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Sunday, April 19, 2009

China looks to its own consumers

BBC News

China is rebalancing its economy to focus more on domestic consumption than exports in order to achieve its growth target, Premier Wen Jiabao has said. Addressing an Asian regional forum in southern China, he announced a $10bn (£6.7bn) fund for infrastructure projects in south-east Asia. The Boao Forum for Asia has been dubbed the Oriental Davos.

Politicians, business leaders and academics are discussing Asia's response to the global downturn. China's economic performance and its influence abroad have become the focus of attention at the annual conference in Hainan Province, says the BBC's China Editor, Shirong Chen. Mr Wen has tried to inspire confidence in neighbours hit badly by the global economic crisis, our correspondent reports.

More foreign dignitaries have attended this year than before, including Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung, as well as ex-US President George W Bush. Nearly two dozen Chinese government ministers are also in Boao to debate with other delegates on how to manage beyond the crisis and what role the emerging markets can play in reforming the international financial system.

'Paying off' Mr Wen told more than 1,600 delegates at the convention centre that China's stimulus package was "already paying off" and that the situation was "better than expected". "Investment growth has accelerated, consumption has increased quite rapidly and domestic demand continues to rise," he said in his keynote speech, which was broadcast live on China's state TV.

But the Chinese premier warned that there were still challenges ahead: "The main ones are: external demand continues to shrink, there has been a large drop in exports... there is overcapacity in some industries, the pick-up in industries is sluggish, economic efficiency continues to drop."

The concept of a Forum for Asia was born out of the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s. It has served as a platform for China to push for closer integration with its Asian neighbours on the one hand and continued globalisation on the other, our China editor says. It is also, Shirong Chen adds, an indication that China is firming up its image as a regional leader in the face of the crisis.



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