China is “the new driver” that will boost growth among its Asian neighbours and revive the sluggish global economy, says Hong Kong’s former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. Tung, now vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said that although the mainland economy might be slowing, it was still growing at a pace equal to the size of Indonesia’s economy each year and that its rise benefited other nations. Tung was speaking on Friday at the opening of the annual China Conference hosted by the South China Morning Post as he tried to dispel scepticism and criticism towards China’s growing diplomatic and economic clout. Chief executive highlights Hong Kong’s advantages under ‘One Belt, One Road’ “The truth is that China is pursuing peace and shared prosperity, which is important for China and its relations with our neighbours and the world as a whole. This is our very clear cut strategic intent,” he said. “We believe in a more open, inclusive world and the one that is interconnected. This is what the One Belt, One Road [initiative] is about,” Tung said, referring to President Xi Jinping’s push to extend China’s economic and cultural ties overseas. Beijing’s military and diplomatic assertiveness over its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and its global investment plans mainly focused on infrastructure projects have attracted critics who have expressed concerns over the impact of China’s rise. Tung said 4.5 billion people in 65 nations were expected to benefit from the One Belt, One Road initiative, especially China’s Asian neighbours. He called on world leaders and investors to seize the opportunities China had provided, which he said would be new drivers for the world economy to move forward. Tung also spoke highly of the Communist Party’s leadership under Xi, especially in managing the country’s economic slowdown amid a global financial slump. “To try to manage economic fluctuation is not easy. To try to manage a downward economy and to try to enter into a new normal has never happened before. And this was the challenge we faced [when Xi took office in late 2012],” the former chief executive said. As Trump retreats, Xi Jinping moves to upgrade China’s global power play “I also want to mention that the leadership group is not afraid of challenging the existing logic and theory, but when the need arises, they will test the new way forward,” he said. “People in the old days would say Marxism would change China, I think the fact is China is changing Marxism. I wouldn’t bet against China,” he added. Chinese leaders were able to “think though comprehensively, overarchingly in the process of making long-term decisions”, he said, after conducting thorough consultations domestically and internationally with global institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. “We have to move away from an economy that was based on a labour-intensive economy and enormous amounts of investment to an economy based on consumption, the service sector and driven by science, technology and innovation,” he said. Tung said tackling climate change had also fuelled the expansion of the renewable energy sector, which was also driving China’s economy.