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Forum takes its place on the world stage

By Ed Zhang  (China Daily)

10:22, April 06, 2013

The Boao Forum for Asia has become a truly global event that can grow in importance as China's influence increases, according to the CEO of a communications consulting company that has been helping to run the event since its inception in 2001.

Wu Hong, chief executive officer and partner of the Beijing-based New Alliance, was speaking ahead of this year's event in Boao, Hainan province, from Saturday to Monday.

"We've witnessed it grow into a truly global event," said Wu. "We've been here in each of the past 12 years."
This year's event is of particular importance, she said. "We've just had a new national leadership team. People are keen to learn what message President Xi Jinping is going to pass to the Asia-Pacific region."

Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying both played key roles in the forum's early development, Wu recalled.

"I'm glad they will come again this year, in much more important positions."

Boao is also important for China because it is place where leaders in Beijing can meet representatives from Taiwan, Wu said.

When the forum was proposed by a number of veteran Asian statesmen in 1998, it was meant to be a non-governmental organization to promote Asia's common interests.

The Chinese government offered Boao as its permanent base in 2001, and the forum has been an annual event since 2002.

State Councilor Yang Jiechi has confirmed that this year's gathering will be the largest yet, with 13 leaders of foreign governments and international organizations scheduled to attend at the invitation of Xi.

They will be joined by nearly 2,000 representatives from major corporations in Asia, officials from key government departments in China, and about 400 journalists.

Speaking to China Daily before she left Beijing for Hainan, Wu said: "For us, running the show behind the scenes, what can be more rewarding than seeing all this?"

Back in 2001, she was running her privately owned advertising consultancy when she was introduced to a friend of a friend who asked her to help "manage a big conference". This turned out to be what is known today as the Boao Forum.

"Out of perhaps hundreds of small local consulting firms in Beijing, nobody has had such experience in international event management, as yet," she said.

"All I can say is that, for all our lack of experience, we tried very, very hard to do a good job."

Many economists were invited to be advisers for Wu's consultancy service, especially those who had been to the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum.

Nearly all key economists at the Hainan-based China Institute for Reform and Development were enlisted. "They told us what they had seen and what they expected us to do, "Wu said.

However, in the beginning, there were difficulties, Wu recalled. Former premier Zhu Rongji even had to apologize to participants at the first Boao Forum over a lack of facilities and accommodation.

Things are very different now. It has become established practice for all top leaders of China to take turns attending the forum.

Wu did not disclose the extent to which New Alliance relies on Boao for its business revenue. But it is clear that, at least in non-financial terms, the company has profited from working persistently on a high-profile opportunity.

The firm now manages a number of key economic and financial conferences in China. This year, it is also the local partner for the Fortune Global Forum scheduled for June 6 to 8 in Chengdu.

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