Letter from China: Face to face with global CEOs at high-profile development forum

By Wang Siyuan (Xinhua) 11:14, March 30, 2024

BEIJING, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Before entering the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where the China Development Forum (CDF) 2024 was held, my colleague told me that it may prove impossible for us to find a seat, with a mixture of discontent and excitement in her voice.

Her suspicion proved correct.

Sitting on the carpet, I turned on my laptop to take notes as fast as I could while senior Chinese officials, heads of international organizations and economic experts shared their insights on China's development and its global impact.

Themed "The Continuous Development of China," the CDF this year had a packed agenda. Two prime seminars, six parallel seminars and several closed-door meetings were held in just two days, covering a range of hot topics including China's growth drivers and prospects, carbon neutrality, big health, digital transformation of industries, and new consumption.

Present in the auditorium were global chief executive officers (CEOs) of leading multinationals. Milind Pant, CEO of Amway Corp., told me that China has been the company's largest, fastest growing and most important strategic market for over 20 years.

"China's advantages of complete industry chains and innovative ecosystems are now widely recognized and highly regarded by multinationals," said Pant.

It is a sure thing that Amway will continue to invest in China, Pant added. Pant is among the CEOs who have frequented the forum hoping to take the pulse of the Chinese market.

I also heard Lisa Su, president and CEO of AMD, telling a reporter that she appreciated the opportunity to exchange ideas and considered China a very important market. I hope to get the chance to interview her myself next year.

As the media center was overcrowded, I decided to sit at a dining table to work on my story. The journalists I saw were all very busy. Some were chasing interviews, while others were trying to catch up with their peers. "New quality productive forces" was definitely a phrase that featured often in their conversations.

Making progress in terms of new quality productive forces, featuring high-tech, high efficiency and high quality, is top on China's agenda this year. For foreign businesses, this is also a key area, with multinationals seeking to hit the sweet spots.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of British biopharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, told me that he considers it a "tremendously exciting and important time in the field of healthcare."

"We are here because China is at the forefront of using artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and renewable energy to shape the future of healthcare, and we believe that Chinese-born innovation can help millions of patients worldwide," said Soriot.

Ola Kallenius, chairman of the board of management of Mercedes-Benz Group, expressed the company's commitment to deepening its footprint in China, advancing electric and digital transformation along with its Chinese partners at the forum.

"China is not only the largest market for new energy vehicles (NEVs), but also an innovation hub featuring industry-leading companies and a mature NEV supply chain," he said, adding that he believed that the Chinese market will continue to grow and play a leading role in innovation in the industry.

Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, pledged a host of measures at the forum to accelerate the development of new quality productive forces, with these measures including the upgrading of traditional industries, fostering emerging industries and cultivating future-oriented industries, explaining that this will help create great opportunities for businesses both at home and abroad.

Global CEOs at the forum were also impressed by China's opening-up endeavors. Soriot said that the company has seen China's determination to attract and utilize foreign investment over recent years.

Kim Fausing, president and CEO of Danfoss, a leading Danish energy efficiency solution company, said China's reaffirmed pledge to further opening up and improvements to the business environment, especially the protection of intellectual property rights, gives them strong confidence to continue investing in the country.

Diaoyutai is well-known as a place where China welcomes esteemed foreign guests, and this forum has served as a pivotal platform since 2000 -- with ideas exchanged, cooperation intentions communicated, and new opportunities explored and created.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Hongyu)


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