By Tu Haiming
Ten years ago, President Xi Jinping put forward the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind. This became the theme of the opening speech by Premier Li Qiang at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023, during which Li expounded on how China will continue to promote the development of global economy.
Indeed, the certainty of China's socioeconomic development prospect brings stability and vitality to the capricious international landscape, strengthens confidence and provides a strong impetus to economic growth in Asia, and affords Hong Kong broad space for development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world economy and dragged over 100 million people into poverty. The world is eager to shake off the gloom and doom. However, the reality is not pretty: Developed economies like the United States, Europe and Japan remain sluggish and are plagued by thorny issues. First, many of these developed economies are struggling to get out of the inflation quagmire, with uncertain prospects for recovery. Second, the US' aggressive interest rate hikes have triggered a liquidity crisis among its small and medium-sized banks, which could beget a greater financial crisis. Third, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has morphed into a wrestling match between the West and Russia, which could not only cause global energy and food crises but also knock the global economic locomotive off the tracks. Fourth, Washington has rallied its allies to engage in bloc confrontation. The resulting political, economic, military and technological sanctions or blockades not only bode ill for economic and trade relations between China and the US, EU and Japan, but also impede global economic recovery.
Much of the global economic uncertainty is the outcome of Washington's politicization and weaponization of economic issues, defying economic laws and disrupting global value chains. Such political machinations have not only undermined global economic growth but also exacerbated inflation and living costs worldwide, including in the US. The series of strikes in Europe and demonstrations in France are manifestations of public grievances over hardships and livelihood problems.
In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank lowered its forecast for global economic growth in 2023 to 1.7 percent, which is 1.3 percentage points lower than the figure forecast in June last year. The US economy is predicted to grow by merely 0.5 percent while the eurozone will remain stagnated. Hence, uncertainty remains the key concern of the world in the near future.
In his keynote speech at the Boao Forum, Premier Li enumerated four certainties that China brings to the uncertain world. First is the country's commitment to working together with partners in maintaining a peaceful and stable global environment for development. Second is its commitment to working together in creating more vibrant centers of growth to boost global economic recovery. Third is its commitment to working together in creating effective ways for enhancing global solidarity and cooperation and improving global governance. Fourth is its commitment to working together to pursue wider people-to-people exchanges to strengthen interactions among civilizations. Representatives from different countries who attended the forum applauded these "four certainties", cheering for the certainty and confidence they bring to the uncertain world.
The Boao Forum attracted more than 1,500 representatives from the political, business and academic circles of more than 50 countries and regions. It was a full house at the first sub-forum held two days before the opening ceremony, with many in the audience standing for the whole session in the absence of an empty seat.
At the forum, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asserted that Asia must remain stable, inclusive and open, saying that countries in Asia need to maintain stable relations and cooperate practically and productively, both among themselves and with their external partners, and that as a very important economy in Asia, China has a big role to play in all of this. Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that "unfettered competition must give way to spirited collaboration". Remarks like these reveal that many Asian countries are not ready to succumb to Washington's pressure to turn their countries into an arena for geopolitical confrontation. Instead, they are eager to see Asian countries work together to weather the external uncertainties.
Singapore and Hong Kong recorded an influx of capital from the US and Europe following the implosion of Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse, suggesting the promising future of these two international financial centers as they provide a haven from financial turbulence.
The Boao Forum offered me the opportunity to make exchanges with business leaders from all over the world, and realize that peace, cooperation, development and win-win collaboration are the common goals of Asian countries. Now that China is taking the lead in pursuing these goals, Asia is bound to embrace a bright future.
Around the time of the Boao Forum, the world's expectations for China continued to grow, with many state and business leaders having visited or planning to visit China in turns.
The certainty China brings to the world is increasingly recognized by the global community. More and more countries are looking up to China and eager to see the country play the role of an "anchor" and "growth engine" for global development. This bodes well for Hong Kong's external environment, and it is time for the city to expand its global presence.
First, Hong Kong should double down on its efforts to promote the internationalization of the renminbi. That an increasing number of countries are losing faith in the US dollar presents a golden opportunity for the yuan to expand its global footprint. The central government's support for Hong Kong to build an offshore RMB center has created a big market for the city. It's high time for the city to explore all the possibilities for growing the pie, and to consolidate its international financial center status.
Second, Hong Kong should speed up its entry into international trade blocs. Premier Li pointed out the need to proactively promote regional economic integration and a more-open regional market, and Hong Kong should engage in more constructive dialogues and leverage the discourse power of the country to accelerate its entry into international trade blocs.
Third, Hong Kong should seek breakthroughs in its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. The city excels in professional services such as financial and legal services, which are what countries and regions along the Belt and Road need. The city should step up efforts to tap these markets by leveraging its strengths.
Globalization remains a major trend in the world, as calls for cooperation, development and win-win collaboration voiced by global leaders in the Boao Forum suggest; Hong Kong should strive to expand its reach to the global market by leveraging its strength in international connectivity.
The author is vice-chairman of the Committee on Liaison with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank. The views do not necessarily reflect those of Bauhinia Magazine.
Source: China Daily