China begins high-level forum in Hainan amid Covid-19 measures

China kicked off the 20th edition of its high-level Boao Forum on the southern island of Hainan on April 18, 2021.
China kicked off the 20th edition of its high-level Boao Forum on the southern island of Hainan on April 18, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

BOAO, HAINAN - China kicked off the 20th edition of its high-level Boao Forum on the southern island of Hainan on Sunday (April 18) with a focus on international cooperation amid a global pandemic that has prevented many from travelling to the seaside town.

After the virus forced a hiatus last year, this year's event was a far more muted affair with strict coronavirus control measures, and most foreign delegates taking part virtually. Participants had to take two nucleic acid tests before being allowed to attend, while dining and seating arrangements were socially distant.

Some 2,600 delegates are still expected in person this year, organisers said, calling it the largest in-person international conference this year.

The annual meeting in Boao brings together top Chinese and international leaders, policymakers, company executives and academics to discuss economic and policy issues.

Key speakers include a Chinese leader, not identified by the organisers, who will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday.

Singapore President Halimah Yacob will also speak virtually at the same session.

Other key speakers include Chinese central bank governor Yi Gang, Finance Minister Liu Kun, International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva, and World Trade Organisation director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Speakers from Singapore include former foreign minister George Yeo, former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng, Central Provident Fund chief executive Augustin Lee and Professor Kishore Mahbubani, a distinguished fellow at the Asia Research Institute.

In a report on sustainable development, a key theme of this year's forum, the forum urged governments to continue supporting multilateralism, noting that Asia would be a key driver of global economic recovery.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only further widened developmental gaps in areas such as healthcare, infrastructure, environmental protection and climate change, and digital inequality, the report said.

"International society needs to hold firm in multilateralism, make concerted efforts to address the negative impacts brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, narrow the four development deficits, and tackle (the) 'global governance deficit'," it stated, calling on nations to prioritise vaccinations and mutually recognised exchange of health data.

It said that 60 per cent of businesses surveyed are optimistic about recovery in Asia.

"Asian countries must further strengthen their cooperation with other developing countries in experience sharing and capacity building," it said.

Organisers also announced a new Global Development and Security Forum, to be held in Changsha, Hunan, later this year, focusing on non-traditional threats like climate change and food security.