China to open its doors wider

CHINA has started a new page in its political history following the revision of the president’s term of office.

Slightly over a century since the fall of its last empire, the Qing Dynasty, a new one has emerged in this nation and it is dubbed the Xi Dynasty.

On March 11, at the annual session of China’s parliament – the National People’s Congress (NPC) – the lawmakers have voted to abolish the two-term limit on the presidency.

This constitutional revision has paved the way for 64-year-old President Xi Jinping to lead the Middle Kingdom for as long as he likes.

On this, Legislative Affairs Com­mi­s­sion chairman Shen Chunyao explained that the amendment was to ensure the nation’s peace and stability as well as to improve the state leadership system.

Asked if the amendment would create a leader with absolute power and trigger political turmoil, he said the hypothetical question was baseless.

“Over the more than 90 years of history of the Communist Party of China, the party has overcome a series of challenges, including ensuring smooth transition of its leadership as well as state leaders of all levels,” he added.

The two-term limit was initiated by the late Deng Xiaoping to prevent a repetition of the brutal and chaotic Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong that haunted the people for 10 years in the 1960s and 1970s.

Deng, known as the Father of Reformation, has transformed China into a modern nation.

As the country celebrates this year the 40th anniversary of its economic reforms and its opening up, the worries about political upheaval seem to have faded.

In fact, Deng’s ambitious project continues and is progressing towards the next level.

At the annual Two Sessions – which refer to the meetings of the NPC and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – Chinese leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang, have emphasised that China would not shut its doors to the world. It would instead be more open.

The country planned to fully liberalise its manufacturing sector and expand foreign investment access to industries like healthcare, education, financial services, telecommunications, elderly care services and new energy vehicles, they added.

At the first session of the 13th NPC meeting, Li reiterated the nation’s commitment to further open up for foreign investors, and to liberalise and facilitate trade.

He said China had reformed the export tax rebate mechanism, cut red tape and implemented the single-window processing system for international trade, reducing the average time for customs clearance by more than half.

“China has opened its doors wider to the world. This has played a powerful role in our own development and it presents important opportunities for the rest of the world,” he added.

“We will strengthen alignment with international business rules and foster a world-class business environment.”

He pointed out that China had launched the Belt and Road initiative, started the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, set up the Silk Road Fund and established various trade co-operation deals with other countries.

(The Belt and Road project was unveiled by Xi in 2013 with the aim of building trade and infrastructure connectivity with Asia, Europe and Africa.)

“For foreign investments, we have cut restrictions by two-thirds. We have intensified efforts to attract talent and the number of foreign experts working in China has grown by 40%,” Li added.

At a press conference last week, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan elaborated on China’s plans for better market access for foreign investors.

“We will ease the market access for foreign companies and enhance the protection of intellectual property,” he said.

“Last year, our foreign direct investments reached US$136.3bil (RM528bil), which is a historical high. Foreign companies still see China as a priority investment destination.”

Zhong said the ministry would facilitate foreign investments, including treating foreign companies the same it would the local ones.

“We will push forward the legislation progress on the management of foreign investments. The country will continue to open its doors to the world by opening its financial sector and fully opening the general manufacturing sector,” he added.

These were among the efforts aimed at making China a strong trading nation by 2035.

China is formulating a law to promote and protect foreign investments.

The new legislation will stick to policies of high-standard liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investments.

It is expected to significantly ease market access for foreign companies.

It will create a transparent, stable and predictable business environment for foreign investors, protecting their rights and interests while ensuring that they enjoy equal treatment and a fair market, said Zhong.

Apart from this, he added, China would also actively expand imports this year as a step to further opening up its market.

Chinese leaders were also confident that the nation would achieve a 6.5% annual growth rate this year.

The NPC, which began on March 5, will go on until tomorrow, while the meeting of the NPPCC, the country’s top political advisory body, concluded last Thursday.

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