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China's Xi visits financial hub Shanghai in first trip in three years

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the Leaders Retreat at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., November 17, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the Leaders Retreat at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., November 17, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping visited Shanghai, where he went to several venues and learned about the city's efforts to strengthen its competitiveness as an international financial center, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Xi made the trip on Tuesday and Wednesday and he inspected the Shanghai Futures Exchange, an exhibition on Shanghai's sci-tech innovations, and a government-subsidized rental housing community, the report said.

He was seen with other government leaders, including senior communist party official Cai Qi, Vice Premier He Lifeng and Shanghai's party secretary Chen Jining.

It was his first visit to the city since November 2020 and comes a year after historic street protests against China's zero-COVID policy broke out in Shanghai.

The visit also coincides with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone (FTZ), a testing ground for economic reforms but which has struggled to live up to is initial promise of free-flowing currency and easier international trade.

Shanghai is home to China's largest foreign business community, hosting firms such as Tesla, Disney and L'Oreal, but its economy and global reputation was badly hit by a two-month-long COVID-induced lockdown last year.

Xi's visit also comes as confidence among foreign businesses and private investors in the Chinese economy remains subdued, hurt by the country's past COVID policies and a years-long regulatory crackdown on sectors from technology to property that the government begun easing this year.

Overtures by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, a close Xi confidant, to both foreign firms and local entrepreneurs over the past year where he has declared the country open for business has been greeted with scepticism in light of a broader anti-espionage law, and moves such as raids on consultancies, as well as a lack of policies to boost confidence.

(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Mark Potter, Louise Heavens and Chizu Nomiyama)