The General Office of the State Council issued the Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Promoting Transformation, Upgrading and Innovation of National Economic and Technological Development Zones (hereinafter referred to as Opinions) on October 30. An official of the Department of Foreign Investment Administration of the Ministry of Commerce made an interpretation on that a few days ago.
I. What are the background and policy goals of the Opinions?
A: This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of national economic and technological development zones by the Party Central Committee and the State Council. The Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development jointly held a working meeting on national economic and technological development zones on September 4, when Vice Premier Wang Yang made an important speech. The meeting reviewed the development process of the national development zones, summarized the achievements and experiences during the 30 years and deployed the development orientation and tasks of the national development zones on further deepening reform and expanding opening up in the future.
The General Office of the State Council issued the Opinions on October 30, clarifying the development orientation, main tasks and policies and measures of the national development zones in the new era and making a comprehensive deployment on further promoting the transformation, upgrading and innovation of the national development zones of all regions and related departments. This is a significant measure to implement the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee and construct the new system of open economy.
During the 30 years, the national development zones have become an import support of China to promote the development of open economy, bolster industrialization and urbanization and realize regional development strategies. In 2013, the regional gross value of production, tax revenue and import and export of the 210 national development zones accounted for 12.1%, 9.9% and 18.7% of the national total, respectively. At present, the national development zones are at a critical stage of transforming, upgrading and innovation. Implementing the policies and measures of the Opinions will not only help the national development zones further play the role of test fields of reform and bellwether of opening up, but also contribute to regional economic development.
II. What are the main contents of the Opinions?
A: The Opinions includes six chapters and 19 articles in total.
1. The development orientation under the new situation should be clarified.
The first chapter of the Opinions makes a comprehensive deployment on the development orientation, development modes and management systems in the new era. Firstly, the development orientation of the national development zones in the new era is to realize “three beings”, namely, being an important supporter of driving regional economic development and implementing regional development strategies, being a bellwether of constructing the new system of open economy and cultivating new advantages to attract foreign investment, and being demonstration zones of technical innovation and green and intensive development. Secondly, the national development zones should complete “four transformations” on development concepts, construction modes and management modes, namely, transforming from seeking speed to seeking quality, transforming from government-leading to market-leading, transforming from homogeneity competition to differentiation development and transforming from good in hard environment to prevailing in soft environment. Thirdly, following the principal of classification guidance and taking examination and evaluation as the measures, the national development zones should establish a dynamic management system, strengthen the restraint and reversed transmission of pressure mechanism, detail supervision and assessment, and optimize the evaluation system, in order to lead the national development zones to a quality and efficient development road.
2. System and mechanism innovation should be bolstered.
The second chapter of the Opinions highlights the legislation, innovation and reform of the administrative system on promoting system and mechanism innovation. The Opinions puts forward that local laws, regulations of national development zones should be introduced or revised according to local conditions and the system and mechanism of integration of the national development zones and administrative districts could be explored in qualified national development zones, in order to promote the standard development of the national development zones according to law. At the same time, national development zones are encouraged to innovate the administrative system and promote administrative reform. On one hand, administrative efficiency and transparency should be enhanced, the mechanism of decision-making, execution and supervision should be optimized, during and post-mortem supervision should be strengthened, and the financial management system should be optimized to control debt risks; on the other hand, the power of examination and approving should be further delegated to lower levels, and reform should be deepened on foreign capital management, business and tax registration and foreign exchange management.
3. Development of the open economy should be promoted.
As the pioneering zones of opening up, after 30 years’ development, the national development zones have become an important channel of China’s opening up, playing a window, demonstration, radiation and driving role as always. In the new era, according to the new requirements of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on constructing a new system of open economy, the Opinions has put forward clear requirements on the work of attracting foreign investment including liberalization in the service industry, attracting investment of advanced manufacturing industries, cultivation of strategic emerging industries and producer service industry, and leading the national development zones and qualified enterprises in the zones to “go out”. The Opinions has also come up with specific supporting policies on promoting regional coordinated development including the trans-area cooperation among the national development zones, industrial gradient transferring and supporting development of central and western regions.
(IV) Advance Industrial Transformation and Upgrading
At present, the problem of industries being identical in national economic and technological development zones stands out and there is great room for industrial adjustment and transformation and upgrading. The Opinions points out that national economic and technological development zones should focus on quality and efficiency upgrading, promote coordinate development of latest manufacturing and modern service industry and strive to optimize industrial structures and layout. The economy and technology should be regarded equally, and special attention should be paid to IPR protection and innovation ability to build a collaborative innovation platform and industrial innovation clusters. Efforts should be made to strengthen the talents, capital and technical guarantee along with the industrial transformation and upgrading from the aspects of talents system building, innovating investment and financing systems, and informatization improvement.
(V) Insist on Green Intensive Development
At present, the contradictions between resources and the environment have become increasingly prominent in the country. It is even more pressing for national economic and technological development zones where industries cluster. The Opinions has put forth new requirements on national development zones in areas like environmental protection, planning and land management. In environmental protection, a green low-carbon recycled developmental road should be insisted on to strictly practice resources conservation, limit environment access, develop energy saving and environmental protection industry, improve the utilization efficiency of energy and resources, reduce pollutant emission and prevent environmental risks. In addition, active efforts should be made to build green gardens and carry out international cooperation in resources conservation and environmental protection in trade and economic areas. In the aspect of planning, a medium and long-term development plan for national development zones and an investment promotion plan for key industries are required to be formulated and the overall plan for land utilization and urban comprehensive planning should be strictly accorded to along with development and construction. In the aspect of land management, on one hand, we should manage the land strictly to control the increment and liquidize the stock by utilizing the land in a reasonable, economical, intensive and high-efficient way; on the other hand, given that the national development zones have seen a universal problem of lacking of developmental room over years’ development, the Opinions practically allows eligible and necessary national development zones to apply for an extension or adjustment in line with related procedures.
(VI) Optimize Business Environment
Over 30 years’ development, national development zones have become an exemplary of China’s investment environment construction, leading regional and national investment environment improvement. However, it still needs further improvement in administration and legal, economic and business environment. The Opinions has put forward new requirements for business environment optimization from two aspects of strengthening management of introducing FDI and improving comprehensive investment environment. On one hand, it requires the strengthening of the management of FDI attraction and strict implementation of financial, taxation and land policies; on the other hand, it aims to create a law-based and internationalized business environment, open various elements markets according to law and regulations and promote free flow and equal exchanges of commodities and elements.
The Opinions calls on all regions and departments to focus on the six aspects to deepen the awareness, strengthen organization and coordination, clarify the division, implement the responsibilities and ensure effective achievements.
III. What kinds of work the Ministry of Commerce will focus on to implement the Opinions?
(I) Guide the national development zones in different categories.
(II) Explore dynamic management of national development zones.
(III) Revise and improve Methods on Evaluating Comprehensive Development Level of National Economic and Technological Development Zones.
(IV) Further delegate approval power and support management system reform pilot like foreign investment management system reform of national development zones.
(V) Steadily promote the opening of partial service sector in national development zones.
(VI) Encourage national development zones to go global and engage in overseas trade and economic cooperative zones building and lead capable domestic enterprises to go global.
(VII) Encourage national development zones to carry out cross-regional cooperation and establish industrial development information platforms for national development zones.
(VIII) Seek to build innovation parks for international cooperation and deepen international cooperation in scientific innovation in trade and economic areas.
(IX) Promote statistical information system application extension and function improvement of national development zones.
(X) Support national development zones to build green parks, carry out international cooperation in energy conservation and environmental protection in trade and economic areas, formulate and perfect the guideline and indicator system, and accelerate in the construction of ecological parks of international cooperation.
(XI) Formulate the medium and long-term development plan for national development zones and the investment promotion plan for key industries.
(XII) Allow eligible and necessary national development zones to apply for extension or adjustment of their zones.
(XIII) Issue business environment guides for national development zones and establish a business environment evaluation system.