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China's Xi visits financial hub Shanghai

U.S. President Joe Biden hosts the Leaders Retreat at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China President Xi Jinping visited Shanghai, where he went to several venues and learned about the city's efforts to strengthen its competitiveness as an international financial centre, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Xi made the trip on Tuesday and Wednesday and he inspected the Shanghai Futures Exchange, an exhibition on Shanghai's sci-tech innovations and a government-subsidized rental housing community, the report said.

He was seen with other government leaders, including Cai Qi, the head of the powerful Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee that oversees day-to-day affairs of the CPC.

Vice Premier He Lifeng, Shanghai's Communist party secretary Chen Jining and Mayor Gong Zheng also accompanied his visit.

A video posted by state television showed Xi inspecting a humanoid robot and a section of an exhibition showcasing China's integrated circuits technology, an industry that he has been pushing for more modernisation and self-sufficiency.

He could also be seen touring an affordable housing compound in Shanghai's Minhang district. The Chinese government has in recent months pledged more support in boosting affordable housing as high home prices in major cities like Shanghai shut out many buyers.

It was his first visit to the city since November 2020 and comes a year after historic street protests against China's zero-COVID policy broke out in Shanghai.

The visit also coincides with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone (FTZ), a testing ground for economic reforms that has struggled to live up to its initial promise of free-flowing currency and easier international trade.

Shanghai is home to China's largest foreign business community, hosting firms such as Tesla, Disney and L'Oreal, but its economy and global reputation was badly hit by a two-month-long COVID-induced lockdown last year.

Xi's visit also comes as confidence among foreign businesses and private investors in the Chinese economy remains subdued, hurt by the country's past COVID policies and a years-long regulatory crackdown on sectors from technology to property that the government began easing this year.

Overtures by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, a close Xi confidant, to both foreign firms and local entrepreneurs over the past year where he has declared the country open for business has been greeted with scepticism in light of a broader anti-espionage law, and moves such as raids on consultancies, as well as a lack of policies to boost confidence. (This story has been refiled to fix a typo in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Brenda Goh, Bernard Orr, Ella Cao and Ethan Wang; Editing by Mark Potter, Louise Heavens, Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Porter)