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Summer Davos: China set to host World Economic Forum meeting in Dalian

  • The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions will be held June 27-29 in the Chinese port city of Dalian
  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to speak during the event, which is also known as Summer Davos

China will again host the World Economic Forum's annual June meeting, often called Summer Davos, and innovation is in the spotlight.

The world's second-largest economy has made waves recently with its fast-growing tech sector, marking what experts say is a noticeable shift away from the old image of a copycat China. And it's a move that China needs — looking toward the new economy driven by the private sector and entrepreneurship.

China's Premier Li Keqiang answers a question during a meeting with foreign company executives at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in China's port city Dalian, September 9, 2015.
Jason Lee | Reuters
China's Premier Li Keqiang answers a question during a meeting with foreign company executives at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in China's port city Dalian, September 9, 2015.

"Technology and China — these two words actually go together now," said Jenny Lee of GGV Capital. "It used to be in the past, people would ask me if there was real technology in China, if there's innovation … the whole market has changed."

China has its fair share of tech giants, including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent, firms that have changed how Chinese consumers operate by providing a variety of services. Some are even making a big splash in artificial intelligence, which entrepreneurs say will be the next big thing to shake up the world.

The country is also now home to 50 unicorns — private companies worth more than $1 billion — according to CB Insights. Some are even expanding globally within their first year of operation, and experts are expecting a wave of Chinese tech IPOs to come soon.

"The China market itself is huge, so it's very important to first focus on the Chinese market, but there are a lot of things that are common that can run even in neighboring markets," said Anu Hariharan of Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator. There's "plenty of interest in expanding globally … for example, (Uber competitor) Didi is operating in Brazil."

Eyes will also be on how China continues to position itself on the world stage. In January, President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to give a speech at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. His message positioned China as a global connector and leader, and it's one Beijing has continued to push.

China has timed its move just as the U.S. has appeared to retreat from the international stage, giving Xi an opportunity to fill the gap. For example, China's "One Belt, One Road" giant trade and diplomatic initiative serves to boost its global influence.

But critics say China, in reality, is far from achieving the image of the global leader that it's painted for itself because of economic woes, murky markets and human rights abuses at home.

The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions will be held over the course of three days in the port city of Dalian, starting Tuesday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to speak during the event.