China opens up as US closes

With a new measure over the weekend that will substantially open up a wide range of sectors to foreign investors, China is aiming to take a leading role in defending economic globalization, which has come under serious attack from some countries, most notably the US.

Two days after it announced it would open up more sectors nationwide to foreign investors, the Chinese government on Saturday released a new “negative list” for its free trade zones (FTZs), further easing restrictions on foreign investment in several key sectors, including agriculture, mining, entertainment and telecommunications.

The new negative list, which was released jointly by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce, trimmed the number of restrictions on foreign investment to 45, compared to 95 in the previous version released in 2017.

Coming at a time when economic protectionism is on the rise, particularly in the US under trade-bashing President Donald Trump, the new measures are aimed at sending a “strong” signal that China will defend its own interests as well as those of the global multilateral trade system, said Jiang Yong, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing.

“China is presenting itself as a stark contrast to the US, so the world can see who is to blame for the rising economic tensions not only between China and the US but among major economies,” Jiang explained to the Global Times on Sunday.

“We are opening our doors, while they are closing theirs.”

According to the new negative list, starting on July 30, China will allow majority foreign ownership in wheat and corn seed production and will scrap restrictions that require foreign companies to form joint ventures with Chinese partners in oil and natural gas exploration and mining projects, among other areas.

The negative list for FTZs followed a nationwide list released on Thursday that lifted more than a dozen restrictions on foreign investment in areas such as finance and services.

But even as China takes concrete measures to further open up its market, the US is reportedly mulling measures to restrict Chinese investment in certain high-tech sectors. “These are very different approaches and it’s clear that China is on the right path,” Jiang said.

Speed up reform

Although the opening-up measures come at a time when China is facing accusations of unfair economic policies, Chinese officials and experts have repeatedly stressed that such moves are based on China’s own economic need rather than foreign pressure.

“This is a concrete step in China’s persistent reform and opening-up efforts,” Sun Lijian, an economics professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Sunday. “It’s a great move for both China and the world.”

Sun noted that by further opening the Chinese economy, Chinese officials are hoping to accelerate the speed of economic reform and industrial upgrading, which have become a top priority for the government.

“Allowing more access for foreign capital could compel domestic reform efforts to speed up,” he said. “It will certainly offer more opportunities for foreign companies.”

Source: Global Times