One year of greater openness, with more on the way

China Plus Published: 2019-03-28 19:31:15
Share this with Close
Messenger Messenger Pinterest LinkedIn

By Wang Shanshan

Looking back at the changes that China has experienced during the past 40 years of reform and opening up, most people here would tell you that these changes have taken place at a pace unseen anywhere else in the world. And the pace of change has accelerated even more over the past year.

At the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan last April, President Xi Jinping announced a set of new measures to significantly broaden market access, create a more attractive investment environment, strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights, and expand imports. The announcements were a clear signal that the government would pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up by giving a boost to its progress.

The Haiwen Bridge opens to traffic in Hainan Province on March 8, 2019. [Photo: Xinhua]

The Haiwen Bridge opens to traffic in Hainan Province on March 8, 2019. [Photo: Xinhua]

One year on, the government has kept its word.

The China International Import Expo, the world's first national-level import expo, was held for the first time in Shanghai. Deals worth 57.83 billion U.S. dollars were inked at this massive event.

A major new law on foreign investment was approved by the National People's Congress in March and will come into effect on January 1 next year. It will substantially improve the protections of the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in China.

Tariffs were cut for a wide array of products such as automobiles, consumer goods, and medicines. These cuts lowered the overall import tariff from 9.8 percent to 7.5 percent.

These measures to improve the business environment saw China rise 32 places in the World Bank country rankings of the global business environment. And they triggered a swift response from foreign investors. The government work report released by Premier Li Keqiang during the annual meeting of the national legislature says that the number of newly-established foreign-invested enterprises jumped by 70 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. And data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that foreign direct investment (FDI) totaling 142 billion U.S. dollars flowed into China in 2018. This is a 3 percent increase on the previous year, a remarkable achievement given the 19 percent fall in global FDI last year – the third consecutive year of declines, putting global FDI at its lowest level in 10 years.

Perhaps the most high-profile new foreign enterprise was the American electric car maker Tesla, which broke ground on a new factory in Shanghai in January. It is the company's first factory outside the United States, and the first totally foreign-owned new energy vehicle manufacturer to set up shop in China.

Some commentators said these measures were taken in an attempt to reach a trade deal with the United States. They neglected the fact that the measures were rolled out long before the trade spat. For instance, the import expo was announced in May 2017 and the draft law on foreign investment was first unveiled in 2013. And despite the increasingly complicated world economic climate and mix of internal and external factors putting downward pressure on growth, the government is unwavering in its support for reform and opening-up. This can be seen in the announcements made by Premier Li Keqiang at this year's Boao Forum.

Premier Li Keqiang makes a speech at the opening plenary of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference in Boao, a coastal town in China’s southern island province of Hainan on March 28, 2019. [Photo: Xinhua]

Premier Li Keqiang makes a speech at the opening plenary of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference in Boao, a coastal town in China’s southern island province of Hainan on March 28, 2019. [Photo: Xinhua]

Premier Li said that concrete laws and regulations will be drafted to ensure the smooth implementation of the new foreign investment law, and that existing rules that conflict with the new law will be abolished or amended. By the end of June, the government will again revise and release the negative list for foreign investment in order to further relax controls on market access. Forced transfers of technology are explicitly prohibited by the new foreign investment law and intellectual property rights protections will be strengthened. And the financial market is being pushed towards greater openness.

Although protectionism and isolationism are on the rise worldwide, most countries still uphold the universal rules of cooperation and openness, which have proven effective in reducing poverty and fostering the pursuit of shared growth. And it's the consensus of the attendees at this year's Boao Forum, which is being held under the theme "Shared Future, Concerted Action, Common Development."

Just this week, Italy became the first member of the G7 to sign onto the Belt and Road Initiative. Michele Geraci, the undersecretary of state with Italy's Ministry of Economic Development, who is attending the Boao Forum, said that more countries will join the initiative, because they can see the benefits. This is as strong an indicator as any of the direction in which the world wants to go.

Note: The author is a current affairs commentator with China Media Group.

Related stories

Share this story on


LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.