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China-US relations

China to send Wang Qishan to forum organised by Michael Bloomberg for business elites in Singapore

  • Vice-president will give a speech at next week’s high-profile gathering organised by Michael Bloomberg
  • He is expected to offer assurances that Beijing will continue to open the economy
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 11:20pm

Beijing will send Vice-President Wang Qishan to a new economic forum organised by American tycoon Michael Bloomberg, where he is expected to offer assurances that China will continue to open its economy amid an escalating trade war with the US.

It will be Wang’s third overseas trip since he was appointed vice-president in March. Wang, who is known as a “firefighter” and President Xi Jinping’s right-hand man, has made more regular international appearances since September last year.

Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan meets Israeli and Palestinian officials on Mideast tour

They include meeting US President Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon, and talks with US business representatives, but his speech at the event next week will be his first at a high-profile forum – one that is expected to be dominated by China-US trade relations.

Wang will deliver a keynote address at the first New Economy Forum in Singapore on November 6 and 7, the organisers said on Wednesday.

The forum, which aims to rival the annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland and to improve understanding between China and the United States, was originally to be held in Beijing next month. But it was relocated to the city state because the dates clashed with the China International Import Expo being held in Shanghai – an event seen by Chinese leaders as important for showing Beijing’s determination to open up.

Wang previously met Bloomberg in 2004, when he was the mayor of Beijing and the billionaire media mogul was mayor of New York.

The guest list for next week’s forum includes Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state and national security adviser, and former US treasury secretary Henry Paulson. Former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, who resigned after differences with Trump over his plan to impose import tariffs on China, will also attend the event. Many of those taking part, including organiser Bloomberg, have called for closer coordination with Beijing to avert an all-out trade war, or escalation of military conflict.

China’s vice-president will address the high-profile gathering ahead of a possible meeting between Xi and Trump on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the end of November.

The forum is being held in partnership with influential think tank the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges.

The trade war could well end in November, with Donald Trump and Xi Jinping calling a truce

Washington and Beijing have slapped duties of up to 25 per cent on each other’s goods since July, when trade talks ended in deadlock. The US has accused China of intellectual property theft and complained about restricted market access and huge state support for its firms in key industries, especially the hi-tech sectors, pressuring Beijing to overhaul its industrial policy – something it refuses to do.

Trump has threatened to apply punitive tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports, worth about US$267 billion, in early December if Xi and Trump meet but fail to make any breakthrough on trade, Bloomberg reported earlier. He said on Monday that he expected the trade conflict with China to result in a “great deal” for the US and that the additional sanctions on all Chinese imports were “ready to go”.

Wei Jianguo, deputy director of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said Wang’s attendance at the forum showed China’s leadership was open to suggestions. “China pays high attention to these global forums,” Wei said. “We hope to convey our voice [to the world]”.

Additional reporting by Orange Wang