In City Where China Welcomed the World, Xi Prepares for a Colder One
When China first opened to overseas investors, the country was desperate for foreign technology to revive its growth. Now, as China faces rising global barriers, its leader, Xi Jinping, is urging greater domestic innovation.
Mr. Xi delivered this message on Wednesday while making an anniversary pilgrimage to the southern city of Shenzhen, which in 1980 was established as a “special economic zone” next to the global financial hub of Hong Kong. Shenzhen quickly became an incubator for “reform and opening up,” the strategy championed by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping that paved the way for the country’s decades-long economic takeoff.
Forty years later, Mr. Xi said China still welcomed foreign investors, but he also said it must prepare for a less welcoming world. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the rise of barriers to the free flow of goods and technology, Mr. Xi said, a theme that he has stressed recently.
“The world economy is at low ebb and international trade and investment have drastically shrunk,” Mr. Xi said to a conference hall packed with officials and guests wearing protective masks, in a speech that was promoted heavily by the Chinese news media.
Mr. Xi did not refer directly to the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict Chinese companies’ access to American technology amid escalating tensions between the two countries. Instead, Mr. Xi broadly warned that “the world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation.” Shenzhen’s experience, he said, showed that China must “gain the initiative in the global technological revolution.”
China is striving to revive its economy and repair its international standing amid the coronavirus pandemic, which began late last year in the central city of Wuhan. The pandemic has driven negative views of China to new heights in the United States and other wealthy democracies, according to a survey