As more foreign firms mull an exit from China over its heavy-handed zero-Covid controls, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece has highlighted the country’s pledge to stabilise foreign investment. “[We must] face up to the challenges, and strengthen our confidence,” a front-page article in the People’s Daily on Saturday said. “The fundamentals of China’s economic growth in the long term have not changed, and we are fully capable of stabilising the positive development trend of utilising foreign capital.” According to the Ministry of Commerce, foreign direct investment into China rose by 26.1 per cent to US$74.47 billion in the first four months of the year. On the premise of keeping the total amount of foreign investment basically stable, we should continue to optimise the structure of foreign capital utilisation People’s Daily “On the premise of keeping the total amount of foreign investment basically stable, we should continue to optimise the structure of foreign capital utilisation,” the article added. “The policy of stabilising foreign investment will continue to strengthen, and the efforts to attract foreign investment will be intensified … A more open Chinese market provides more opportunities for the development of enterprises from all over the world.” The wording echoed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s remarks on Thursday at a symposium with overseas business groups, where he highlighted the Chinese market’s huge potential for foreign investment. “We are willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with enterprises from all over the world, enhance mutual understanding, seek more consensus, properly handle conflicts and differences … [to achieve] mutually beneficial cooperation,” Li told a summit marking the 70th anniversary of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). China told ‘stabilise economy to protect lives’ as zero-Covid debate rages Close to 30 institutions and multinational companies attended the Beijing event, including representatives from the European, American and Japanese chambers of commerce. Delivering the keynote speech for the event the previous day, President Xi Jinping reiterated his pledge that China would open its doors “wider and wider” to foreign investors. “China will not change its resolve to open wider at a high standard,” Xi told the event via video link. This comes as China doubles down on its “dynamic zero-Covid policy”, resulting in stringent and extended lockdowns in cities such as Shanghai, where foreign businesses are concentrated, causing disruptions to supply chains and logistics. A number of recent surveys by multiple business lobby groups in China have suggested the containment measures are undermining foreign investors’ confidence in the world’s No 2 economy. A German Chamber of Commerce survey earlier this month showed that 28 per cent of foreign employees from 460 surveyed firms were planning to leave China before or upon the expiration of their current contracts, due to coronavirus-related measures. Earlier, the European Chamber of Commerce in China found 23 per cent of companies polled were considering shifting their current or planned investments out of the country due to Covid-19 controls. A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce also showed that more than half of respondents had already either delayed or decreased their investments in China. We will continue to address everyone’s general concerns, focus on solving the problems [foreign firms] encountered, and provide better services Li Keqiang At the CCPIT event on Thursday, Li acknowledged that foreign businesses had been struggling with supply chain and logistics hurdles, and vowed to make every effort to help, according to a readout from the British Chamber of Commerce in China. “We will continue to address everyone’s general concerns, focus on solving the problems [foreign firms] encountered, and provide better services,” Li was quoted as saying. Beijing has repeatedly pledged to expand opening up and continue to improve the business environment for foreign companies. But long-time issues such as market-access barriers, regulatory risks and discriminatory enforcement still exist, while rising geopolitical tensions in recent years have further added to the risks. “[China will] create a market-oriented, law-based and international business environment, establish a transparent, stable and predictable regulatory structure, further relax market access, ensure foreign enterprises have equal access to open areas in accordance with the law, and strictly protect intellectual property rights,” Li said.