On Thursday Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered the opening keynote speech of the 2016 annual Boao Forum for Asia (BFA). The conference’s theme this year is “Asia’s New Future: New Dynamics and New Vision.” The BFA is aiming to renew the vitality of Asian economies, which have recently suffered from economic slowdowns and undergone structural reforms, according to Xinhua News.
Li believes that regional cooperation will be essential to economic renewal. “Asia is an important force for world peace and development… Asian countries must have firm confidence and work together with solidarity. We will overcome temporary difficulties and embrace a bright future,” he said.
This is a tall order, given the continuation of tensions between China and several Southeast Asian nations over territory in the contested South China Sea. (See Blouin News’ recent feature, The South China Sea dispute, explained.) Don’t expect any concessions from Beijing in order to win the political goodwill of its rival claimants.
Li was more convincing when he emphasized “innovation” as the answer to all economic and developmental questions. He cited the potential and creativity of Asia’s abundant human resources as “our strongest advantage.”
Other Asian countries are embracing innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields as key to their future prosperity. Blouin News has reported on Malaysia’s eagerness to adopt AI technology, and on Singapore’s success in attracting firms to establish innovation labs there. (Check out our continued coverage of innovation across industries, all over the world.)
Li is right that real collaboration could help them all, but given the present mistrust between China and many other Asian countries, that’s easier said than done.