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Cover Story: Boao Forum 2015, Highlights Chinese Leadership Acumen
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Boao Forum 2015

Highlights Chinese Leadership Acumen

By Michael Dow

BT 201505 33 Cover story 4It is no secret that China is now an economic superpower. The facts and figures speak for themselves. However, until recently it hasn't been regarded as a world leader on big economic and political issues. If anything, China's development has had the unintended consequence of making other Asian countries more anxious about its growing power. The good news though is that the Chinese leadership is making strong efforts to show the rest of the world that their country is one which seeks peaceful development and a cordial relationship with its neighbours. What's more, we are increasingly seeing the country perform as a highly capable regional leader.

In addition to hosting the World Economic Forum's annual Summer Davos and the highly successful 2014 APEC Summit, China has held a number of very important conferences over the last few years. The most recent was the Boao Forum for Asia– an increasingly high-profile gathering of international delegates which has taken place in Hainan almost every year since 2002. The event, also known simply as the BFA, is modelled on the WEF Davos event. Leading representatives from a number of Asian countries typically meet each other over the course of a few days to discuss all kinds of important issues. Historically, the conference has centred on important economic issues, such as trade, financial regulations and development projects. Over the years it has also provided a very useful platform to contemplate ongoing geopolitical conundrums. Given everything that is going on at the moment in the region it is absolutely vital that leaders take every opportunity to get around the negotiating table and work towards closer integration, particularly in terms of free trade and other common economic objectives.

BT 201505 32 Cover story 6This year's event was certainly one of the most significant to date. It was attended by representatives from more countries than ever. Although it is exclusively centred around Asian specific issues, several non-Asian nations, including Armenia, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Uganda, and Zambia, sent their delegates to participate in the discussions. The major talking point of this year's BFA was Chinese president Xi Jinping's keynote speech. He acknowledged that much more work needs to be done in order to bring the region's biggest economic powerhouses together and create a "common destiny for all Asian countries". With regards to concerns over whether or not China's development could happen peacefully, Xi reiterated that armed conflict was not in anybody's best interests. Instead, he suggested that all Asian nations cooperate with one another to ensure that regional security, particularly with regards to maritime issues, remains fully intact at all times.

During his talk, Xi also laid out a very clear vision of how China can play a prominent role in Asia's development. The slogan that has emerged from his speech is 'one belt and one road'. Vice Chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission stated that "One of the major contents of the strategic plan of 'One Belt and One Road' is to build up modern interconnectivity. It's expected to link the west and east ends of Eurasia, bringing together the economic circles of Europe and East Asia.. It's also expected to boost growth in the vast region of Eurasia and further influence economies across Asia, Europe and Africa, eventually building up a unified Europe-Asia market".

BT 201505 31 Cover story 9The exact financial and regulatory details of China's plans for Asia's development have not yet been established. The announcement of the one belt and one road plan however has definitely come at a time when Asian economies are moving slowly but surely towards a common goal. In addition to the exciting cross-border infrastructure projects that are in the pipeline we have recently seen a wave of free trade agreements and the establishment of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Last month, despite American pressure not to participate in the organisation, a number of western nations joined as founding members.

Going forward it will be interesting to see whether China's relationship with its Asian partners can blossom into something much more than a loosely affiliated gang of trading partners. The country still has a long way to go before it can rival the United States as the de facto leadership figure on global affairs but thanks to events like the Boao Forum for Asia, it is getting pretty good at playing the role in the surrounding area.


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