The second meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia, a pan-Asian organisation, was staged in April. The forum, described as a non-government and non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting understanding and co-operation among the countries of Asia, was held in the resort town of Boao on Hainan island. It was sponsored by several multinational corporations, including Goldman Sachs, CNN, Siemens and Audi, and also heavily supported by the Chinese government, which supplied its secretary-general, Zhang Xiang. Zhang, a former vice-minister of foreign trade, took over after the abrupt resignation of Agit Singh, the first secretary-general.
The 1,900 delegates, who included the prime ministers of Japan, South Korea and Thailand, were angered by the poor organisation of the event. Apologies made by Premier Zhu Rongji to a private meeting of sponsors were later repeated publicly by Zhang Xiang. The forum’s international board, headed by former Philippine president Fidel Ramos, called for an audit of the organisation’s books, saying that it expected to run a deficit-free conference next year.
Topics discussed included the liberalisation of trade and investment, financial reform, telecommunications, energy co-operation and the challenges and opportunities brought about by China’s entry into the WTO. A consensus was reached that ‘co-operation and dialogue’ were urgently needed for the prosperity of the regional economy.