Nepali Times
Guest Column
China’s Davos


BOAO-Sitting in Nepal, it is hard to gauge China's phenomenal growth. But here in China's eastern seaboard, the changes are visible everywhere.

The booming cities, huge investments in infrastructure, industrial parks that export to the world: the country is being transformed as no other in modern history and at the rate things are changing, our northern neighbour is going to be the world's second largest economy by 2020. China's exports have grown ten fold to $250 billion since 1980, it is now the second largest recipient of foreign direct investment after the United States.

China's achievement has translated into political influence globally. But Beijing is not trying to compete with Washington on military force projection, it is concentrating on 'soft power' which analysts have described as a combination of national prestige, economic clout and cultural presence.

One way China is focusing world attention on itself is through events like the Boao Forum for Asia, its own 'Davos'. The annual meeting in this scenic resort on Hainan island is attended by movers and shakers from across Asia and the world.

It is an opportunity for China to exercise its economic and political diplomacy. Boao has a distinctly unwestern, Asian outlook and tries to counterbalance the strategic predominance of America on the world stage. China's strong stand on non-interference in the affairs of other countries is appealing to many.

There is a different focus every year at Boao. In 2002 it was the world economic downturn after 9/11, in 2003 it was Asian financial cooperation and security. Last year the forum discussed economic regionalisation in Asia and this weekend it will look at enhancing dialogue among Asian entrepreneurs for intra-Asian trade and investment.

The sessions will zero in on two main topics-international cooperation in energy development and monetary policy. CEOs of multinationals and Asian corporate leaders will look into the internationalisation of Asian enterprises, the governance and competitiveness of Asian corporations in the world market, equity markets and companies' social accountability amid economic growth. The Forum will also see two symposia on property development and motor vehicle manufacturing.

The program from 22-24 April will also look at the new role of Asia, Asia-Europe cooperation, critical business and growth challenges in Asia, economic growth and entrepreneurs, as well as addressing the needs of countries hit by the Asian tsunami in December.

The guest list for this year's forum include His Majesty King Gyanendra, the head of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinling, Singapore's senior leader Lee Kuan Yew, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.

Former Philippine president, Fidel V Ramos is the president of the Boao Forum and will also attend as will former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Farooq Leghari. Business leaders from all over the world, senior Chinese executives and scholars will be in Boao accompnied by 500 journalists.

Nepal has been an annual participant at the Boao over the years and late King Birendra had addressed the Forum's inaugural ceremony in 2001. This year, the Nepali delegation will be led by King Gyanendra with Vice-chairman Kirtinidhi Bista also in attendance. This is His Majesty's first visit abroad after 1 February and will be an opportunity to clarify the situation in Nepal to various world leaders. His Majesty is due to address the plenary session of the conference and hold talks with the Chinese President Hu Jintao. The meetings are expected to strengthen Nepal-China relations.

Ambica Shrestha is a tourism entrepreneur and social worker who has been attending the Boao Forum for Asia since 2001.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)