Hundreds of global business leaders are in South Korea for this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, meeting to share ideas and push their free-trade agenda. In a keynote speech opening the CEO Summit at the APEC meetings, Chinese President Hu Jintao offered reassurance that his country's rapid economic growth will be a benefit, not a threat, to the world as a whole.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told global business leaders Thursday there is nothing to fear about his country's emergence as an economic superpower.

Mr. Hu spoke to the APEC Chief Executive Officers' Summit.

"China's development will not stand in the way of anyone, nor will it pose any threat to anyone. Instead, it will only benefit peace, stability, and prosperity of the world," he said.

The CEO Summit in Busan is a side event of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering. About 800 senior executives from APEC's 21 member economies are attending.

Over the past quarter century since economic reforms were introduced in China, its economy has quadrupled, raising its gross domestic product to more than $7 trillion.

China attracts tens of billions of dollars of foreign investment a year, and its massive demand for energy and raw materials have driven up world commodity prices. President Hu promised Thursday to cooperate with other nations to ensure global energy security.

The executives at the summit are devoting considerable time to discussing how to push APEC's goal of further liberalizing trade, both in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. APEC government leaders are expected to issue a statement Saturday calling for new efforts to advance the World Trade Organization's effort to reduce tariffs and trade barriers.

Executives at the summit say one of the trade issues is the need for China and other Asian countries to protect intellectual property rights. Media and software executives say they lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year due to sales of illegally copied products in Asia.

Michael Ducker, a senior executive with FedEx, says intellectual property safeguards are not just about protecting Hollywood profits.

"It not only has implication on international property rights, but in many of the developing economies, their intellectual property protection is very important to the development of their domestic economy," noted Mr. Ducker.

The executives on Thursday also discussed the threat of a deadly global flu epidemic if avian flu changes to a form that can infect humans directly. They also are expected to look for ways to reduce the loss of life and economic damage from natural disasters. APEC members Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and the United States all have suffered massive natural disasters this year and most of the delegates here represent regions vulnerable to tropical storms, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The heads of government of the 21 APEC members begin their annual two-day summit Friday.