(Bloomberg) -- President Xi Jinping visited Shanghai for the first time in three years, putting a spotlight on China’s top financial center as investors look for policymakers to boost waning private sector sentiment and the technology sector.
Adding to the symbolism of the two-day trip, Xi was accompanied by his economic czar, Vice Premier He Lifeng, and chief of staff, Cai Qi. Xi inspected the Shanghai Futures Exchange and attended an exhibition at the city’s sci-tech innovation center, about efforts to boost the city as an international financial and technology hub, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
During the visit that ended Wednesday, Xi also stopped at a government-subsidized rental housing community to observe progress in social housing construction. The president chatted with residents while inspecting homes, broadcast footage showed. China has in recent months amped up efforts to support the property sector after a sharp downturn hurt economic growth.
“Shanghai is the most-developed and most-open area of China,” said Wang Huiyao, founder of the Center for China and Globalization. “By going there it shows President Xi is attaching a lot of importance to the development of the largest city in China.”
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Xi also observed a walking robot while attending an exhibition, footage also showed. Shanghai is a major outpost for some of China’s biggest tech operations, including Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., which made the 7 nanometer processor hailed as a major triumph after years of US sanctions. Other top firms include the artificial intelligence company SenseTime Group Inc., which has approval to roll out large-language models to the public, and e-commerce startup PDD Holdings Inc.
While the report didn’t name any specific firms Xi might have visited, his trip to one of China’s key tech hubs has been keenly awaited since news of the plan was reported. It may offer reassurance to the business community after crackdowns in recent years wiped out the equivalent of billions of dollars worth of market values from tech and other enterprises.
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The Chinese leader’s first public visit to Shanghai since November 2020 comes a year after the city saw rare street protests against strict Covid curbs that upended business activity and daily life. The trip is also likely to be viewed as a signal of China’s determination to reinvigorate investor confidence as the nation’s post-pandemic recovery continues to struggle.
The trip closely follows Xi’s attendance at an economic summit in California this month, where he sat down with US President Joe Biden in a bid to steady ties between the world’s largest economies. He vowed to make life easier for foreign investors, underscoring Beijing’s concern about a drop-off in investment.
--With assistance from Li Liu and Charlie Zhu.
(Update with analyst quote in the fourth paragraph.)
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