NEW thinking about the future of the Chinese economy will ultimately lead to fundamental changes in the country, the official media has predicted. According to the China News Service, a central message from the just-ended meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is that the people's representatives have started to consider the future of the Chinese economy as part of a global network. At the same time delegates to the two conclaves also strongly appealed for the improvement of the rule of law - rather than administrative orders - to regulate economic activities, ''From past experience, there will always be drastic changes in people's way of thinking before important social evolutions take place,'' the agency said. For example, deputies from Yunnan province, which borders Southeast Asian countries, no longer confined their attention on local and regional economies, but were setting their sight on co-operation with the neighbouring countries. Likewise, the three northeast provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang have become more active in exploring economic strategies which will be complementary to the economies of northeast Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. The China News Service noted that in the past, opening the domestic market to foreign products was considered detrimental to native industries. However, the deputies were now convinced that domestic industries could have faster development if competitionwas allowed. While different localities are still trying to woo foreign investment, the NPC and CPPCC members have started talking about expanding Chinese investment in other countries. They also warned that without setting up an economic mechanism compatible with the world economy, China's reform and door opening could not enter a new stage. The deputies noted that fair competition was the essence of the market economy. However, if the legal system was flawed, fair competition would not be possible. The news agency said that the call for fair competition not only came from the backward central and western provinces, but also from private entrepreneurs, township and rural enterprises.