Forty years on from the launch of its strategy of economic liberalisation, and 17 years after joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO), China is sending out ever louder signals that it is pivoting towards a new phase of opening up its economy, through import expansion and a more level playing field for foreign companies. This week, it is hosting the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, a trade show with an emphasis on imports by China rather than exports, as has traditionally been the case. More than 3,000 companies from over 100 countries are participating and Chinese buyers - including many state-owned enterprises - are out in force, signing deals for big-ticket purchases.
In his keynote address to the CIIE on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping sketched the contours of China's new phase of liberalisation. Vowing that China's door will "only open wider", he repeated many of the pledges he had made at the Boao Forum in April, notably that China will continue to lower its tariffs, broaden access to its market, open up previously closed sectors such as education and culture and get tougher on violations of intellectual property rights. He also estimated that China would import about US$30 trillion (S$41 trillion) worth of goods and US$15 trillion in services over the next 15 years.
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