MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday sought to reassure regional economic and political leaders that his government will keep the world’s No. 2 economy growing.
In a speech to a business conference on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Xi said China is committed to overhauling its economy and raising the living standards of its people.
China’s growth fell to a six-year low of 6.8 percent in the latest quarter as Beijing tries to shift the economy away from reliance on trade and investment. The slowdown, which has been unfolding for several years, has rippled around the world, crimping growth in countries such as South Korea and Australia that were big exporters to China.
Xi acknowledged that China’s vital signs are a concern and that it is facing “difficulties and challenges.” But he also alluded to the fact China is growing much faster than Western countries even as it slows.
“China’s positive economic fundamentals and long term trajectory remain unchanged,” he said. “China’s economy has strong resilience, great potential and ample room for maneuvering.”
He also said Beijing is stepping up efforts to counter climate change and clean up its environment, which has been heavily polluted by years of breakneck economic growth.
“We will make ecological progress part and parcel of the entire process of our economic and social development,” Xi said.
Weeks away from a deadline for an agreement to limit global warming, President Barack Obama sought to build momentum for the pact on Wednesday, reasoning that bold climate action will be a boon for businesses in Asia and around the world.
At the APEC business conference, Obama urged business leaders to reduce their own emissions and pressure governments to sign on to an international carbon-cutting pact to be discussed beginning Nov. 30 in Paris.
“Your businesses can do right by your bottom lines and by our planet and future generations,” Obama said. “The old rules that said we can’t grow our economy and protect our economy at the same time — those are outdated.”
The 21-member APEC bloc accounts for about 60 percent of the global economy. It groups the United States and China with middle powers such as Australia as well as developing nations in Asia and South America.
All the events at the summit are tightly scripted and security has been extremely heavy. Thousands of police and military personnel are deployed in Manila and some downtown thoroughfares are closed to all but official vehicles.
About two hundred protesters trying to march on APEC venues Wednesday were blocked by riot police.
The anti-globalization protesters waved “Junk APEC” banners, jostled with police and burnt a mock U.S. flag.
Xi did not comment on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which are not part of the official APEC agenda but are hanging over the summit.
On Wednesday, Obama called on China to halt further land reclamation and new construction in the disputed waters.
At a meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Obama called for “bold steps” to lower tensions over China’s territorial ambitions, which have recently centered on construction of artificial islands in seas claimed by the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
Such rifts often have strained APEC’s facade of handshakes and unity, overshadowing talks on trade and development.
In a high-profile show of support for American allies in Asia, the U.S. has conducted military maneuvers recently near islands where China has reclaimed land and built settlements
Associated Press writers Jim Gomez, Teresa Cerojano and Stephen Wright contributed to this report.