This photo taken on March 27, 2023 shows a fountain square in front of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) International Conference Center in Boao, south China's Hainan Province. (Xinhua/Fan Yuqing)
BOAO, Hainan, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Since the founding of Boao Forum For Asia (BFA) in 2001, profound changes have taken place not only in the host country China, but also in Asia and around the world.
This year's forum is held entirely offline under the theme "An Uncertain World: Solidarity and Cooperation for Development amid Challenges" in China's southernmost island province of Hainan.
Taking off from a nondescript fishing village to become a high-profile event, the Boao forum has become an important international stage for dialogue and gathering consensus. Since 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has participated in the BFA annual conferences and delivered keynote speeches five times. Active discussions and proposals produced by Boao have been translated into actions to tackle issues such as global economic recovery and governance deficit.
In 2001, the BFA was officially established, with the Declaration on the BFA adopted by delegates from 26 founding members. Back then, the Asian economy, having just been hit by the financial crisis, was in urgent need of recovery, while China was blazing new trails in opening-up with its accession to the World Trade Organization. The themes of the annual conferences in the first few editions invariably centered on Asia and win-win cooperation.
With a focus on Asia and a global perspective, the Boao forum has gone a long way to build consensus in the region, encourage cooperation, promote economic globalization, and advance the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, said Xi when addressing the opening ceremony of the BFA annual conference in 2018.
"When Asia fares well, the whole world benefits," he stressed again in a video speech last year.
Xi called on BFA participants to continue developing and strengthening Asia, demonstrate Asia's resilience, wisdom and strength, and make Asia an anchor for world peace, a powerhouse for global growth and a new pacesetter for international cooperation.
The weighted real GDP growth rate of Asia in 2023 is estimated to be 4.5 percent, an increase from 4.2 percent in 2022, according to a report titled "Asian Economic Outlook and Integration Progress," released by the forum on Tuesday.
As a major engine of the world economy, the Asian economy is accelerating the pace in overall economic recovery in 2023, making it a standout performer in view of the global economic slowdown, the report said.
BENEFIT FOR ALL
Over the past two decades, as the host of the Boao forum, China has seen its proposals and initiatives turned into actions that added to global prosperity.
Despite growing uncertainties and instabilities, China has set a GDP growth target of around 5 percent for 2023. The International Monetary Fund has raised its projection for China's economic growth in 2023 to 5.2 percent.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which Xi proposed in 2013, has evolved into a high-quality public good with its benefits shared by the world.
Reiterating that the BRI is a public road open to all, Xi said in his 2021 Boao speech that all interested countries are welcome aboard to participate in the cooperation and share its benefits. "We will continue to work with other parties in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation."
A World Bank report suggests that by 2030, Belt and Road projects could help lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million people from moderate poverty worldwide.
"We work with all willing participants to build the BRI into a pathway to poverty alleviation and growth, which will contribute positively to the common prosperity of humankind," Xi said.
The forum has become a platform for sharing China's experience and understanding its signals of reform and opening-up. Meanwhile, China's high-quality development attracts countries to seek win-win opportunities, said Chi Fulin, head of the Hainan-based China Institute for Reform and Development.
"No matter how the world will change, China's faith in and its commitment to reform and opening-up will not waver," Xi said in the video speech at BFA 2022.
He said China will take solid steps to develop its pilot free trade zones and the Hainan Free Trade Port (FTP), align with high-standard international economic and trade rules, and move ahead with institutional opening-up.
In 2020, China released a master plan to build the whole of Hainan Island into a globally influential and high-level FTP by the middle of the century.
Since then, many favorable policies including zero tariffs and eased market and foreign investment access have been rolled out to support the development of the Hainan FTP.
Hainan is scheduled to finish building all the necessary infrastructure for independent customs operations by 2023 and will realize independent customs operations throughout the whole island by the end of 2025. ■