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Nation to remain key engine of global growth

By Liu Zhihua and Zhou Lanxu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-01 23:31

China will remain a key growth engine for the world economy as well as a valuable destination for foreign direct investment, thanks to the country's stable economic recovery, sound long-term economic prospects and improving business environment underpinned by its unwavering reform and opening-up efforts as it pursues high-quality development, said officials, business leaders and senior economists.

They also said the country still provides plenty of business opportunities despite the current economic headwinds, with its consumption market, for instance, having great potential. China is also expected to show increasing vitality in green development and high-end industries such as life sciences, providing more business opportunities for both global and local enterprises.

Their comments stand in stark contrast to some misconceptions seen in some Western media reports, which claimed that the world's second-largest economy has peaked.

"No one can displace China, in our opinion, when it comes to manufacturing, infrastructure, the knowledge of the people and the labor force," said Rani Jarkas, chairman and CEO of Cedrus Group, at the CEO: Growing with China forum, hosted by China Daily on Thursday.

"The (Chinese) government did an amazing job in investing in infrastructure a long time ago and now it can reap the benefits from that."

Confident in China's economic transition toward an innovation-driven model, the Swiss international financial group set up a headquarters in Beijing last year and launched two private equity funds, worth 1 billion yuan ($140 million) each, to invest in China's life sciences and agriculture sectors.

Huang Xiaojun, senior vice-president and managing director of Veolia China, said that the French environmental solutions provider will continue to enhance its presence in China, with its signing of an agreement to deepen cooperation with a development zone in Dalian, Liaoning province, in February showing the company's confidence in the Chinese market.

"China is still the second-largest economic power in the world and is still the world factory," Huang said, adding that the country's pursuit of high-quality development is providing more and more opportunities for Veolia in the areas of environmental protection, resource management and climate change mitigation.

Justin Yifu Lin, dean of Peking University's Institute of New Structural Economics, said in an earlier exclusive interview with China Daily that he believes the Chinese economy can grow by 5 percent this year, which means the country will remain one of the most dynamic economies in the world and make great contributions to the global economy.

Also at the event, Crete Zhou, vice-president of government affairs at Starbucks China, said that as China continuously enhances its policies regarding foreign investors, the services for foreign investors are continuously improving and becoming increasingly effective.

"The story of Starbucks in China has just begun," said Zhou, pointing to the nation's huge consumption potential, adding the company will step up its investment in China.

Last year, it invested 1.5 billion yuan respectively to build the Starbucks China Innovation and Technology Center in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and the China Coffee Innovation Park in Kunshan, Jiangsu province. The Kunshan park adopts the "from bean-to-cup" scaled vertical integration model across one market — the first for the company globally.

Pan Shuang, director of the Liaoning Provincial Department of Commerce, said dividends from China's opening-up have made the nation very attractive for foreign, private and State-owned enterprises to develop business.

"Liaoning has many unique advantages such as location, natural resources and industrial foundation," said Pan, who is also a deputy to the National People's Congress.

"By holding events including the Liaoning International Fair of Trade and Investment, and the Dalian Summer Davos, we aim to deepen global cooperation and forge an international cooperation hub in Northeast Asia."

As of the end of 2023, 165 Fortune Global 500 companies and subsidiaries had invested in 238 foreign-funded enterprises in Liaoning.

Among them, BMW Brilliance has a total investment of 100 billion yuan, with its Shenyang production base being its largest in the world. Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil and gas producer, has invested 83.7 billion yuan.

Other Fortune Global 500 companies investing in Liaoning include Heraeus, LyondellBasell, Michelin and SAP.

Jin Weidong, chairman of Wellhope Foods Co Ltd, said that as a feed and food producer, Wellhope is preparing new investments in areas such as slaughterhouses, meat processing and recycling as the future of China's economy remains robust and offers plenty of business opportunities.

With three decades of entrepreneurial experience, Jin said he was happy to witness the country's consistent commitment to reform and opening-up.

Nevertheless, Jarkas from Cedrus Group, said China should make more efforts to address a key hurdle in attracting investment — many foreign investors have barely any reliable access to understanding China.

He suggested that China make more efforts to communicate with the outside world about its economic narrative in a consistent and proper manner and promote inbound tourism as an avenue for foreigners to know about China.

Zhou, from Starbucks, said there are many successful trials in some places regarding expanding opening-up and improving the business climate, and the accumulated experiences can be adopted by others.

While the possibility of China witnessing a slowdown in economic growth this year remains, it is on the trajectory of achieving "sustainable, high-quality growth", said Ayhan Kose, the World Bank's deputy chief economist.

Chinese authorities can further attract foreign investment by promoting a level playing field between the State-owned enterprises and other companies through ensuring competitive neutrality and removing certain implicit guarantees, Kose said at a webinar hosted by the International Finance Forum.

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