Sichuan economy grows in stature

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The economy of Western China is now better recognized by the rest of the world, former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman told the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Friday.

He said that Sichuan has more people, for instance, than France, and is an important global manufacturing center, backed by a strong local economy, and particularly high-quality universities.

Huntsman highlighted how more Americans are now visiting Sichuan - and not only China's largest cities including Beijing and Shanghai - adding that he would encourage more exchange visits between cities and states in Sichuan and the US.

Huntsman, a former governor of the state of Utah, said that he considers Sichuan, a land of promise, and that the holding of the forum in the province this year marked a very important moment for it.

He noted that CEOs from many multinationals had come to the event and planned to make long-term business commitments in the province.

He also hailed the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Barack Obama as hugely important, as it will build trust between the two sides.

Joining delegates on Friday, former UK prime minister Tony Blair added that the first meeting between the leaders of China and the US marked a crucial turning point for relationship between the nations.

"The meeting between President Xi and President Obama comes at a really critical junction in the relationship between China and America," Blair said during a press conference.

The two-day meeting between Xi and Obama is taking place in Rancho Mirage, California, and topics being discussed range from the controversial - issues like cyber security and economic reforms - to the congenial, with both presidents sharing a love of sport.

"It is profoundly important because they are meeting in a way that allows them to explore the big issues of the day economically and politically, but in a relaxed way and, I think, in a frank way," added Blair.

With tensions between the two nations fluctuating, the most important thing, said Blair, is that the leaders learn to build a working relationship in order to create a mutual feeling of cooperation during a tumultuous economic period for the West.

With Xi's fresh vision of a "Chinese dream" coinciding with a similar motto held by the US more than half a century ago, the two nations have more common ground than one might expect, he added.

"The concept of a dream or a vision is not owned by China or anyone else. It's what a nation senses when it reaches a certain level of development and realizes what it could do," Blair said.

"For a lot of people in the world, what they'd really like to know about is Chinese art, Chinese culture, Chinese history, Chinese philosophy and its traditions.

"The more they understand the history and tradition of China, the easier it will be to create a people-to-people relationship, in a sort of calm and harmonious way that's just as important as all the big geopolitical and economic questions," he said.

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