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Three key takeaways from whirlwind China visits by global business executives

2024-03-29 ECNS App Download

By Lin Zhuowei, Li Jinlei

(ECNS)—There has been a whirlwind of visits to China by executives of global businesses, with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao meeting at least 15 executives from March 21 to 24.

On March 22, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met with Apple's CEO Tim Cook. (Photo/Ministry of Commerce of China)
On March 22, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met with Apple's CEO Tim Cook. (Photo/Ministry of Commerce of China)

The frequent foreign visits indicate growing confidence in China where global corporate leaders are vying to raise their game.

And here is what we learned from rounds of meetings and ministers' statements.

China remains steadfast in expanding opening-up

"China's door to the world will only open wider," reiterated Wang while meeting with the president and CEO of Broadcom Hock E. Tan last Friday. He stressed the country's commitment to advancing the Chinese path to modernization by seeking high-quality growth and expanding its high-level opening-up.

In the past few years, China has introduced a series of measures to stabilize foreign investments and intensified its efforts to open up, said Zheng Shanjie, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), during his meeting with Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Sunday.

For example, China has taken measures to facilitate expats to study, work, and travel in China, started a trial of unilateral visa-free policy for six more countries led by Switzerland, and formulated negative lists for cross-border trade in services applicable nationwide and to pilot free trade zones separately, etc.

To encourage more foreign participation in its industrialization and opening-up, China is set to completely remove restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector, and is planning to open up value-added telecommunications services such as internet data centers, Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Jin Zhuanglong told enterprise representatives.

The policies have helped China to earn more confidence, as the latest data from the Ministry of Commerce shows that in the first two months of 2024, the number of newly established foreign-funded enterprises across the country has increased by 34.9 percent to 7,160, the highest level in the last five years.

China's business environment keeps optimizing

Business environment weighs heavily with international investors when it comes to choosing the right place to invest. Therefore, China endeavors to foster a market-oriented, law-based, and world-class business environment that can provide effective services for foreign-funded enterprises, said Wang.

Specifically, the Chinese government "will strive to create a sound environment in which enterprises under all forms of ownership can compete and grow on a level playing field," as stated in the 2024 government work report.

At the China Development Forum that closed in Beijing on March 25, Vice Commerce Minister Guo Tingting announced that China will launch a campaign to boost investment, continue to optimize services, and fully ensure national treatment for foreign-funded enterprises.

China stays a popular destination for investment

While meeting with executives of foreign enterprises, Minister Wang emphasized several emerging sectors poised for cooperation and great development, including AI, cloud computing, and big data, as China vies to develop new quality productive forces.

Business executives expressed greater confidence in stepping up their investment in China. Tim Cook said that Apple intends to play a long game in China with more investments to boost its local supply chain, R&D, and sales. HP Inc. CEO Enrique Lores expressed willingness to continue its investment in China, adding that he believes in China's economic prospects. And according to Medtronic CEO Geoff Martha, the global medical device producer will set up another innovation center in China.

In addition, more business leaders shared their optimism about the world's second-largest economy, which confirms that China remains a popular destination for foreign investments and the so-called "decoupling" strategy is unpopular with the rest of the world.

We should promote cooperation instead, said Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz, adding that they will expand their investments in China and enhance cooperation with local industries to reduce trade barriers and facilitate benign competition.

"China will continue to be a key contributor to global economic growth," said Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

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