China's world-class business environment plans ‘address' some concerns, but ‘implementation key'

Asia's Tech News Daily

Digital Economy Partnership Agreement.

China is ready to open new economic areas and provide more conveniences to lure foreign talent and investment in the latest bid to build a market-oriented and law-based business environment which aligns to high-standard international trade agreements.

The State Council has selected six of China’s economically developed cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Chongqing – to take part in a pilot programme, according to a circular released on Thursday.

The six cities already have a heavy presence of foreign business and residents, and are at the forefront of China’s business environment.

The move comes as the world’s second largest economy is trying hard to fight potential decoupling, supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus and the continued attempts at technological containment by Western countries.

Headlines suggest that they address some of our major concerns, but implementation is key, and that is where China fell short over the last decade

Joerg Wuttke

“Headlines suggest that they address some of our major concerns, but implementation is key, and that is where China fell short over the last decade,” said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

Compared to previous preferential policies, tax breaks and market access, China’s cabinet has pledged to optimise its service for both investors and international talent.

It plans to build a one-stop resolution centre for foreign-related commercial disputes in pilot cities and also provide efficient and convenient channels for international commercial dispute resolution after previous disputes were handled in Hong Kong.

The authorities will also revamp government portal websites to allow expatriates to better understand China’s investment, work and living information, while integrating foreign-related approvals into one website.

Local authorities are also being encouraged to introduce more foreign talent, according to their needs and criteria.

On the surface, China remains a magnet for investment given its rapid handling of the coronavirus pandemic, wider market access and its large consumer market and China’s utilised foreign direct investment rose by 23.4 per cent from a year earlier to US$142 billion in the first 10 months of the year.

However, it still faces constant challenges, including the risk of decoupling amid strategic competition with the United States, denial of access to Western technologies and trade blocks dominated by Western countries.

One of Beijing’s tactics is to push forward higher-level opening-up, with its applications recently submitted to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and Digital Economy Partnership Agreement.

On Tuesday, Vice-Premier Liu He said opening-up should concentrate on integration with international rules, while encouraging the introduction of hi-tech direct investment from developed economies.

Beijing has already shown the intention to open its professional services wider and allow private and foreign businesses into new areas.

According to the State Council, China will also explore building a recognition list for international vocational qualification certificates once they are not directly related to public safety and people’s lives and health and their risks are controllable.

The State Council specifically mentioned the use of high-definition maps in smart cars, the exploration of blockchain technologies in public service, logistics and accounting as well as the pricing and trading mechanism concerning intellectual property rights.

The business environment, which is often measured with a variety of parameters, has been high on the agenda of Premier Li Keqiang in recent years and has become a key gauge for local government performance.

The National Economic Research Institute, a Beijing-based think tank that compiles a business environment index, found China’s rating in the past 15 years has improved with the index rising by more than 0.6 points in the period to 3.63 in 2019.

However, the 0.07-point improvement in 2017-2019 was significantly smaller than 0.51 points in the previous four years, it said, calling for more reforms.

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