosts high-level forums for leaders from government, business and academia in Asia and other continents to share their vision on the most pressing issues in this dynamic region and the world at large. BFA is modelled on the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland. Its fixed address is in Bo’ao, Hainan province, China, although the Secretariat is based in Beijing. The forum, sometimes known as the “Asian Davos”, takes its name from the town of Boao, located in China’s southern Hainan province, which has been the permanent venue for its annual conference since 2002.

The Forum is committed to promoting regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries even closer to their development goals. Initiated in 1998 by Fidel V. Ramos, former President of the Philippines, Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister of Australia, and Morihiro Hosokawa, former Prime Minister of Japan, the Boao Forum for Asia was formally inaugurated in February 2001. The founding of the BFA was driven by the People’s Republic of China and founded by 26 Asian and Australasian states on 27 February 2001. The organisation held its first meeting from 12–13 April 2002.

Discussions at the BFA focus on economics, integration, cooperation, society and the environment. In the past the forum also addressed China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, as well as Southeast Asia’s economic crisis during the 1990s. The geopolitical strategy ‘China’s peaceful rise’ was a topic of discussion for the forum in 2004. In addition to its annual meeting, the BFA also sponsors other forums and meetings related to Asian issues.

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