'Belt and Road' initiative, global challenges highlighted at forum
As the 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) opens on Sunday, experts and entrepreneurs attending the annual event said they believe the forum will serve as an opportunity to increase mutual understanding and cooperation against the rising trend of protectionism.[Special coverage]
The forum, scheduled to run from Sunday to Wednesday in Boao, South China's Hainan Province, is themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Great Prosperity."
"The 2018 BFA is of great significance because China now faces a slew of new international challenges this year," Wen Tiejun, a professor at the School of Agriculture and Rural Development at the Renmin University of China and an invited guest to the BFA, told the Global Times on Saturday.
"For example, issues concerning trade frictions between China and the US can be compared to 'the trees that prefer calm even though the wind will not subside,' and China is in urgent need to respond to those issues," Wen said.
Wen said this year feels quite different as 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China's adoption of the reform and opening-up policy.
The achievements of China's 40 years of opening-up and reform are exhibited in a photo show in the corridor linking Hainan Boao BFA Hotel and the main venue. Waiters at BFA will wear the traditional outfits of China's Li ethnic minority group, the earliest residents of the island.
Boao reflects the progress of Hainan. Boao has grown from a small fishing village to an international hub after Hainan became a special economic zone 30 years ago, Sun Pishu, CEO of Inspur Group, told the Global Times on Saturday.
The forum is expected to share China's experience on innovation and development that contributed to the strong, balanced and sustainable development of the global economy, said Sun, who will attend the forum for the third time.
A security guard at the entrance of BFA's venue told the Global Times on Saturday that "security checks this year are stricter compared to 2017, and there is also a significant rise in the number of security personnel."
COSCO Shipping, a company providing security services to the forum, said it has organized more than 100 training sessions and 50 fire drills to ensure security of the venues during the event.
A surveillance system costing 12 million yuan (.9 million) was put into operation on March 20, the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Saturday.
Cooperation trumps disputes
The South China Sea has been on the agenda of the Boao forum since 2014. Experts noted that disputes are not a highlight of this year's forum, and a broader discussion is expected on how to promote cooperation in the region that can really make it a prosperous part in the world.
A session themed "21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Economic Cooperation of the Greater South China Sea" is expected to be held on Wednesday. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is part of the China-proposed "Belt and Road" initiative.
The session will be moderated by Fu Ying, a veteran diplomat and principal expert at the National Institute for Global Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
When it comes to the Maritime Silk Road, people used to focus on the Malacca Straits and countries like India, and it's time to bring people's attention to other regions, said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and former political secretary to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The island of Hainan is very strategically located and a route could be developed from Hainan that better connects countries like the Philippines and Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, said Oh, who will be a panelist at the session.
"China should lead the way in bringing about more trade and investment to the South China Sea and security cooperation in this region, as the region is an underdeveloped part of the Maritime Silk Road," Oh told the Global Times on Saturday.
Countries should set aside disputes in the region and focus on development and cooperation, and senior government officials' attending the forum will also contribute to this agenda, he said.