More than 1,400 politicians, business leaders and intellectuals from Asia and around the globe have gathered in the tropical seaside town of Boao in the Chinese island province of Hainan for the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2007, which kicked off on Saturday morning and will run until Sunday night.
BFA Secretary General Long Yongtu hosted the opening ceremony and conveyed his appreciation to participants for their support of the conference.
Established in 2001 to facilitate high-level interaction among thought leaders from Asia and the rest of the world, the BFA Annual Conference has become an important platform for discussion and debate on economic development in the Asian region. Among those sharing their views at the opening ceremony on the opportunities and challenges in Asia were Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and Chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates.
The topics of innovation, sustainable development, new technologies and increasing education investment dominated their speeches.
Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, also shared his views on these topics. Wu pointed out in his keynote speech that Asia is a vast continent with a time-honored history, splendid culture, rich resources and a large population. Since 2000, Asia's GDP has grown by over six percent annually, accounting for 20 percent of global economic growth.
Today, Asia's economy, trade and foreign exchange reserves respectively account for a quarter, a third and three quarters of the world total. The implementation of sustainable development practices in individual Asian countries has led to increasingly closer economic links within the region, flourishing regional dialogue and cooperation, expanding common interests, and a heightened awareness of the Asian identity.
"Asia has become the most dynamic region with the greatest development potential in the world and an engine driving world economic growth," Wu said, adding: "The profound changes that are taking place in Asia represent an important trend in human progress. They reflect the aspiration of Asian people to build a peaceful, cooperative and harmonious Asia."
The 2007 conference boasts the strongest lineup in the event's history of entrepreneurs and thought leaders from the business sector. The participation of some of the world's most outstanding speakers has also attracted unprecedented media interest in the conference. More than 400 journalists, half from outside China, are covering the proceedings in Boao. Another first is that organizers have teamed up with a number of leading international media, including the BBC, the Financial Times and Bloomberg, to increase media exposure of the forum and to raise its international profile.
This year's theme is "Asia Winning in Today's Global Economy -- Innovation and Sustainable Development". Discussions will include such heavyweight topics as the integration of the Middle East and South Asia subcontinent into the Asian economy, and the balanced development of China, India and other developing Asian nations. There will also be workshops on energy, resources, telecommunications, financial services, innovative industries, corporate social responsibility and environmental protection.
As in previous years, there will also be a strong emphasis on charity, with a series of fundraising activities to be held over the weekend. The money raised will be used to provide financial support for academically excellent children from disadvantaged backgrounds or minority areas. In addition, a percentage of the donations will be allocated to the reconstruction of the Jissa Hugon Village Primary School, in the city of St. Bernard in the Philippines.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the BFA Secretary General said that organizers are looking to participants for "new approaches and new ideas" on sustainable development in Asia.
"Sustainable development, the green agenda, the pace of economic growth -- these are all very pertinent issues right now for societies across Asia. Now is the time for thought leaders to engage in an active exchange of ideas, pool their intellectual and political resources, and chart the future course of Asian development. And the BFA Annual Conference is the ideal venue for that discourse."
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Qian April 21, 2007)