From April 24 to 25, a small seaside village that is home to just over 20,000 people in China's southernmost island province of Hainan, will draw the world's attention as the 2004 annual conference of Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) is convened here.
The theme of this year's BFA annual conference has been set as "Asia seeks common success, an Asia that opens up to the world," which demonstrates that with the trend of globalization, Asian countries and regions have a common will to strengthen regional economic exchange and cooperation, to realize common development, and to further open up to the rest of the world.
This year's BFA annual conference has attracted high-profile political leaders, scholars and entrepreneurs not only from Asia, but also from other parts of the world.
The annual conference's secretariat has announced that Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, George Herbert Walker Bush, former president of the United States, and Ernesto Zedillo Ponce De Leon, former president of Mexico, will all deliver speeches during the BFA annual conference to expound on their views and opinions on Asian issues.
Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile and his New Zealand counterpart Jim Sutton will have dialogue and communications with trade ministers of Asian countries participating in the conference.
Asia has drawn worldwide attention, because the continent, with 56 percent of the world's population, has maintained high-gear economic growth and has been establishing itself as the world's manufacturing center and booming financial and securities market, as well as the world's largest consumer market over recent years.
Asia has played an increasingly important role in the world economy. To date, the overall GDP (gross domestic product) of Asian countries has accounted for one quarter of the world's total.
The economic growth rates of Asia's major developing countries, such as China, India and Thailand, all exceeded 8 percent in 2003, pulling the Asian economy to a new high since the outbreak of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.
According to statistics from the World Trade Organization (WTO), in 2003, China had overtaken Japan to become the world's third largest importing country, only after the United States and Germany.
In 2003, China attracted US$535 billion of foreign investment, which indicated that the country has become an increasingly important cooperative partner in Asia as well as for the rest of the world.
Chi Fulin, head of the China (Hainan) Reform and Development Institute, said unbalanced economic development still exists amid Asian countries. Compared with the European Union and North America free trade area, Asia's regional economic cooperation remained in its initial stage, still lacking substantial and detailed development measures.
The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, the Iraq war and the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which are among top security concerns in today's world, have all occurred in Asia. In addition, Asia is also an important region for the international anti-terrorist cooperation, Chi noted.
He said that as a non-governmental forum, the BFA offered a platform for all the people who care about Asian issues to carry out dialogues on an equal footing and also offered them an opportunity to better understand Asia. The BFA will play an irreplaceable role in the cooperation between Asian countries and other parts of the world.
(Xinhua News Agency April 22, 2004)