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A deserted Lujiazui area of the Pudong district of Shanghai, pictured during the city’s lockdown on March 29, 2022. Photo: SCMP / Thomas Yau

Shanghai’s Lujiazui financial forum falls victim to Covid-19 concerns as Communist Party Congress nears

  • The annual Lujiazui Forum, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, is officially postponed, but may not take place this year, an official says
  • Shanghai officials detected a new Covid-19 case on Tuesday, as millions across the country endure standstill orders amid outbreaks in more than 30 cities

Shanghai has called off the city’s most important financial forum the day before it was scheduled to start after the city detected a new Covid-19 infection for the first time in a week.

The Lujiazui Forum, which was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, is delayed, not cancelled, officials with the Shanghai Information Office told the Post.

However, another government official said the annual event might not be held this year, citing outbreak concerns and the availability of several senior financial regulators.

The Communist Party will hold its national congress starting on October 16, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third term while the party decides on a new line-up of leaders.

After the congress ends in late October, top financial regulators are expected to be occupied with new policymaking, and may not be able to afford time for the two-day event in Shanghai through year’s end, the source said.

Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, speaks during the Lujiazui Forum in Shanghai on June 13, 2019. Guo was slated to co-chair this year’s forum. Photo: Bloomberg

Officials detected a single, asymptomatic Covid-19 infection in Shanghai on Tuesday, raising concerns about an outbreak in the city of 25 million people, which saw economic activity brought to a virtual standstill during a lockdown that lasted from April 1 to May 31.

Across China, Beijing finds itself contending with Covid-19 outbreaks in more than 30 cities, with millions of residents confined to their homes.

On Tuesday, the national health commission said it had detected 1,519 cases nationwide, 264 of which had symptoms, over the previous 24 hours, compared with 1,552 infections spotted a day earlier.

A woman takes a coronavirus test on the street in Shanghai on September 5, 2022. Millions of people across China are under standstill orders amid outbreaks of the disease in more than 30 cities. Photo: EPA-EFE

The Lujiazui Forum normally runs in May or June at the Lujiazui finance and trade zone in Shanghai, known as China’s Wall Street.

“The event is of only symbolic value now because few drastic market liberalisations are announced or discussed during the forum,” said Yin Ran, a Shanghai-based angel investor. “Obviously, city leaders and top financial regulators are giving health and security a priority at this juncture, and have decided to postpone the forum.”

The forum, started in 2009 to help transform Shanghai into a global financial centre, is co-hosted by the city government and the mainland’s key financial authorities: the People’s Bank of China, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) and the China Securities Association.

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The objectives of the effort included making the Chinese yuan fully convertible and welcoming foreign companies to float shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange by 2020. Neither goal has come to fruition.

Guo Shuqing, chairman of the CBIRC, and Gong Zheng, Shanghai’s mayor, were slated to co-chair this year’s forum, with the main theme of using financial resources to stabilise economic growth.

Shanghai’s economy shrank by 13.7 per cent year over year in the second quarter because of the two-month lockdown.

China’s full-year economic growth is likely to miss the 2022 target of 5.5 per cent, according to Quan Heng, the Communist Party secretary and a researcher of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.