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China offers olive branch to West at World Economic Forum, but some remain skeptical

As leaders gathered for a second day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, China appeared to offer an olive branch to Western leaders, but many remain skeptical given Beijing’s hostile diplomacy under the country’s authoritarian president. , Xi Jinping.

Vice Premier Liu He told a group of business leaders and political leaders On Tuesday, China was keen to revive mutually beneficial trade relations, saying the market – not the government – must play a “fundamental role in allocating resources”.

China Davos

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber/AP Newsroom)

“Full openness is the basis of state policy and the main driver of economic progress. China’s national reality dictates that opening up to the world is a necessity, not an opportunity,” Liu said. “We need to open wider and make it work better.”

Liu’s comments alluded to beatings Chinese economy has taken in recent years, with draconian lockdowns, quarantines and strict COVID-19 containment measures.

World Economic Forum Audience

An illuminated logo during a panel discussion on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. The annual Davos gathering of political leaders, senior executives and celebrities will runs from January 16 to (Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Liu, a senior economics official with the State Cabinet, the Chinese Cabinet, that “if we work hard enough, we are confident that in 2023, China’s growth will most likely return to its normal trend. The Chinese economy will experience a significant improvement.”

Liu said China expects to see a big increase in imports, more business investment and a return to regular consumption patterns in the coming months. He says the easing of COVID restrictions ending quarantines for people arriving from abroad are key factors in the recovery of the economy.

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His remarks come after China released data showing its economic growth fell to its second lowest level in at least four decades last year under pressure from virus checks and a housing slump that , according to Liu, almost drove the economy into a systemic crisis.

China’s economy grew 3% in 2022, less than half the rate of 8.1% a year earlier. This was the second lowest annual rate since at least the 1970s after 2020, when growth fell to 2.4%.

Davos Switzerland 2023

A Swiss national flag flies over a building in Davos, Switzerland, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum takes place in Davos from Jan. 16-20, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber/AP Newsroom)

Liu pointed to the government’s efforts to manage the earlier decline, particularly by supporting the real estate sector, which accounts for 40% of all bank loans and 50% of local government revenue. After years of skyrocketing economic growth, he says China’s goal is “high-quality economic development”, reforming state-owned enterprises and supporting the private sector.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen, who spoke before Liu, was more skeptical of China’s purported aims, accusing Beijing of trying to undermine European companies with subsidies and subsidies. to hinder access to its internal market, The Telegraph reports.

“Competition on net zero must be based on a level playing field,” she said. “We will not hesitate to open investigations if markets are distorted by such subsidies.”

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The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, runs until Friday.

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