by Tamara Treichel
BOAO, Hainan, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Conference-goers from around the world to attend the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) weighed in with their impressions of this year's forum and welcomed China's promise of a further opening-up.
Leslie Maasdorp, the South African vice president and chief financial officer of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), told Xinhua in an interview on the sidelines of the bustling summit that the forum comes at a very interesting time for China as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the country's reform and opening-up.
"So it's a good moment to pause, reflect, look at what will be the next phase of growth for China," Maasdorp said. "How should it be different? What can we learn from the past 40 years? So it's a very interesting inflection point for China and for the region."
Stephen Groff, vice president of the Asian Development Bank, comes from the United States and is a regular at the Boao Forum. He remarked on China's opening-up at a press conference on the sidelines of the forum.
Groff said an open economy and open trade are critical for sustainable global economic growth and that a further opening-up as mentioned in President Xi Jinping's keynote speech at the forum is a good thing for China's economy.
"What this opening-up does is increasing competition in whatever sectors that are opening up, which ultimately results in more innovation and better products and better services that ultimately benefit consumers at the end of the day," he said.
"And so whether that be in the auto sector which President Xi mentioned or the financial sector or insurance markets, all of this kind of opening-up does result in better outcomes for consumers at the end of the day and more innovation," Groff said.
Alexei Chekunkov, general director of The Far East and Baikal Region Development Fund, was also excited about the prospect of a further opening-up and what this would mean for his native Russia.
"Forty years of reform and opening-up in China have made amazing achievements. In the next 40 years, China will undoubtedly achieve more," Chekunkov told Xinhua.
"We understand that China is going to explore the opening of free trade ports. China and Russia share similar goals in the area. Russia has set up a free trade port in Vladivostok. I very much hope that China's new polices on openness will promote friendly cooperation between the border areas of China and Russia."
John and Doris Naisbitt are a couple who were attending the forum for the first time among other distinguished guests. John, an American, is the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller "Megatrends" and his wife Doris, who is from Austria, is an observer of global social, economic and political trends and director of the Naisbitt China Institute.
To the Naisbitts, the Boao Forum reflects the shift of economic importance from the West to the emerging nations, with many of these emerging nations being connected by the maritime and land routes of the Belt and Road Initiative.
"Whether it is taking place on small or large scale, to meet, discuss and exchange success and challenges with like-minded people and nations is an important factor on the path to reaching a goal. It is already a great achievement to raise a feeling of community and solidarity, even if it is only on a few matters," the Naisbitts told Xinhua in a joint email interview.
The couple also commented on this year's forum being overshadowed by the threat of a trade war between China and the United States.
"It is a very naive point of view that there is a zero-sum trade game between China and the U.S. Our economies are much too much integrated to hurt just one target without damaging others," especially one's own country. "America first versus China first would end in a loss for most," they said.
However, the Naisbitts remarked favorably on Xi's keynote speech. "It was a speech in very conciliatory tone. It was putting China in the position that used to be claimed by the U.S., to be the champion of globalization," the couple said, adding that China was standing up for dialogue, openness, cooperation and respect among nations.
"The promise of a 'new phase of opening-up,' of making broader commitments to further liberalize China's economy, is well received. But as much as the prospects of creating a more attractive investment environment, of easing restrictions on foreign firms and lowering import tariffs are welcome, of most importance is their implementation," they said.
The BFA is a non-governmental and non-profit international organization that has been holding this annual conference since 2002. This year's theme is "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity," which is a nod to the elements that have helped Asia's economies develop rapidly: openness, innovation and globalization.
(Xinhua reporters Qiu Xia, Kang Yi and Wang Shang also contributed to the story.)