04/10/2018, 09.53
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Xi Jinping at the Boao Forum: promises and reality

In the presence of world leaders and economists, the Chinese president promises "a new phase of opening up" with greater liberalization of the Chinese economy, easing restrictions on foreign companies, reducing taxes, more attractive environment for investments. Greater defense of intellectual property; the new Silk Road without "geopolitical calculations". Scholars and experts fear that everything will remain the same: it is just propaganda.

Boao (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Today, President Xi Jinping opened proceedings at the Boao Forum (Hainan) with a series of promises on how China wants to open up its market more and more. He re-proposes his country as a leading defender of globalization, against the backdrop of a duties war with the US, accused of being protectionist.

The meeting in Boao, held annually since 2002, is considered "the Asian Davos " and gathers politicians and economists from all over the world. This year, attendees include Prime Minister Lee Hsein-loong of Singapore, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Prime Minister of Holland Mark Rutte, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaa Khurelsukh. Guests also included the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde.

Xi promised "a new phase of openings" with greater liberalization of the Chinese economy, facilities for foreign companies, reduced tariffs, a more attractive environment for investments.

In particular, he promised that it would reform its motor industry to allow foreign car makers to have wholly owned factories in China, exceeding the obligation to form joint ventures with Chinese companies. He also suggested a reduction in taxes on imported vehicles. Just yesterday, Donald Trump pointed out that Chinese cars in the US are taxed at 2.5%, while US cars in China are taxed for 25%.

Xi also promised to improve the protection of intellectual property, just as the US and Europe complain of theft and forced transfer of technology.

Promising an ever-increasing openness, Xi said that China "has every intention of translating these reforms into reality sooner rather than later."

Defending the 40 years of economic reforms and the desire to share its development with other countries, Xi also cited the Belt and Road Initiative, the new Silk Road, and insisted that with this gigantic project, China "no geopolitical calculations, seeks no exclusionary blocks, and imposes no business deals on others".

He concluded his speech inviting all nations to come together to "“dedicate ourselves to openness and win-win outcomes … to achieve a better tomorrow for Asia and the world".

His address, laden with promises which observers and academics will now have to be mateched, was met with a standing ovation. Some remember that Xi promised the same things in his speech in Davos almost a year ago. Others fear, as in the past, that after having said many things, everything will remain the same.

Christopher Balding, associate professor at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, comments bitterly to the SCMP: "[Xi] wants to say that China is very open, ready for investments, but at the same time he is basically going to say that we are not going to change anything or do anything different for the US. If you look at a lot of these speeches over time they are pretty much the same". And he concludes: "It won’t surprise anyone if [people leave] saying that China is more open, but that is clearly just the effect of the propaganda".

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