With new negative list unveiled, what China's further opening-up means for world?
  ·  2021-07-30  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

Customers visit a duty-free shop in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, on January 31 (XINHUA) 

Foreign investors may smell new opportunities of tapping into the Chinese market, as the country has recently rolled out its first negative list in cross-border services trade in the southern island of Hainan, highlighting "equal market access" for domestic and overseas players.

With high-level openness in areas including professional services, transport and finance, the list marked a great leap forward for China to further open its market after unveiling the negative lists for foreign investment, experts said.

For instance, among the 160 services sub-sectors under the World Trade Organization (WTO) classification, around 120 saw a higher level of openness under the new list compared with China's commitments when it joined the WTO, official data showed.

Adopting a negative list in cross-border services trade demonstrated China's determination to continuously deepen reforms and actively expand opening-up, said Liu Tao, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

It will accelerate the concentration of service-related elements such as data, advanced technologies and high-end talent in Hainan and the whole nation, which is conducive to boosting China's services trade, according to Liu.

Opening-up has secured a crucial position in China's policy design since it started opening its market to the world more than 40 years ago. That stance did not change even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rollout of new opening-up measures.

After years of efforts, China has seen free trade zones spring up from coastal to inland areas and released a master plan to build Hainan into a free trade port.

Hainan is not the only testing ground for China's new policy tools. Earlier this month, China released a guideline to support the high-level reform and opening-up of the Pudong New Area in Shanghai.

Restrictions in the financial sector will be further lifted, as the country will introduce a pilot program in the Nasdaq-style sci-tech innovation board that will allow qualified foreign institutional investors to use the yuan to participate in stock offerings, according to the guideline.

"High-level reform and opening-up will provide a convenient and open environment and institutional guarantee for multinationals, thus increasing their interests in investing in China," said Nie Pingxiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC) under the Ministry of Commerce.

Gravitating toward China

Due to its opening-up measures and resilient economic fundamentals, China has become a popular destination for foreign investors looking for growth and development opportunities.

The just-concluded second Qingdao Multinationals Summit drew representatives of 390 Fortune 500 companies and 517 industry leaders. The two-day event saw 96 key foreign-invested projects signed, with the total investment value reaching 11.85 billion U.S. dollars.

Official data showed that foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Chinese mainland, in actual use, surged 28.7 percent year on year in yuan terms, or 33.9 percent year on year in U.S. dollar terms in the first half of 2021. The growth pace was the highest during the same period in almost 10 years in both yuan and U.S. dollar terms.

With a huge market, a complete industrial chain and a constantly improving business environment, China has become an important source of profit growth for multinationals, said Gu Xueming, head of the CAITEC.

As the Chinese economy is gradually transitioning from fast and quantitative expansion to quality-oriented growth, more high-quality foreign investment is needed, experts noted.

"While sustaining stable growth of foreign investment, China is expected to improve foreign-investment structure, so as to attract more investors in high-tech sectors," said Nie.

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