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Reforming China a valuable inspiration for global economy

With the international economy sinking in the quicksand of the "new mediocre," the G20 summit this week may inspire dialogue on how to circumvent the worst of this present condition.

In the post-financial crisis era, which is characterized by low interest, low investment and low growth, the world economy needs more than a shot of adrenaline -- it needs a cure to its chronic ills.

On that front, China could be a source of inspiration.

Hangzhou, the host city, home of e-commerce giant Alibaba and an emerging tech hub, is an epitome of what China has achieved in its ongoing structural overhaul.

Though China posted its slowest annual growth in a quarter of century last year, policy makers have avoided taking any radical stimulus moves, so far. Instead, they have resorted to supply-side reforms to optimize the economic structure; slashed costs and overcapacity; and boosted efficiency and innovation.

Those efforts are painful and take time to deliver, but some positive results are beginning to take shape.

The economy is now more balanced, and driven more by consumption than investment. Consumption contributed 73.4 percent to China's gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first half of 2016, up 13.2 percentage points from the same period last year.

Technology and innovation are also booming, catapulting some Chinese firms to global fame. Earlier this month, Chinese on-demand mobility (ODM) service Didi Chuxing was named by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 companies that have changed the world this year.

China is now the world's second largest destination for venture capital after the United States. Helped by streamlined procedures, every day in China, an average 14,000 new businesses are being registered.

The torpid state-owned firms are undergoing modernization and restructuring, coal and steel companies are slashing capacity, and the government is ceding more power to the market.

These changes may not jump start the economy but will ensure long-term growth. Moreover, China could share its experience of managing transitions to encourage and help other countries.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of structural reforms as the world economy risks slipping into the low-growth trap, a cycle in which diminished expectations for growth become self-fulfilling.

The zero- or even negative-interest rates typical in many developed economies may have played a supportive role shortly after the global financial crisis, but their use is nearing exhaustion now.

The root of the problem runs deep -- many economies are struggling with aging populations, slow productivity growth, unequal wealth distribution, trade protectionism and lackluster innovation, which can only be solved by a profound overhaul and upgrade of their current modes of development.

Against this backdrop, an over-reliance on monetary loosening does more harm than good. Instead, leading economies need to make substantive steps to make the labor market more flexible, reduce trade and investment barriers, and support innovation; Areas where little progress has been made.

China's story proves that structural reforms may be hard but rewarding. In fact, there are no better options if policy makers want to avert further deterioration of the world economy.

The stakes will be high as leaders chart the future course of the world economy at the upcoming Hangzhou summit. Advancing structural reforms, a powerful action, would be the most responsible answer to the call of the times.


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