Interview with Wei Sun Christianson: Morgan Stanley bullish on China growth, eyeing business expansion

Morgan Stanley's China CEO Wei Sun Christianson said Friday that the investment bank continues to be bullish on China's growth and will seek business expansion in the country after authorities promised to widen foreign access to the financial sector.

"We are not worried about China's growth because the slowdown is more policy-induced as there is increasing tolerance among policymakers to embrace slower growth for more focus on quality," Christianson, also Asia Pacific Co-CEO of Morgan Stanley, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 2017 Fortune Global Forum.

The investment bank last month predicted China's economy will expand 6.8 percent year on year in 2017, up from a previous forecast of 6.6 percent, and 6.5 percent for the next year, citing better-than-expected progress in China's key transitions.

Christianson expects consumption to continue to play a key role in stabilizing growth, and exports to pick up on the back of the global recovery, which will combine to ease downward pressure from slowing investment in infrastructure and the housing market.

By 2030, the size of China's consumption market will reach 12 trillion U.S. dollars, she said.

Optimistic on the outlook, Morgan Stanley expects China to avoid the middle-income trap and achieve high-income status by as early as 2025, which Christianson said would entail huge opportunities for the world economy.

On reform and opening-up, Christianson said the government's latest step to raise foreign ownership limits in financial firms is a good demonstration of that commitment.

China's Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao had earlier disclosed that foreign businesses will be allowed to own as much as 51 percent of shares in a joint venture in securities, funds and futures industries, up from the current 49 percent.

"The move is really great news for Morgan Stanley, which will allow us to get the management control and expand businesses. We are very anxious for the upcoming guidance and obviously we will apply," the bank's China CEO said.

Looking back, China's reform and opening-up drive has been progressing at a steady pace and China, with its success, has proved that all the reform initiatives have to be carried out in competent fashion, she noted.

Concerning the downside risks in the economy, Christianson pointed to pressures from regulators' deleveraging process and the property market, but ruled out the scenario of a financial shock, saying the impacts would be "limited and manageable."

The government strategy and focus to clean up the finance sector is the right direction, and the question lies in execution, which requires coordination of difference government agencies, she noted, adding China's decision to create a new committee for financial stability and development will help address the issue.

"China's strong leadership and proper implementation of policies will get the country to an even greater position," she said.

The three-day 2017 Fortune Global Forum, held in Guangzhou from Wednesday to Friday, has chosen "Openness and Innovation: Shaping the Global Economy" as its theme.