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Saturday, January 29, 2005

China National News > Beijing reaches out to rest of world

Beijing reaches out to rest of world


By William Ickes in Davos, Switzerland

January 30, 2005

CHINA'S Deputy Prime Minister told global leaders overnight that his country could not fully develop on its own, saying Beijing saw a socialist market economy as being far from perfect.

In a widely-anticipated address to power brokers and business leaders from almost all continents, Huang Ju said China "cannot develop itself in seclusion and the world cannot develop without China's development".

He said Beijing would allow the yuan to float freely on foreign exchange markets following an unspecified period of preparation, and urged investors to set up shop in the country.

"A more open and prosperous China will not only benefit its 1.3 billion people but also provide considerable investment opportunities and a vast market for other countries, so being a powerful engine for world economic growth."

China's average growth rate of 9.4 per cent from 1979 to 2003 has cooled only slightly since, and countries from the United States to South Africa and South Korea are keen to see how official policies will affect their own growth prospects.

The deputy PM appealed frankly to foreign investors, saying: "The socialist market economy system has been basically viewed in China as far from perfect.

"The Chinese Government warmly welcomes and encourages foreign investment in high tech industries, modern agriculture, modern services, environment."

He promised continued improvement in the investment environment and legal system, protection for intellectual property rights, and increased access to the country's massive pool of potential consumers.

"China will as always honour its commitments on its accession to the World Trade Organisation, further improve its economic rules and regulations and open up more areas," he said.

Earlier this week, the Chinese Government received strong praise from US software giant Bill Gates, who told an informal meeting that China had created "a brand-new form of capitalism, and as a consumer it's the best thing that ever happened".

"This generation of leaders is so smart, so capable, from the top down, particularly from the top down," Mr Gates said, pointing to a process of rotating top civil servants on a merit basis through universities so they could "really think about state allocation of resources and the welfare of the country".

In his speech, Mr Huang said an important experience in China's modernisation drive "is that the government should try to satisfy the people in all its endeavors and maintain harmony and stability".

Rural areas and Muslim inhabited regions in western China have been identified by observers as places where Beijing could face problems if economic development does not keep pace with cities close to the coast.

"We will provide more financial and policy support to rural areas and western regions and gradually narrow the gap between the urban and rural areas and between different regions," the influential minister said.

He was also careful to reassure regional neighbours and the rest of the world that China had only peaceful intentions regardless of how strong it became.

"China's development will by no means pose a threat to other countries. It is our set policy that we will not menace others even when we are developed."

Turning to foreign exchange rates, the Chinese minister said the renmimbi, or yuan, would be allowed to float freely once market mechanisms, financial systems and all parts of the country were prepared.

"We'll have a phased or step-by-step method to relax the restraints on the cross border trade of currency and gradually realise the convertibility of the renmimbi," he said.

"We do not have a specific timetable for the exchange rate regime."

Officials would also choose an appropriate time to avoid market speculation, but the Chinese leader pledged: "We will gradually and steadfastly press ahead with this undertaking."


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