September 24, 2023

Beijing is courting foreign leaders at the China Development Forum in an attempt to revive the economy after “COVID zero”.

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Chinese Premier Li Qiang told Apple CEO Tim Cook and other senior foreign executives that China will be more open, according to the country’s foreign ministry.

Cook is among top foreign leaders in Beijing who will attend the government-sponsored China Development Forum.

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Li, a close confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping who took office earlier this month, met with Cook and other foreign leaders on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The annual China Development Forum, called China’s Davos, is being held at a time when Beijing is seeking to revive its economy after abandoning a tough “zero COVID” policy that has isolated the country for nearly three years.

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The event was attended by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Procter & Gamble CEO John Moeller, PwC Global Chairman Bob Moritz and HSBC CEO Noel Quinn.

China also faces a range of long-term economic challenges, including a low birth rate, tensions with the United States, and business uncertainty due to regulatory action in sectors ranging from technology to education to real estate.

Beijing has set an economic growth target of around 5 percent by 2023, the lowest target in decades, amid uncertainties facing the world’s second-largest economy.

Chinese officials have repeatedly tried to reassure local and foreign businesses that the government is supporting private industry amid Xi’s sharp turn towards national security and state development.

During an important meeting of the National People’s Congress earlier this month, Li pledged that entrepreneurs and enterprises will receive “better conditions and more opportunities for development.”

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Cook’s visit to China comes as Apple seeks to boost production in India and Vietnam to reduce its reliance on the country’s supply chains amid rising geopolitical tensions with the West and crackdown under Xi Jinping.

iPhone supplier Apple Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant has been severely disrupted due to repeated lockdowns last year due to “COVID zero”.

On Saturday, Chinese state media quoted Cook as praising China’s rapid development and expressing confidence that it will “even more accelerate.”