The 2015 Imperial Springs International Forum (ISIF) convened leading Chinese and international political, business, and intellectual leaders to engage in conversation and advance constructive solutions to today’s critical global security, economic, and development challenges. The Carnegie–Tsinghua Center served as the forum’s knowledge partner and organized a series of panel discussions on these topics. Located at the Imperial Springs International Convention Center north of Guangzhou, ISIF highlighted Guangdong Province’s historical position at the center of China’s bold reforms and engagement with the world. 

Discussion Highlights

  • Venue for Constructive Dialogue: The keynote speakers underscored the conference as an important venue for discussing China’s role in the world and opportunities to forge greater international cooperation on issues such as economic development and regional security. Guangdong’s Party Secretary Hu Chunhua praised the forum as an “important platform” for exchange about the province’s economic development and global outreach through China’s Belt and Road Initiative. President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries Madame Li Xiaolin suggested that the event was a valuable opportunity to discuss common security and economic challenges facing China and the world. 
  • China’s Remarkable Growth: Speakers praised China’s remarkable economic achievements over the past several decades. Former Australian prime minister and ISIF co-chair Kevin Rudd noted Guangzhou’s economic development since his first visit in the mid-1980s, thanks in part to the efforts of President Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, who opened the province’s special economic zones in the early reform era. Former Mexican president and conference co-chair Felipe Calderon asserted that China’s growth has “changed the world’s economic equation” and suggested that the shift to a low-carbon economy is a key area of future growth as the country adjusts to a slower economic pace. 
  • China on the World Stage: Speakers observed how China’s economic success and Xi Jinping’s leadership have led China to become more active in global affairs. Madame Li stated that people around the world are paying more attention to China’s policies. Speakers concluded that China will be a vital actor in global efforts to cultivate economic prosperity and preserve a stable, secure international environment. 
  • An Interdependent World: Speakers noted that economic interdependence and transnational challenges such as climate change have linked the fates of individual countries more closely together. Former Italian prime minister and conference co-chair Romano Prodi explained that globalization is driving international affairs and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Marty Natalegawa, a forum adviser who previously served as Indonesia’s foreign minister, asserted that change is a permanent feature of the international system that calls for countries to remain adaptive. President of the International Peace Institute and conference adviser Terje Rød-Larsen suggested that the security challenges facing the world, such as terrorism and instability in the Middle East, will only be mitigated through coordinated efforts. Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and forum co-chair, explained that global connectivity extends to digital infrastructure, urging countries to keep the Internet a single open and secure platform through which information can be freely exchanged.
  • The Belt and Road Initiative: Speakers emphasized the potential of Xi Jinping’s landmark foreign policy initiative to spur development and advance connectivity between China, neighboring countries, and overseas markets. Rudd pointed out that many Western observers do not yet understand China’s signature drive for infrastructure investment and connectivity and that China should continue to inform the international community about the policy’s objectives and details. Drawing on Guangdong’s track record of economic vibrancy, Party Secretary Hu advocated for building Guangzhou into a key hub on the Maritime Silk Road. Former Greek prime minister and forum co-chair George Papandreou highlighted how Chinese investment has helped revitalize Piraeus, Greece’s largest port, stating that Europe hopes to cooperate with China in implementing the Belt and Road. Speakers agreed that the ambitious initiative is poised to draw the world closer together and promote shared economic prosperity, although they acknowledged that implementing it will be a lengthy, challenging process.

Hu Chunhua

Hu Chunhua is the party secretary of Guangdong Province and a full member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. He previously served as the party secretary of Inner Mongolia.

Chau Chak Wing

Chau Chak Wing is the founding chairman of the Kingold Group and the president of the Australia China Friendship and Exchange Association, which served as a co-organizer of the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Li Xiaolin

Li Xiaolin is the president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, which served as a co-organizer of the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd served as Australian prime minister and foreign minister. He is currently president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a distinguished fellow at the Paulson Institute. He is a co-chair for the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Carl Bildt

Carl Bildt was Sweden’s foreign minister from 2006 to 2014, and was prime minister from 1991 to 1994, when he negotiated Sweden’s European Union (EU) accession. He also served as a UN special envoy to the Balkans in the late 1990s. He is a co-chair for the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Felipe Calderón

Felipe Calderón was the president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012. Prior to that, he served as secretary of energy, a federal congress member, and secretary-general of Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN). He is a co-chair for the Imperial Springs International Forum.

George Papandreou

George Papandreou was the prime minister of Greece from October 2009 to November 2011 and previously served as the country’s foreign minister from 1999 to 2004. He is currently president of the Socialist International and a member of the Hellenic Parliament. He is a co-chair for the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Romano Prodi

Romano Prodi was the prime minister of Italy from 1996 to 1998 and the president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004. He previously served as Italy’s minister of industry from 1978 to 1979. He is a co-chair for the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Marty Natalegawa

Marty Natalegawa served as the foreign minister of Indonesia from October 2009 to October 2014. Prior to that, he was Indonesia’s permanent representative to the UN for two years. He is an adviser for the Imperial Springs International Forum.

Terje Rød-Larsen

Terje Rød-Larsen is the president of the International Peace Institute, a think tank affiliated with UN headquarters in New York. Prior to that, he served as UN under-secretary general in various positions involved with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He is an adviser for the Imperial Springs International Forum.