Xi Jinping tells China’s economic powerhouse to ‘leverage huge opportunity’ of Greater Bay Area
- President also vows to continue reform and opening up as country’s ‘correct path’
- Xi again tries to reassure small and medium-sized enterprises struggling in a slowing economy
President Xi Jinping on Thursday told China’s southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong to leverage the “Greater Bay Area” to take forward its reforms, on the final day of a four-day visit to the province.
State media released details of his remarks during the trip in the evening, with the president also vowing to continue China’s reform and opening up as its “correct path”, and telling small and medium-sized private businesses that they had Beijing’s support.
In his meeting with Guangdong authorities in the afternoon, Xi tasked cadres and officials to build the province’s free-trade pilot zone, which comprises the Nansha, Hengqin and Qianhai areas, into a high quality gateway to open up to the world.
But he also told officials to ensure development was balanced in the impoverished backwaters of the province, and to step up environmental protection and the pollution battle along with Hong Kong, Macau and neighbouring provinces.
State television also reported that Xi reaffirmed Guangdong’s role as a pioneer and test bed of China’s reform programmes – a role which has been blurred in recent years as the country’s economy grew more sophisticated after 40 years of reform.
“[You] should leverage the development of the Greater Bay Area as a huge opportunity for Guangdong’s reform and opening up,” Xi was quoted as saying on state television, referring to the scheme to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong into an economic and innovation hub.
Xi’s tour has been highly anticipated amid a slowing economy and growing grievances among private business over being marginalised by the state sector.
The trip included officiating at the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau mega bridge, visiting the impoverished northwestern rural part of the province, as well as Shenzhen, the birthplace of the country’s reform programme, and Guangzhou.
“China’s reform and opening up will never stop. And China will have more achievements to impress the world with in the next 40 years,” Xi said during his stop in Shenzhen, according to a report on state radio.
“Since we are getting better and better, why don’t we continue along the chosen path? Although we have some difficulties and problems, we have to solve and overcome them by going along the chosen road. We must firmly walk down the road of reform and opening up.”
During his visit on Wednesday to Guangzhou Mino Automotive Equipment, a developer of automatic machines to make vehicle parts, Xi again spoke of his support for small and medium-sized enterprises, which are struggling in a slowing economy.
Over the weekend ahead of Xi’s southern tour, the president and his top economic aide, Vice-Premier Liu He, also stressed the important role of the private sector in China’s economy.
“The Central Committee of the Communist Party has always valued development of medium and small-sized businesses and has always been looking for ways to encourage your growth,” Xi said. “Your accomplishments are not just for your business prosperity, but also contributing to our motherland’s strength and people’s wealth.
“SMEs can get big things done,” Xi added.
While urging Guangdong officials to allow businesses to drive innovation and steer the market, as well as reducing their operating costs, Xi also warned his cadres to stay vigilant for corruption and maintain a healthy relationship between government and business.
Additional reporting by Zhou Xin