SHENZHEN — As China reassures the world that it is fully and firmly committed to reform and opening up to promote high-quality development, it is gaining fresh strength to advance amid rising external risks.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in southern Guangdong Province. For four decades, the pioneering and trailblazing spirit of Shenzhen has been passed on and has fueled the country’s drive toward economic prosperity, leaving doubts and skepticism in its wake.
Today’s world is radically different from four decades ago. Globalization and multilateralism are facing stronger headwinds and unilateralism and protectionism are rearing their heads more than ever before as the global community is fighting a prolonged battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this juncture, China’s consistent commitment to reform and opening up gives rise to a new pattern of multilateral cooperation to realize a better common future with a distinctive Chinese solution.
On Wednesday, President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended a grand gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen SEZ.
It was Xi’s third visit to Shenzhen, the vanguard and still the paragon of China’s reform and opening up, since he was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in 2012.
Over the past 40 years, as a trailblazer, Shenzhen has developed from a small town into a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity with international influence. In 2019, its GDP reached nearly 2.7 trillion yuan (about 400 billion U.S. dollars), growing 20.7 percent on average annually.
Xi’s visit to the city this week is a further statement made to both China and the international community that the CPC will lead the Chinese people in unswervingly following the path of reform and opening up, working hard to build China into a great modern socialist country, and striving to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
Before Xi’s arrival in Shenzhen, China unveiled a new comprehensive reform plan for the city, which gives local authorities a more direct and greater say in carrying out market-oriented economic reform, improving market and legal environments for global businesses, building a high-level open economy, serving the people to better their livelihoods, and upgrading the ecology and environment and urban spaces.
For instance, it allows Shenzhen greater authority to shorten its own negative list for foreign investors, who will also have easier access to frontline technology sectors. It offers qualified foreign experts an easier path to permanent residence in the city.
As China wades into deeper waters in its reform agenda, Shenzhen is expected to provide new solutions that can not only be tailored to its own circumstances, but can also be replicated to guide the regional and national modernization efforts.
Globalization is facing stronger headwinds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as travel restrictions and trade protectionism hold back the free flow of people, goods and money between nations.
But the pandemic also reminds us that economic globalization is an indisputable reality and a historical trend. Connectivity and exchanges are still vital for world economic development.
As a staunch supporter of globalization, China has established 45 special economic zones, new national zones and free trade zones, and shortened the negative list of foreign investment access. In 2020, China held the International Fair for Trade in Services and will host the third China International Import Expo to deliver its promise of opening the door wider to the outside. The Belt and Road Initiative is advancing steadily amid the pandemic.
At Wednesday’s gathering, Xi urged Shenzhen to expand and accelerate its all-round opening up with institutional guarantees in place.
Xi welcomed foreign countries to participate more in the reform, opening up and development of China’s special economic zones. He said foreign participation has been indispensable in the building of the special economic zones over the past 40 years, which in turn has also created vast development opportunities and offered development benefits for foreign countries.
China has generally kept its own economy in good health and contributed to about one-third of global economic growth, supplying a huge market for global goods and services.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, most U.S. enterprises continue to favor the Chinese market, with 78.6 percent of the interviewed enterprises saying they would not shift their investments away from China, up 5.1 percentage points from last year.
The European Union (EU) Chamber of Commerce in China found in a survey that the investment situation of EU enterprises in China was generally stable, with only 11 percent of the interviewed enterprises considering moving abroad or changing their investment plans, nearly the lowest level in 10 years.
These data show that the confidence foreign-funded enterprises have in China has not changed. The “magnetic field effect” produced by open cooperation cannot be defied.