Free trade zones set to boost central areas

Updated 2017-04-12 09:00:47 China Daily
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A worker operates a machine in Yangluo Port in Wuhan, Hubei province.

The two recently launched free trade zones in Hubei and Henan provinces are expected to bring more momentum to a rising Central China.

The China (Hubei) Pilot Free Trade Zone and the China (Henan) Pilot Free Trade Zone were launched on April 1, together with another five in Chongqing municipality and Liaoning, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces.

As the two largest provinces in Central China in terms of gross domestic product in 2016, Hubei and Henan provinces are well-positioned to expand opening-up and lead development of the central region, which also includes Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan and Shanxi provinces.

Henan, with a population of more than 100 million, saw GDP of 4.016 trillion yuan (1 billion) in 2016, and ranked fifth among all provincial-level regions, while Hubei, with almost half of Henan's population, recorded 3.23 trillion yuan of GDP in the same period.

Hubei FTZ covers a combined area of 120 square kilometers in the province's Wuhan, Xiangyang and Yichang, while the Henan FTZ covers a roughly equal land area in Zhengzhou, Kaifeng and Luoyang.

“The Hubei FTZ will greatly benefit enterprises in the province, especially those doing international business”, said Chen Kai, president of the Wuhan-based Medscience Technology Co Ltd, whose core business is import and export of medical materials and equipment.

The company had to import and export the products from Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou ports, while globally-traded commodities will be shipped to and from Wuhan directly in the future.

According to the plans released by the State Council, the Hubei FTZ will be built into a demonstration zone for the transfer of industries from coastal regions to the central region and a base for high-tech industries, in order to play a leading role in the rise of the central provinces and development of the Yangzte River Economic Belt.

The economic belt, announced by the central government in 2014, covers 11 provinces and cities spanning the country's eastern, central and western regions, with a total area of 2.05 million square kilometers. Its population and GDP account for more than 40 percent of the national total.

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As a contrast, “Henan FTZ will become the national transport and logistics hub to serve the country's Belt and Road Initiative,” said Zhang Qiong, director of Henan provincial government's department of transport.

As the birthplace of Chinese civilization, Henan lies in the central part of China and is often referred to as zhongyuan, which literally means central plain of the midland.

“Henan's unique geographical location positions it perfectly to take advantage of opportunities opening up along the Belt and Road Initiative economies”, said Danny Alexander, secretary-general of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, during the recently held China (Henan) International Investment and Trade Fair.

Last year, the State Council announced a plan to build the Central Plains Urban Agglomeration, which includes 30 cities in Henan, Anhui, Shanxi and Shandong provinces, with Henan's Zhengzhou being the core area.

The 200th Zhengzhou-Hamburg cargo train pulls out of Zhengzhou railway station last September.

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