China touts global business aspirations for Yangtze River Delta, with safeguards for foreign investors
- China’s top economic planner unveils multi-year effort to restore market confidence, encourage investment and punish attempts to quell competition
- But a restrictive zero-Covid policy continues to loom large, having already taken a hefty toll on business and livelihoods in the Yangtze River Delta, which includes Shanghai
China is revving up its charm offensive to lure private and international investors, with the unveiling of a three-year action plan to turn an economically vital region – the Yangtze River Delta – into an internationally competitive business environment.
Further measures are also expected to enhance regional interconnectivity and dismantle market barriers. But for now, analysts are questioning what sort of impact the three-year plan may have, particularly as coronavirus disruptions have shown no sign of abating.
“We must adhere to the equal treatment of market players and stabilise their expectations,” the commission said. “Efforts shall be made to clean up the differential treatment of enterprises … and prevent the abuse of administrative power.
“A system to review fair competition should be put in place, together with complaint, publicity and inspection arrangements.”
The Yangtze River Delta, comprising Shanghai and the three neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui, accounts for roughly a quarter of the nation’s gross domestic product and more than a third of its exports.
It has been a key area in the advancement of Beijing’s development strategies. Earlier this year, Zhejiang – one of China’s richest provinces – outlined a strategy to narrow its wealth gap by 2025, and it has been touted as an example for the rest of the country in leadership’s common-prosperity push.
“An action plan in such an already high-standard region will be a good demonstration of China’s business environment, and it will also help boost the establishment of a national unified market,” said Pan Xiangdong, chief economist with the Beijing-based Qilai Research Institute.
There could be more cooperative regional efforts to tear down administrative barriers, coordinate business development, and boost investment and financing, he said.
While an intercity railway network has shortened the travel period in the region, local authorities have also stepped up their cooperation in the setting of various business standards, including equal public services for migrant workers.
The Yangtze River Delta Integration Index, released this week, increased by 6.5 per cent from a year prior – its fastest growth rate in three years. Released by the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design as a way to gauge integration in the region, the index has nearly doubled in the past decade.
The commission also vowed to better implement the so-called negative list system, which details forbidden or restrictive areas for foreign investment, and which has been shortened in recent years.
The NDRC said it would improve the complaint mechanism, protect legitimate interests and build a platform for global investors.
In a separate online statement, the commission released 23 local violations of fair-competition policies, using them as an opportunity to rectify local operations.
Meanwhile, the nation’s pandemic-control policy was further refined following Thursday’s meeting of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body, headed by President Xi Jinping.
“With a more scientific approach to controlling the pandemic, market confidence and vigour will recover gradually,” Pan predicted.