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Slowing Chinese Growth Tops APEC Agenda

Chinese President Hu Jintao was one of the first leaders to arrive in Vladivostok for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
As Asia-Pacific leaders gather in the Russian city for their annual heads-of-state forum on Saturday, slowing growth and investment in China, Asia's largest economy, is set to dominate the agenda.
Despite slower orders for Chinese manufacturers, China's growth still tops seven percent.
"In the very near term, I think the key word is stabilization," said Hong Kong economist Shen Minggao, head of China research for Citigroup, who expects to see measures to stabilize the economy and avoid social unrest undertaken.
"But promoting consumption or services are deemed longer-term measures," he says. "So in the very near term, they have to go back to the traditional growth engines, for example exports."
At a meeting of APEC ministers held on Thursday, Australian Finance Minister Penny Wong said China has a record of making the right moves.
"While there has been some moderation in Chinese growth, our observation would be — and I think that it is a sound one — that Chinese authorities have room to move, to support growth consistent with the plans they have outlined," she said.
But according to Dan Ikenson, director of trade policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank, Chinese research and development lags behind most other major economies.
"China is very good at mid-level manufacturing and assembly. They want to work their way up the value chain. The problem is they do not have the right policies in place to do that," he said. "You need a culture of dissent. Not only do we have a culture that tolerates dissent here [in the U.S.], but it encourages it, and that is what you need for innovation."
Without expanded Chinese civil liberties, he says, the country is a poor long-term driver for growth among its fellow APEC member nations. And the APEC summit itself, he adds, is not usually a place where many deals get done.
"It is almost like a cocktail party that your boss insists that you go to because maybe some future business is going to come out of some handshake or something," he said. "But there is not much more too it than that. I think there is a reluctance of countries, of government, to turn their back on it and say, 'Eh, this is not worth our time', because who knows? Maybe next year something concrete will come out of it."
At this year's summit, APEC leaders are also expected to discuss trade and investment liberalization, greater regional economic integration, and food security.

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