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Chinese array their broad investment vistas for more Western businessmen

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It was the kind of international conference Peking likes to play host to. Some of the world's top bankers and financiers come to town (at their own expense) to learn firsthand about China's future development.

In the thickly carpeted meeting rooms of the Great Hall of the People, the messages spill out simultaneously in Chinese and English: Be patient. Think long term. China's policies are basically sound, even if they are not yet ``perfected.''

The appeals to consider China's potential and to cooperate in the government's ambitious economic development programs come from authoritative Chinese spokesmen in the state planning and economic commissions, the Foreign Trade Ministry, and the state banks -- and of course from the country's top technocrat, Premier Zhao Ziyang himself.

Sophisticates from London, Zurich, Tokyo, and New York like the sound of it, warming to the challenge of turning China's vast labor force and presumably massive but largely undetermined resources into a modern industrial dynamo.

The conference, held in Peking last week by the Bank of China and Euromoney Publications Ltd. of London, was just such an event. The meeting brought an unusually broad range of potential investors face to face with Chinese officials hungering for foreign capital and technology. Each of the 10 financial institutions that sponsored the meeting, reportedly at a cost of $65,000 each, brought in scores of clients to hear about investment opportunities inside the People's Republic.

Even some of the most experienced China hands were moved to praise the Chinese government's forward-looking presentations, though they had heard much of it before. ``I'm impressed by the strength of the Chinese commitment [to the open-door policies] and by the candor of their discussions,'' said one top financial officer from a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company.

The predominantly West European and Japanese crowd was here mainly to learn and not to press concerns about the difficulties of doing business in China.

``This is very much an attempt to enlighten foreign bankers about the problems [of economic development] in China,'' Lord Chalfont, chairman of the conference, told the Monitor.

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