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Xi promises peaceful, prosperous China helping neighbors

China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the annual Boao Forum in Boao, in southern China's Hainan province
China's President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the annual Boao Forum in Boao, in southern China's Hainan province

BOAO, China (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping pledged on Sunday that change and peaceful development will power his country's economic rise and sustain growth within its borders and beyond.

Stressing that peace was pivotal for the future of the world's second biggest economy, Xi appealed to business and political leaders to use diplomacy and dialogue to resolve disputes and allow wealth to spread and solve problems.

"For Asia, development is still the top question, development is still crucial for solving many problems and conflicts," Xi told a forum in Boao on the southern Chinese island province of Hainan.

"Without peace, there is no need to talk about development," to added, speaking to an audience of executives and foreign leaders including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Myanmar President Thein Sein and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Painting a picture of a richer China in 2020, when the government expects average rural and urban incomes will be double 2010 levels, Xi said his country would increasingly export its wealth to its neighbors.

China will import $10 trillion worth of goods a year five years from now, he said, and outbound investment will rise by a big margin. Domestic consumption, particularly retail consumption, will also continue to expand.

China imported $1.8 trillion worth of goods and services last year, up a meager 4.3 percent from a year ago as its economy slumped into its worst downturn in 13 years.

But Xi was upbeat about the future, saying growth would follow when his government changes China's economic structure and financial system. He did not give details.

"China's economy will continue to maintain a healthy growth rate," Xi said. "We will persist with reforms and doggedly pursue the path of changing our economic ways."

In contrast, an ailing global economy faces a difficult recovery fraught with risks, he said.

Xi's message of China's peaceful and inclusive rise was echoed earlier when nearly a dozen senior executives from Chinese state-owned firms met peers from top Australian banks and companies.

Andrew Forrest, an Australian iron ore magnate and founder of Fortescue Metals Group, who chaired the closed-door meeting, told reporters that Chinese state firm executives wanted Australians to know that China was not "expansionist" or "aggressive".

"They do not understand how people could look at China through anything but friendly eyes," Forrest said.

Security concerns in other countries have hampered or overshadowed the overseas expansion of several large Chinese companies, including telecoms equipment firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and state-owned oil company CNOOC Ltd..

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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