Vice-PM Li says China and world need each other

Asia Society business conference ——————————–

CHINA needed the world and the world needed China, the Chinese Vice-Premier, Mr Li Lanqing, said yesterday.

“China’s development cannot do without the world and world prosperity needs China’s participation,” he said at The Asia Society’s business conference.

He also underlined the importance of integrating China’s economy with the world to ensure the success of its modernisation drive.

China, on its part, would continue to introduce reforms to open up its economy, tap opportunities abroad and provide conditions for foreign investors to prosper.

Reflecting China’s commitment to promoting North-South economic cooperation, Mr Li said Beijing had trade ties with 228 countries and had joined many international bodies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum.

China was also trying to rejoin Gatt and working to become a member of the new World Trade Organisation.

Mr Li said China’s external trade had, since 1978, averaged 12 per cent annually.

Last year, its foreign trade volume stood at US$195.8 billion (S$303.5 billion) – exports came to US$91.8 billion and imports US$104 billion – moving Beijing’s position in world trade from the 32nd spot in 1978 to 11th.

“We expect China’s total imports to top US$1 trillion by the end of the century,” he said.

There were 83,000 foreign companies last year, producing US$33.3 billion worth of goods and employing more than 10 million Chinese. Foreign capital reached US$137.8 billion in 1993.

Mr Li said the growth rate would not be as robust as that of the last two years. This year’s growth would slow down from 13 per cent in 1992 and 1993 to 9 per cent.

“China’s reforms are well under way without any sign of slackening, and China’s economy will grow at an annual rate of 8 to 9 per cent on a stable and healthy basis.”

Despite these achievements, he said, China remained a low-income country with uneven development and huge disparities between different regions.

It would take two or three generations before it reached the stage of development of Western countries, he added.

“It is our conviction that China will arrive at the medium level of the developed countries by the middle of the next century.”

He said that as China grew in economic importance, it would not seek a dominant role in the Asia-Pacific region.

“China opposes any kind of hegemonism, power politics, agression and expanisonist movements.”

Mr Li also warned of growing protectionism in some countries and the trend towards regional groupings.

“Any cooperation which is exclusionary and leads to growth and instability elements in the world is totally different from what we stand for,” he said.

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