Guangdong's FTZs to become reform heartlands
China will undergo further economic opening-up over the next five years, with free trade zones (FTZs) quickly becoming the new heartlands carrying out economic reforms, especially in South China's Guangdong Province.
About an hour's drive from Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, the Nansha area sits on the west bank of the Pearl River, which is rising as a new gateway to the sea for the province.
Hundreds of containers pile up in a yard at the Nansha port every day. It has been recently upgraded to meet growing demand, Li Jinghong, deputy general manager of Guangzhou South China Oceangate Container Terminal Co, told the Global Times on Friday.
Nansha, established in 2015 as a new frontier area for further economic opening-up, is expected to play a more significant role in helping Guangzhou integrate into the Belt and Road initiative as well as into the Greater Bay Area.
Nansha is also among the three areas covered by the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ), which was formally approved by the State Council, China's cabinet, in 2014.
Before the Nansha port emerged, international trade along the Pearl River Delta had largely relied on port facilities in Hong Kong and in Shenzhen, a major city in the southern part of Guangdong about 140 kilometers from the provincial capital, Li noted.
"I believe that Nansha is a significant cost-saving opportunity for those clients in the west bank of the Pearl River Delta," as traffic distance to the port is much shorter, he said.
The local authority is currently working on 91 major transportation infrastructure projects involving a total investment worth 250.5 billion yuan (.8 billion), with the aim of building a half-hour transportation circle within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Xing Hua, a senior Party official in the Nansha area, told the Global Times via e-mail on Sunday.
The port still has large room for further development, as only 30 percent of the available space has been used thus far, Li told the Global Times.
Besides the port's expansion, the local government is working on other projects to further revive the Nansha area, which, through such initiatives, is expected to play an even bigger role as an FTZ in attracting foreign investors and driving economic growth.
In contrast to populated manufacturing towns commonly seen around other parts of the Pearl River Delta area, Nansha is made up of diverse coastal wetlands, irrigated farmlands and interconnecting rivers.
Through effective urban planning and targeted development, the area has been divided into seven clusters, with the so-called start-up area functioning as an experimental zone for financial and commercial services, Xing noted.
Compared to the other two FTZs in the province, namely Qianhai and Hengqin, Nansha has been lagging behind in terms of development.
"Qianhai and Hengqin enjoy proximity to Hong Kong and Macao, driving up local investment," Li Shanmin, dean at Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, told the Global Times on Monday.
The Qianhai Free Trade Area, located in Shenzhen, has attracted a total of 143,200 registered companies so far, with 4,603 Hong Kong enterprises settling there in the first half of 2017 alone, according to a report released on its official website in August.
Hengqin is located in Zhuhai, another coastal city of Guangdong.