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Economy

Xi in Shenzhen vows global collaboration amid rising unilateralism

China to deepen reforms and develop key technology hub in Greater Bay Area

"The world has entered a period of turbulent change… To cope with it, we need a new development setting," Chinese President Xi Jinping said in Shenzhen on Wednesday. (Image from CGTN's YouTube channel)

HONG KONG -- Chinese President Xi Jinping called on all countries to pursue a "mutually beneficial" strategy amid the global economic downturn and rising unilateralism in a much-anticipated speech on Wednesday to mark the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone's 40th anniversary.

While Xi did not make a direct reference to current U.S.-China tensions, he noted that globalization has "encountered a countercurrent" with the rise of protectionism and unilateralism, which he said has resulted in shrinking international trade and investment.

"The world has entered a period of turbulent change... To cope with it, we need a new development setting," Xi said in a Shenzhen auditorium filled with high-ranking Communist Party officials. "We unswervingly pursue a mutually beneficial and win-win strategy."

China's growth "has also created a vast space for development and shared development benefits for all countries," he said.

"All countries in the world are welcome to participate more in the reform, opening up and development of China's special economic zones and embrace the new setting where we can negotiate, develop, share and win together," Xi said, adding that the country will strengthen collaboration with other countries through its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure development program.

Shenzhen's skyline in August. The city once was a fishing village on Hong Kong's border, but it was "founded by the party and the people as a brand new city," Xi said on Wednesday.   © AP

In his 50-minute speech, Xi laid out a long-term development plan for the southern city of Shenzhen -- an exemplar of China's successful economic reform -- and tasked the city abutting Hong Kong with a "new mission" to drive the country's innovation and technology ambitions by playing a key role in the Greater Bay Area.

The Greater Bay Area is a national plan to integrate Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macao and eight other cities in southern Guangdong Province to develop a mega-metropolis to drive economic growth and rival Silicon Valley. Chinese tech companies including Huawei Technologies, Tencent Holdings and BYD Auto are based in Shenzhen.

Xi touted Shenzhen as a trailblazer of reforms and the symbol of China's high-paced economic growth of the past four decades. He said the Shenzhen government will receive more autonomy and leeway to deepen reforms and become "a model city for a great, modern socialist country."

Prior to Xi's address, the Shenzhen government on Sunday published plans to attract foreign investment to the city by seeking to draw foreign talent and relaxing controls in the energy and telecommunications sectors. It also pledged to protect personal property rights and intellectual property rights, as well as "the rule of law."

Xi has also called for new measures to lure young people from Hong Kong to work and live in mainland China as part of a plan to further integrate the former British colony with the mainland following anti-government protests last year.

"There is a need to guide Hong Kong and Macao and the foreign diaspora to the investment opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, for them to contribute to development... and bring them closer to the motherland," he said.

Communist Party officials attend President Xi Jinping’s speech in Shenzhen on Wednesday. (Image from CGTN's YouTube channel)

Xi made a number of nods to Shenzhen's history.

He mentioned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's name when making reference to the central government's decision to name Shenzhen and three other southern coastal cities -- Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen -- as special economic zones and grant them wide discretion to create their own path out of the economic chaos left by decades of political turmoil, including the Cultural Revolution.

Xi in his speech also sprinkled key Deng phrases, including "development is of overriding importance."

That line was uttered by Deng during his historic 1992 southern tour, which also included Shenzhen, to reinvigorate reform and China's open-door policy that had lost momentum following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Xi chose Deng's phrase as one of the 10 essential guiding points for the further development of the city.

Xi also alluded to his late father, Xi Zhongxun, and his role four decades ago. Without mentioning him by name, Xi referred to the "leader of the Guangdong Party Committee" who recommended that Deng push forward with reform in April 1979.

Xi's father, who was then first secretary of the provincial Communist Party Committee, led a delegation to Beijing at that time and made the bold proposal to open up Guangdong.

Xi made clear that the Communist Party will continue to firmly guide Shenzhen's development. His first two guiding points were upholding the party's leadership and the socialist system with "Chinese characteristics," a phrase also associated with Deng.

Shenzhen was a sleepy fishing village on the border of Hong Kong before opening up, but it was "founded by the party and the people as a brand-new city," Xi said. "It took [only] 40 years to finish its path to become an international metropolis that took more than a century for many others abroad."

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