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3, 2, 1: Chinese president puts economy centre stage for G20 with three big questions

President Xi Jinping laid out his agenda ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou on Saturday by posing three questions: can China’s economy maintain stable growth, can China persist with reform and opening up, and can China avoid the middle-income trap?

In a speech delivered to the Business 20, a group advising the state leaders at the G20, Xi said China would not shy from painful reforms or back-pedal on opening up its markets.

The remarks were an apparent effort to counter claims that China has dragged its feet on reform and become more hostile to foreign businesses since Xi came to power more than three years ago.

“We are confident and able to maintain medium-to-high-speed growth … to bring more chances for development to the world,” Xi said. “China will not swerve on ­reform.”

Multimedia interactive special: historic G20 meeting in Hangzhou – the leaders, their agenda and the redrawing of the world’s economic order

Xi peppered his 50-minute speech with references to “a phoenix reborn from fire” and “a brave man who dares to cut off his own hand” as he tried to drive home Beijing’s determination to make painful changes and defend free trade.

On the thorny trade issue of excess steel and coal production, Xi said China had taken the “strongest measures” to address overcapacity, a view Washington and Brussels are sure to counter.

Xi also said China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan would bring “common prosperity” to countries along the routes, although he did not mention last week’s suicide attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek.

“China’s opening up is not a solo performance, it is open to all sides to take part. China is not seeking its own sphere of influence but to support common development; and China is not expanding its own backyard but creating a garden for every country to share,” Xi said.

Can China seize chance at G20 to defend globalisation?

China is treating the G20 as an event of great political significance and a symbol of China’s “leadership” in global economic governance.

While not naming any other country in his speech and avoiding tough talk on any specific geopolitical issues from the South China Sea to the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, Xi called for general reconciliation and an end to the “cold war” mindset.

“The outdated cold war mentality should be discarded. We urgently need to develop an inclusive, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable new security concept,” Xi said.