China Development Forum – A Sign of China’s Deeper Reform and Opening-Up

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Published Mar 31, 2024


Paul Tembe

The China Development Forum 2024 took place during the 24th to 25th March. Chinese Premier Li Qiang attended the opening ceremony of the China Development Forum 2024 on Sunday in Beijing, and delivered a keynote speech.

The theme of this year's forum is "The Continuous Development of China." According to Premier Li Qiang, “the theme reflects the attention and expectations of all economic and green development sectors for the long-term, steady and high-quality development of the Chinese economy.

The forum aims to focus on the new drivers of China's development and new opportunities for the global economy. China managed to successfully accomplish its main targets and tasks for economic and social development in 2023. Premier Li indicated that all success was thanks to the strong Chinese economy resilience coupled with great potential and vitality, while the fundamentals of its long-term sound growth remain unchanged.

Since 2000, the annual China Global Development Forum has attracted global business world business and political leaders to Beijing in search of new opportunities. The annual event brings together representatives of major global companies, international organizations and renowned researchers to discuss key economic issues and collaboration.

The year 2024 forum focused on new drivers of development in China along with new opportunities for the global economy. All themes and sub-themes of the forum converged around an expression of China engaging in deeper reform and opening-up welcoming investors and other foreign global economic players into the making of the Chinese economy.

The China Development Forum hosted some of international industry heavyweights that continue to look for new collaborations in Beijing. The Chief executives of various global CEOs at the event included Apple's Tim Cook, Cristiano Amon from Qualcomm, and Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman, Kristalina Georgieva Managing Director, from the International Monetary Fund and Ajay Banga, President of the World Bank Group.

The presence of these global economic and corporate leaders serves as an indication that China aims at engaging a deeper and vast reform and opening-up processes welcoming the topmost global investment and foreign companies. A total of around 400 people, including experts from home and abroad, entrepreneurs, government officials and representatives from international organizations, attended the opening ceremony of the forum, which is being hosted by the Development Research Center of the State Council.

The Chinese government has always regarded respect for the market and services for enterprises as an important focus in planning economic work, and has always been an advocate and a good companion for the development of enterprises. Such a rationale is in tune with other recent initiatives that reflect China’s resolve and determination towards building a society of common prosperity.

China’s mission of building a globally shared future is entrenched in the four key global initiatives pronounced by President Xi Jinping during a decade long accession to the highest office in the land. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and the Global Civilisation Initiative (GCI) serve as principles and guidelines for China’s domestic and global impetus towards establishing a community of a shared future.

Premier Li made during the opening ceremony emphasis that the Chinese government has further improved and optimized services and established a regular communication mechanism with enterprises. Li assured that China will take practical and effective actions to promote high-quality development and inject more certainty and positive energy into the recovery and stable development of the world economy.

Premier Li pledged efforts to intensify macro-policy adjustments, expand domestic demand, promote a new type of people-centered urbanization, and advance large-scale equipment renewal and trade-ins of durable consumer goods. The pledge sets precedence for majority nations of the global south. Moreover it challenges some aspects of development among nations in the West.

The latter is in view of the fact that China has managed to surpass multiple milestones that were set in place as standard of modernization by nations in the West. China has during the China Development Forum pledged to continue to promote industrial innovation through scientific and technological innovation, accelerate the development of new quality productive forces, and push forward green transformation, while also addressing both symptoms and root causes of challenges to prevent and defuse risks and hidden dangers.

It aims to continuously make efforts towards fostering a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based and internationalized, steadily advance institutional opening up and link with the world at a higher level of openness. Pledges uttered by multiple Chinese government and industrial leaders during the opening ceremony point out to the fact that China is ready to share with the world the great opportunities of China's sustained development.

China is prepared to work with all regional and global parties to create a bright future of common development. During the recently held ‘Two Sessions’ political gathering in Beijing this month, China's government set the national GDP growth target for 2024 at around 5%, sparking speculation overseas. Resolutions from the ‘Two Sessions’ reaffirmed the government's confidence in the market.

It stated that since last year, China had further improved and optimized our services, established a regular communication and exchange mechanism with enterprises, earnestly responded to and addressed their concerns, and actively built a system and mechanism that better combines an effective market with the government. A prominent and overarching point of the convergence that informed the theme of China Development Forum is the ‘new quality productive forces’.

Primary definition of the new productive forces is adherence to innovation and scientific development with the aim to inject momentum into economy. South Africa is well situated to emulate some instances of the China Development Forum, specific in regards to the importance of opening up more spaces for entrepreneurship and create new drivers for growth, new industry that that can bring prosperity in similar manner that China has enjoyed for decades. Commending China’s successes during the China Development Forum was the president of the World Bank Group, Ajay Banga opinionated that “China is to transition the economy”.

He added that he was personally very much impressed and respectful of the fact that China was making changes that were necessary to ensure necessary growth that is supportive of the entire global economic stability. He appreciated the support of the government of China in its development plans that are in line with some of the World Bank ideals.

He concluded that “China is too big an economy for the world to not be fully engaged with the country." The China Global Development Forum 2024 took covered eight major themes, including carbon neutrality, artificial intelligence, healthcare and digital transformation, all showcasing the broad prospects of China's development. The entire spectrum of the forum is reflective of the global efforts towards harnessing developmental forces towards a new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution premised by growth in the artificial intelligence and green development sectors.

Adherence to the above pronouncements reflects confidence in the continued and strengthened Chinese economy and pick up momentum. Current China's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.2% in the year 2023, meeting the government's target, and China's economic aggregate exceeded 126 trillion yuan (about $17.6 trillion). The growth figures place China at the apex of the fastest-growing major economies in the world. Such growth equals 30% of the total and it places China in a position of the largest country in global trade in goods. Such growth figures reflect new drivers of China's economic rapid growth.

China’s accumulated long-term risks during rapid economic growth have always focused on improving the quality of development and strengthening internal driving forces. China's strategic emerging industries increased from 7.6 percent of GDP 10 years ago to more than 13 percent last year, the scale of China's digital economy has exceeded 50 trillion yuan, and China has as many as 24 of the world's top 100 sci-tech innovation clusters and half of the world's new renewable energy generation units.

The accelerated growth and application of new technologies has not only led the transformation and upgrading of China's economy but also strongly supported global green development. The China Global Development Forum 2024 made emphasis in assuring global entrepreneurs, investors and business experts that the prospects for the long-term development of the Chinese economy remain unchanged in respect of its solid fundamentals with strong resilience, great potential and full vitality.

The year 2024 Spring Festival witnessed a number of cross-regional personnel flows reaching 2.29 billion, online payment transactions exceeded 10 trillion yuan, the number of domestic tourists reached 474 million, a year-on-year increase of 34.35%, and more than 630 billion yuan was spent on tourism during the holiday, up 47.3% compared with that of last year. More high-quality development China has during the China Development Forum 2024 expressed confidence in China's development based on advantages that include distinctive institutional strengths, a complete industrial system, a huge and high-caliber workforce, and growing sci-tech innovation capacity.

The Chinese government's approach to high-quality development will intensify macro-policy adjustments and expand domestic demands by advancing the construction of a nationwide unified market, and promoting a new round of urbanization and extensive equipment upgrades and consumer goods trade-ins. China will also accelerate the building of a modern industrial system through tech innovation, promote green transformation, and prudently prevent and defuse risks and dangers to promote sustained and sound economic development.

The China Development Forum 2024 ended on a high note that expressed China’s will to continue deepening reforms in key areas, improve government services, protect the legitimate rights and interests of various enterprises, and completely remove restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector to create a market-oriented and law-based international business environment. China’s government leaders believe in more open China will bring more opportunities for win-win cooperation to the world.

The entire rationale of the China Development Forum 2024 was endorsed in a speech by President Xi Jinping where he pointed out importance of the participation of the entire global corporate world into China’s economic development. Xi met with representatives of the U.S. business, strategic and academic communities at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The meeting served as a central point of China’s determination to open up entire industries for foreign investments and participation of foreign corporations in the next epoch of China’s development.

In the words of John Doyle, the gesture was tantamount to an expression that ‘no man or country is an island, entire of itself. Every nation is the part of the whole. Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.’ In the current geopolitical landscape one will to accordingly interpret China’s expressions and resolutions during the China Global Development Forum as that of building a community of a shared future.

Tembe is a pragmatic Sinologist and founder of SELE Encounters