BEIJING (AP) -- A top Chinese official called Thursday for renewed efforts to fight protectionism and promote trade as Beijing opened an international gathering of think tank researchers to discuss responses to the global economic crisis.
The three-day gathering is part of Beijing's efforts to increase its "soft power" influence among global academics and political opinion-makers. It coincides with a campaign to raise the profile of Chinese state media abroad.
"We need to promote trade and investment liberalization," Vice Premier Li Keqiang said at the opening of the meeting hosted by the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a group formed this year and led by former Chinese officials.
The more than 900 participants at the conference include former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission; Nobel Peace laureate Mohammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, which lends to the poor; and researchers and business leaders from more than 60 organizations.
The CCIEE was created to encourage interaction between economic researchers and think tanks worldwide, said Zeng Peiyan, a retired Chinese vice premier and former economic planner who is the group's chairman. It is affiliated with China's planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.
Chinese leaders have lent their prestige to promoting the body. Premier Wen Jiabao, the country's No. 3 leader, met earlier Thursday with some of the foreign guests.
"Think tanks across the world should make use of their own unique advantages and play an even greater role in promoting world economic recovery," Zeng said at the opening ceremony. "For this purpose, we are hosting in China this summit of global think tanks."