DALIAN, China — Despite many risks and challenges facing the world's second-largest economy, views on China were largely optimistic at the World Economic Forum meeting here in Dalian.
The positivity may have seemed incongruous with the perennial spate of doomsaying headlines, but the line held strong throughout "Summer Davos." During the three-day gathering — named after the forum's annual marquee event in Switzerland — business leaders, policy makers and experts focused on imagining the future, and how the world ought to position itself to take tomorrow by storm.
While some of the forum's discussions looked beyond the horizon — from smarter-than-human artificial intelligence to solving political strife — much of the discussion focused on the here and now of China, which has hosted the annual meeting for about a decade.
The tone was set with Premier Li Keqiang's opening speech on Tuesday, which offered a rare glimpse into what authorities are thinking in the world's second-largest economy.
During his address, Li touted the idea of a Chinese economy driven by innovation. It's an image that China has been eager to push, marking a clear shift from the old stereotype of a "copycat China," especially as entrepreneurship has boomed. The premier also made it clear that Beijing was aware of risks facing growth, and assured the audience that authorities were equipped to handle them.
China's growth momentum remains strong, according to Helen Zhu, managing director and head of China equities at BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager. And a wider crackdown that has hit the financial sector isn't unusual in a developing market — while holes would take a while to fix, it's a good sign the government is working on it now, she said.
"Any problem that's taken seven, nine years to build up will not be resolved overnight, so that path towards the resolution will not be a straight line either," Zhu said.
Former Chinese central bank advisor Li Daokui even predicted the country's economic growth will accelerate once the country gets new leaders who aren't scared. Many officials have been swept up in a major anti-corruption campaign waged by President Xi Jinping, so without the worry of being taken out in a crackdown, the thinking is that heavily-vetted new authorities may become bolder in pushing forth much-needed reforms.