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New measures to boost national development zones for further opening-up

Zhang Yue
Updated: May 8,2019 10:57 PM

China will move faster to boost innovation in its national economic and technological development zones in terms of openness, technology and institution-building to raise the quality of economic growth and cultivate new pacesetters in the country’s reform and opening-up endeavor.

The decision was made at the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on May 8.

The Chinese government puts great importance on innovation-driven development of the national economic and technological development zones. General Secretary Xi Jinping issued instructions on several occasions, stressing the need to upgrade cooperation of these development zones with the rest of the world to develop a higher-level open economy and open up new dimensions in all-around opening-up. Premier Li Keqiang required that the exemplary role of the national economic development zones be fully harnessed for better use of inward investment and related policies consistent with law be rolled out to make these zones pacesetters in attracting foreign investment.

Establishing national economic and technological development zones was a major strategic decision China made in the 1980s as part of efforts for wider opening-up. With the first zone opened in 1984, 219 such zones have been established so far, focusing on advanced manufacturing and producer services to drive China’s urbanization through global cooperation and industrialization. These economic development zones contribute around 10 percent to the national GDP and some 20 percent to the country’s foreign trade and paid-in foreign investment.

“There is still much untapped potential in these national zones. We must see that their industrial and institutional advantages formed over the years are fully leveraged to nurture new drivers of economic growth,” Premier Li said.

The meeting identified several key measures to boost the development of these national zones.

It called for steps to reform and innovate the operation and management model in the zones to improve the business environment. The zones will be supported to implement a simpler permitting process for investment projects and the practice of pre-commitment of compliance.

Performance in attracting investment will be included as part of the assessment and incentive system in the national zones. Entrepreneurs and innovators working in the zones will enjoy convenience and support in household registration, border entry and exit, children’s schooling, housing and venture investment.

“Local governments must foster a more enabling business environment in the national economic development zones. These zones should be in the forefront of government efforts in transforming its functions. The government needs to incentivize market players through regulatory streamlining and ensure fairness by effective oversight.” Premier Li said.

The meeting urged the national zones to take the lead in fully implementing national policies in promoting technological innovation. The government will increase support for technological innovation in these zones, including constructing large national science infrastructure and national science and technology innovation bases. More support will be given to talent training bases jointly run by the national zones and vocational schools.

“We must embrace institutional innovation to scale up policy support for innovation in science and technology. This will help ensure that these national zones lead the way in technological innovations across the country,” Premier Li said.

The opening-up of these zones will be bolstered by attracting private and foreign investors to develop and run industrial parks with distinctive features. Organizations, companies and investors from Hong Kong, Macao and foreign countries will be encouraged to participate in the running of international cooperation parks in these zones. Comprehensive bonded zones will be set up.

The government will support pilot programs to facilitate foreign exchange settlement and payments of revenue under the capital accounts in these national zones where conditions permit.

The meeting also decided to promote industrial upgrading in the national zones, including favoring them when deploying key national industrial projects. Efforts will be intensified to boost businesses start-ups and innovation in the zones.