Economic zones key to China's continued opening up, say Communist Party bosses

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers his work report during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2019.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers his work report during the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - Chinese officials have been talking up the promise of the country's future growth zones, including the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA), Yangtze economic belt and a new pilot free trade zone on Hainan island, saying these show the world China's continued commitment to opening up.

Senior Chinese Communist Party officials made the comments at provincial meetings held across Beijing in the past two days. These meetings are part of the National People's Congress (NPC) annual gathering of lawmakers which began this week.

These economic zones, together with the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in northern China, were highlighted by Premier Li Keqiang in his Budget speech on Tuesday (March 5), as a key part of China's future development.

On Thursday (March 7), Hainan party secretary Liu Cigui said the island province was an important door and window for China's opening up.

President Xi Jinping said last year that a free trade zone and port would be set up on the island, known as China's Hawaii, by 2020 and 2025 respectively.

"Hainan has both abundant land and maritime resources, and once set up, will be the country's biggest economic zone," said Mr Liu, who was speaking at a meeting of lawmakers from the province. The upcoming free trade zone will span 35,400 sq km, bigger than all of China's 11 existing free trade areas combined.

Mr Liu noted that more than 200 provincial cadres have been sent to understudy at China's other free trade zones.

 
 
 

Addressing another key zone on Wednesday, Shanghai party secretary Li Qiang said the integration of the Yangtze River economic belt - which was upgraded to a national level policy on Tuesday - provided a strategic layout for China's latest round of economic reforms and opening.

The region includes Shanghai, and the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui.

Speaking at a meeting of the municipality's lawmakers, Mr Li Qiang said the policy would open up both regions in the Yangtze River delta, and areas further upstream.

As for the GBA, which includes the nine municipalities of Guangdong province in addition to Hong Kong and Macau, provincial party boss Li Xi said on Wednesday that the province would tap the experience of the latter two regions to create a globally competitive business environment to draw talent and businesses to the GBA.