China reassures neighbors over economy, reforms

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping sought Monday to reassure Asian business and political leaders that his country only aspires to peace and that he is confident its economic growth will remain robust despite a recent slowdown.

China’s growth and other indicators are within reasonable expectations, Xi told a business conference on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

“I want to emphasize that I am fully confident about the future of China,” Xi said in a keynote address at the CEO conference. “I am deeply convinced the Chinese economy will sustain its sound growth.”

Speaking with numerous poetic and rhetorical flourishes, Xi cut a relatively genial figure compared with his dour predecessor Hu Jintao, who he succeeded in March as the top leader of the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy.

China has long acknowledged it needs to shift away from a growth model that has relied heavily on investment in construction and heavily polluting industries that have fouled its water and choked its skies with smog.

The aim is to foster more consumer-oriented, high-tech development.

“We are focusing more on improving the quality and efficiency of growth,” said Xi, likening the process to finding one’s way to a “new village.”

“China must undergo structural reforms, even if it involves a sacrifice of speed,” Xi said.

“Draining a pond to catch fish is no formula for sustainable development.”

China’s ruling communist party faces an uphill battle in implementing reforms that would weaken the powerful influence of state-owned enterprises on the economy and threaten local vested interests.

“China’s reforms have entered the deep water zone,” Xi said, describing the consequences of failing to transform the economy as “beyond remedy.”

“If we hesitate or are indecisive, we will not succeed and all our previous gains will be lost.”

Xi spoke only briefly about wider issues such as China’s own intentions as a regional power embroiled in territorial disputes with most of its neighbors.

Japanese officials attending APEC have alluded to frustrations with Chinese incursions into waters near islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.

Xi did not mention such issues, but underscored China’s intention to foster stability in the region.

“The Asia-Pacific is a big family,” he said. “A family of harmony prospers. China is ready to live in amity with others.”

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