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UPDATED: November 8, 2013
China's Key Policy Meeting Set to Unveil Reform Plans

One year after assuming leadership, the new CPC Central Committee is now ready to unveil a comprehensive reform package. The key meeting kicks off on November 9 and over the next four days, China's decision-makers will draw out plans to lead the country toward further reforms, and better growth and stability.

The Communist Party of China has a tradition of making important decisions at the third plenary sessions of its central committee. Two especially notable ones took place in 1978, when the country launched its market-oriented economy, and in 1993, when it dismantled a substantial amount of the state-owned sector. And now, some expect this year's plenum to announce equally memorable measures.

"By comparison, the past decade hasn't seen too many substantial reforms, while rapid development has created many social problems. So naturally, now expectations are high. In particular, I think fiscal and tax reforms will be a major focus and a big challenge this time. Not a lot has been done in the past, so problems now such as income disparity and land transfers are more prominent,"  said Zhao Qingming, economics professor of Univesity of International Busines & Economy.

Reforming government functions and giving more rights to the market are expected to be other key discussion areas at the plenum. In order to facilitate trade and investment, the State Council has loosened more than 200 administrative approval procedures since March. Some believe the one-month old Shanghai Free Trade Zone is a preview of China's economic reform path. It's geared towards a more simplified approval process and more open categories for foreign investment.

"Such pilot programs aim to press for faster reforms of government functions. They help draw a clearer line between the market and the government. Some officials have said that the model of the Shanghai free trade zone can be replicated. This means the zone will serve as a sample to start from for more extensive reforms in other regions in the future," Professor Zhao said.

The free trade zone as a trial program has offered many advantages such as allowing foreign investment in more industries in the service sector and significantly reducing the time needed for foreign enterprises to register in the zone, domestically we have already seen the government easing market access and encouraging more social investment. For example since last month it has become easier for entrepreneurs to register companies, as some requirements regarding minimum registered capital have been either loosened or scrapped. It means small and micro enterprises will get a bigger chance from now on in market competition, as they don't have to worry about not being able to obtain a proper company registration due to lack of funding.

A number of other reforms concerning state-owned enterprises, hukou registration, urbanization as well as interest and exchange rates are all likely to be covered during the four day plenum, with the ultimate goal being a more balanced overall economic development.

(CNTV.cn November 8, 2013)


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