China has reassured the world it is open for business in a high-profile Davos speech aimed at mending damage to its reputation as the world’s manufacturer.
In the highest-level official visit by a Chinese official abroad since before the pandemic, vice-premier Liu He welcomed foreign investment.
“Foreign investments are welcome in China, and the door to China will only open up further,” Liu told world leaders.
Liu’s speech repeatedly extolled the virtues of international cooperation at a time of rising tensions with the US over tariffs, sanctions and sabre-rattling over Taiwan.
His speech underlined the leadership’s abrupt reversal of its controversial zero-tolerance Covid-19 policy.
Liu reminded leaders that China had dropped quarantine requirements and other travel restrictions, which had been in place since early 2020, and said in China markets will play a “decisive role in resource allocation.”
“Some people say China will go for the planned economy. That’s by no means possible,” he said.
“We oppose unilateralism and protectionism and look forward to strengthening international cooperation with all countries for world economic stability and development, and the promotion of economic reglobalisation.”
For three years China has been suffering reduced investment as a result of its Covid outbreaks – which it initially responded to with strict lockdowns that slowed manufacturing in cities such as Shanghai.
Further fears of supply chain disruptions accompanied its surprise decision to change course at the end of 2022 and end lockdowns, leading to a spike in Covid cases.
China has resumed imports of Australian coal after a three-year halt and analysts believe it may well enjoy a post-pandemic consumption boom as did western countries – intensifying demand for commodities.
China’s lifting of restrictions could push demand for oil and liquefied natural gas to an all-time high at a time when price caps on Russian energy exports could hinder supply.
The International Energy Agency said demand for crude oil could rise by 1.9m barrels a day to reach a record 101.7m barrels a day.
“Two wild cards dominate the 2023 oil market outlook: Russia and China,” the IEA said, adding that this would happen “as Russian supply slows under the full impact of sanctions”.
Beijing may well return to the position it enjoyed before 2022 – as the driver of global commodities markets, increasing imports of materials such as iron ore as steel mills increase production in a reopening economy.
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