Decade of Innovation: China’s Pilot Free Trade Zones
A Decade of Progress and Development
This year, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of China’s Pilot Free Trade Zones (FTZs). The first of these was launched in Shanghai on September 29, 2013. Over the past decade, China has established 21 FTZs across the country. These zones have become new heights of China’s openness to the outside world, serving as the ‘vanguard’ of comprehensive deepening reforms and the growth poles of high-quality development.
Satellite images clearly show the tremendous changes that have taken place in the FTZs over the past decade. The Shanghai FTZ, for example, has expanded from an initial area of 28.78 square kilometers to approximately 240 square kilometers today. This expansion has included the inclusion of Lujiazui Financial District, Jinqiao Development District, Zhangjiang High-Tech District, and Lingang New District.
FTZs: Driving China’s Economic Growth
In the span of a decade, the total area of China’s FTZs has grown from less than 30 square kilometers to around 38,000 square kilometers. This expansion covers 51 cities and the entire island of Hainan. Despite occupying less than 0.04% of China’s land area, these zones have achieved 18.4% of foreign investment and 18.6% of the total import and export volume in the country in the first half of this year alone. These figures highlight the role of FTZs in driving the formation of a reform and opening-up innovation pattern that covers all regions of the country.
The Shanghai FTZ: A Beacon of Progress
The Shanghai FTZ has undergone significant changes over the past decade. It has been committed to serving the country’s opening-up strategy, innovating in promoting investment and trade liberalization and facilitation. The Shanghai FTZ has expanded from 28.78 square kilometers to 240 square kilometers, with a series of pioneering policies introduced to promote investment and trade liberalization.
Moreover, the Shanghai FTZ has not only issued the country’s first negative list for foreign investment access but also set up the first free trade account, implemented the first batch of “certificate-license separation” reforms, built the country’s first international trade “single window”, and created the first wholly foreign-owned vehicle manufacturing project. It is estimated that nearly half of the 302 FTZ system innovation achievements replicated and promoted at the national level originated from or were first tried in the Shanghai FTZ.
A New Pattern of Opening Up
The 21 FTZs in China have not only covered various regions but also contributed to replicating system innovations from the FTZs to the whole country, promoting an all-around, high-level new pattern of opening up. The Hainan Free Trade Port, for instance, has been conducting a series of deeper and wider pressure tests, with a focus on the world’s highest level of openness.
In summary, the establishment and development of the FTZs in China over the past decade have significantly promoted the country’s openness, reform, and high-quality development. These zones have become an integral part of the country’s economic landscape, driving innovation and growth while opening up new opportunities for both domestic and international businesses.
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