Qianhai eyes internet access, shrugs off Shanghai threat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 9:48pm

A planned economic zone in Qianhai will allow full internet freedom, similar to what will be allowed in a proposed free trade zone in Shanghai, a senior official behind the project said on Thursday.

“In Qianhai, we will be able to see what they can see in Hong Kong,” said Wang Jinxia, director of the research and innovation centre of the Qianhai Authority, which is overseeing the proposed US$45 billion financial zone in southern China.

“We will strive for an exclusive international communication channel in which information won’t be filtered,” he said, adding that Facebook and Twitter would be available.

The news is in line with a formal policy blueprint announced by China’s state council, or cabinet, for Qianhai in June that said “a dedicated channel for international communication in Qianhai shall be supported to satisfy the needs for international communications of the enterprises in the zone”.

Qianhai, dubbed a “mini-Hong Kong”, has attracted about 1,700 companies – about 70 per cent related to financial services – with registered capital of 200 billion yuan (US$23 billion) as of mid-September.

There are 20 Fortune 500 companies registered in Qianhai, including HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and Standard Chartered.

But few details about incentives and policies within the zone, and the prospect of similar districts in Shanghai and elsewhere in China, have made some investors cautious.

The Qianhai official shrugged off concern that the Shanghai district would pose a challenge to its aim to become a financial and yuan hub, saying they would be mutually complementary and reform zones were needed to maintain China’s development.

“We’re not worried about Shanghai ... It will help promote Qianhai and shows the determination of China to reform,” said Wang, who is also a spokesman for the Qianhai Authority.

Focused on finance, logistics and IT services, the Qianhai Bay economic zone hopes to draw on Hong Kong’s expertise as a hub for offshore yuan as it seeks to provide bond and equity offerings, insurance products and trade settlement.