Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers a speech at a gathering celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of Hainan Province and the Hainan Special Economic Zone in south China's Hainan Province, April 13, 2018. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
HAIKOU, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday announced a decision to develop the island of Hainan into a pilot free trade zone.
"Here I solemnly announce that the Communist Party of China Central Committee has decided to support Hainan in developing the whole island into a pilot free trade zone, and gradually exploring and steadily promoting the establishment of a free trade port with Chinese characteristics," Xi said.
Policies and institutional systems for building a free trade port in Hainan will be established "step by step and stage by stage," Xi said at a gathering celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of Hainan Province and the Hainan Special Economic Zone.
Hainan will be China's largest free trade zone enjoying higher-level opening-up policies. It will also be the country's first free trade port since the founding of New China.
Calling the decision a major move, Xi said it highlighted the country's resolution of further opening-up and promoting economic globalization.
In developing the island into a pilot free trade zone, Hainan will be granted more autonomy to reform, and speed up the fostering of a law-based, international, and convenient business environment as well as a fair, open, unified, and efficient market environment.
The pilot free trade zone will implement high-level trade and investment liberalization and facilitation policies, and overseas businesses there will receive pre-establishment national treatment with a negative list management system, Xi said.
Focusing on sectors including seeds, medical care, education, sport, telecommunication and finance, the pilot free trade zone will push forward opening up of modern agriculture, high-tech industries and modern services, boost the development of service trade, protect the interests of overseas investors and promote the gradual opening-up of the shipping industry.
A free trade port represents the highest level of opening-up. The Hainan free trade port should carry Chinese characteristics, conform with China's conditions and the province's development orientation, Xi said.
The president also invited investors worldwide to invest and develop in Hainan and participate in developing the free trade port, and share the country's development opportunities and reform outcomes.
He noted that Hainan should focus on the development of tourism, modern services, and high-tech sectors, instead of intermediary trade and manufacturing.
In the development of the free trade port, Hainan should also enhance cooperation with countries and regions along the Belt and Road.
China is implementing a high-level trade and investment liberalization policy and exploring to establish a free trade system with Chinese characteristics in Hainan as it marks the 40th anniversary of its reform and opening-up this year, said Chi Fulin, head of the Hainan-based China Institute for Reform and Development.
"This is a significant opening-up policy and action, and the proactive move will help promote economic globalization," said Chi.
"The major breakthrough marks a further transition from policy-oriented to system-oriented opening-up," he said.
In his keynote speech at the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference Tuesday, Xi said China will translate the major initiatives of opening-up into reality, sooner rather than later, and wants the outcomes of the opening-up efforts to deliver benefits as soon as possible to all enterprises and people in China and around the world.
Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the new opening-up policy in Hainan will bring about substantial progress in Belt and Road construction and boost regional economic cooperation and integration between China and relevant countries.
"Hainan will be a key bridge connecting the countries surrounding the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region with the Chinese market," said Wu.
The province will form a complementary relationship with other free trade zones and ports, thus achieving mutual benefits and win-win results, he added.
"The South China Sea will be a sea of friendship and peace," Wu said.
With a land area of only 35,400 square kilometers, Hainan administers two-thirds of China's sea areas and is an important link on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Hainan is China's largest special economic zone. The southern-most island province also won the central government's approval to develop itself into an international tourism island in 2010.
Once remote and underdeveloped, it has become one of China's most open and dynamic regions and also a window for the country's reform and opening-up.