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Foreign firms seeking sweet spots in China's high-quality, open future

2019/3/26 8:57:59   source:Xinhua

In a conference room at west Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, heavyweight speakers ranging from Bridgewater Associates founder to AstraZeneca board chairman delivered their speeches in a TED setting and style. In spite of their different focus of industries, their talks share one common theme: sharing China's future.

The trendy speech session is part of the just-concluded China Development Forum 2019, the first annual high-level international conference featuring senior Chinese officials and domestic and overseas corporate giants held right after the annual legislative and political advisory sessions each year.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the influential forum, and has seen a boom in foreign enterprise participants who are ready to be more involved in the world's biggest developing economy's development after the country just unveiled its 2019 development plan and adopted a unified foreign investment law in its latest efforts to open up wider.

China set its GDP growth target at 6-6.5 percent this year, compared with about 6.5 percent in 2018. The government will further cut taxes and fees to energize the corporate sector and stimulate domestic consumption.

"The rapid growth of the Chinese economy in the 40 years since the process of opening-up and reform began is rightly regarded across the world as a huge economic achievement. Even though this growth has slowed recently, the Chinese economy's vast base means that it still offers tremendous potential," said Volkmar Denner, CEO of German manufacturer Bosch Group, which has attended the annual forum for 20 years.

Denner said China has become the world's biggest automotive market, and almost 10,000 Bosch associates in Suzhou are working on cutting-edge technologies such as solutions for automated driving and connected mobility. "Bosch is confident that the Chinese economy will continue to prosper."

Volkswagen, another automobile titan, is also confident in China's future development, with plans to invest more than 4 billion euros (4.52 billion U.S. dollars) in innovative technologies, e-mobility and new products in China this year, and introduce more than 30 new energy vehicle models in the next two years.

China's national legislature passed the foreign investment law at the closing meeting of its annual session on March 15. The law, landmark legislation that will provide stronger protection and a better business environment for overseas investors, will become effective on Jan. 1, 2020.

Christian Kullmann, board chairman of global specialty chemicals firm Evonik, is encouraged by the Chinese government's plan to further broaden market access, strengthen protection of intellectual property rights, and expand imports as "this shows how much the government values a vibrant economy and an innovation-driven development strategy."

Opening-up is a win-win for both foreign chemical companies and the Chinese chemical industry as it draws inflows of both technology and investment, according to Kullmann. "By joining China's opening-up, Evonik gets closer to customers in the region and becomes more competitive in the global market."

China's regional development strategies also pose a strong appeal to foreign firms.

German industrial firm Siemens inked an MOU with China's top economic planner Sunday to promote the Belt and Road Initiative. The two parties will leverage their resources to facilitate exchanges and cooperation between the two countries' industries, especially in energy, transport, manufacturing and digitalization. They will also support the partnership in developing and financing projects in third-party markets.

For financial juggernaut HSBC Holdings, the Greater Bay Area remains the most exciting organic opportunity, and the group is accelerating plans to build a scale business in the region, according to John Flint, the group's executive director and chief executive.

"We have the opportunity of a lifetime to play a meaningful role," Flint said.

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