China’s High-Profile Boao Forum Returns With Investment in Focus

China is signaling it’s open for business with the resumption of its high-profile Boao Forum for Asia, an opportunity for the government to make a renewed effort to lure foreign investors in a post-pandemic world.

The annual conference bringing together government leaders, senior officials and business executives kicked off Sunday in the tropical island of Hainan and will run through Wednesday. Described by some as China’s version of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Boao event was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Over 2,000 people will be attending in person, making it the first major meeting to be held offline this year in the world. A Chinese state leader will address the conference virtually Tuesday morning, while another leader will physically attend and participate in a meeting with domestic and American entrepreneurs.

China’s High-Profile Boao Forum Returns With Investment in Focus

“China will use this opportunity to improve the understanding of its position, that China is friendly, and it welcomes all investment into the country,” said Chris Leung, chief China economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong. Leaders will downplay competition with the U.S. and emphasize cooperation opportunities in areas from climate change to overcoming the pandemic, he added.

A slew of U.S. business leaders will be participating in the conference, including Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk, Blackstone Group Inc’s Stephen Schwarzman and Bridgewater Associates’ Ray Dalio. The event is another opportunity for the Chinese government to help mend ties with American investors amid heightened economic tensions between the two countries.

Inbound investment is already booming this year, rising almost 40% to $45 billion in the first three months of 2021, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce released Thursday. That was the highest for that period in comparable data back to 2002.

Special Role

The Boao forum has “played a special role” in pushing for dialog and cooperation among Asian countries, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, said in a press briefing earlier this month.

Investors will be keen to learn about any new action plans from China to open up its economy and financial markets to attract foreign investment, given its promise to promote integration into the world under a “dual circulation” strategy. Officials in the past have announced major opening-up measures during the Boao conference, including the establishment and expansion of the stock connect program that links mainland exchanges with Hong Kong.

Another focus will be on any new climate goals from Beijing, following promises from the U.S. and China to work together to tackle climate change after a visit by U.S. global climate envoy John Kerry to Shanghai last week to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua. Experts close to the climate diplomacy said China may announce new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the tropical forum, in a response to the climate summit that President Joe Biden will host with 40 world leaders later this week.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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