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Ongoing FTP Construction

Hainan free trade port work on track

By Ma Zhiping in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-14


A cargo ship from Qatar docks at a port in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, on Feb 16. [Photo/Xinhua]

Epidemic hasn't slowed down round-the-clock construction in island province

Work at construction sites in the Haikou Jiangdong New District, a new 298-square-kilometer benchmark area to promote construction of the China (Hainan) Free Trade Port, has been continuing apace, even under the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Xu Jinhong, a company manager who has participated in many highway projects and has been at the new district for more than a year, said: "The construction speed of road networks in Jiangdong is one of the fastest in China. You see changes month by month and Jiangdong has taken on a brand-new look in only half a year."

Similar busy scenes, which demonstrate Hainan's efforts to catch up with the goals set by the central authorities to engineer the country's comprehensive and in-depth reform and opening-up drive, are also common in other cities and counties across Hainan, China's 12th and largest free trade zone with a geographic size about 32 times that of Hong Kong.

Hainan has made solid progress in developing a legal system and convenient business environment that matches world-class norms over the past two years, and a new pattern of comprehensive opening-up is substantially ready to launch construction of the nation's free trade port, according to provincial government officials.

At a gathering to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Hainan province and the Hainan Special Economic Zone in Haikou, the provincial capital, on April 13, 2018, China announced the plan to build the whole of Hainan Island into a pilot international free-trade zone and gradually explore building a free-trade port with Chinese characteristics. 

The State Council, China's Cabinet, issued the General Plan for China (Hainan) Pilot Free Trade Zone on Oct 16 of that year, introducing a series of new policies to encourage overseas investment in the Hainan FTZ to promote high-standard and high-quality reform and opening-up.

Known as a test bed for many of the country's innovations, the island province-an important hub of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road-has fully embraced the new push to further open up with encouraging gains seen, especially its economic transition from over-reliance on real estate to a healthy and sustainable mix that highlights tourism, modern services and high-tech industries.

In the past two years, Hainan has carried out bold innovative reforms and has seen good results on a range of issues including establishing well-integrated planning for social and economic development and a well-linked administrative mechanism, introducing pre-establishment national treatment with a negative list, attracting headquarter-building and talent resources from the outside world, improving intellectual property protection and financial product diversity and building systems that conform to international investment and trade rules, said Liu Cigui, secretary of the CPC Hainan Provincial Committee.

Hainan has made institutional reform a central plank of high-quality development of the Hainan FTZ, said Liu, adding that future reforms will give full play to the role of the market in allocating resources, promoting liberalization of investment and trade, encouraging the free flow of funds, goods and people, and accelerating the development of a unified market environment.

An appraisal report by the Development Research Center of the State Council said 97 percent of the tasks set for the Hainan FTZ by the central authorities have been implemented, boosting confidence in all sectors and laying a sound foundation for accelerating construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port.

The progress and unprecedented prospects are enticing a growing flow of investment to Hainan. One hundred projects covering infrastructure, tourism, modern services and high-tech industries were launched across the island on Monday, bringing the total that have started construction in the past two years to 893, with investment hitting 484.1 billion yuan ($68.7 billion).

Agreements have been signed for another 493 projects, expecting a new flow of 429.2 billion yuan, according to the Hainan provincial government.

To date, 71 institutional innovations have been made and proven original, effective with quite a number of them able to be copied by other areas in the country, said Sun Dahai, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Hainan Provincial Committee.

One innovation cited by the State Council as a model reform is the simplification and speeding up of business registrations, which has cut the time needed to go through all the steps to three days on average, Sun said.

Cai Xiaoying, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Services (Hainan) Co Ltd, said it took only one month for PwC to receive a business license in Haikou.

PwC is one of the companies to have experienced the optimized local business environment through a "single window"-an integrated innovative platform for international trade where an enterprise can handle more than 20 businesses online, such as registrations of domestic and foreign-funded enterprises, foreign investment filings, foreign exchange registrations, bank account openings and project approvals or filings.

The platform also provides investors with quality "package" government services and "housekeeping" daily life services including certifications of senior talent, auto and home purchases, medical treatment, entry-exit visas and children's education.

To date, 30 international and domestic conglomerates such as EY, Alibaba, Tencent, China Tourism Group, Temasek, General Electric and Qualcomm have established their headquarters or regional headquarters on the tropical island, which connects with 65 cities overseas through 103 international air routes.

"The Free Trade Account system in Hainan, which links with the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, has proved to be fast and convenient and makes international business transactions much easier," said Zheng Xiaobo, general manager of a joint venture between Hainan Provincial Development Holdings Corp Ltd and Xiamen ITG Group Corp Ltd.

China's more than 22 million glaucoma victims see new hope of better improving their vision following the recent approval by the National Medical Products Administration for the registration of a glaucoma treatment product by a United States company, based on real-world clinical study data collected in the Hainan Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone on the eastern coast of Hainan.

Being the first foreign medical device using real-world study data gathered in China for official registration, the innovative approval made it possible for Chinese patients to access advanced foreign drugs and medical devices in the Hainan pilot zone three to five years ahead of other places around the country, according to Gu Gang, director of zone administration.

He said the move is good news for Chinese medical tourists, roughly 600,000 in number, who travel abroad every year, mainly for foreign innovative drugs and medical devices.

Liu Zhe, vice-president of Wanbo New Economic Research Institute, said Hainan has been moving forward with infrastructure construction and business facilitation as well as its pioneering role in promoting offshore duty-free policies, new energy and environmentally-friendly vehicles while developing centers for basic scientific research.

Ruslan Tulenov, from Kazakhstan, one of the 7,700 foreigners who have been attracted to start careers in Hainan since early 2018, foresees a rosy future for the Hainan Free Trade Port.

"I believe more and more international companies, including those from Belt and Road Initiative participating economies, will settle down in Hainan to share its growth opportunities, which will also be good for the development of young people like me," said Tulenov.

Shen Xiaoming, governor of the province, said Hainan has taken proactive steps to preserve its lush rainforests, verdant mountains and pristine sandy beaches-both to protect ecological diversity and also to make sure the province's proud reputation as a tourist haven remains unblemished so that "the best resources are kept for the best investors".