A yacht moves past the cruise ship hub in Sanya, Hainan province, during a nightly circuit in February.
In a speech on April 13 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Hainan becoming a new province, President Xi Jinping drew a blueprint for the development of the island for the next 30 years. Thanks to reform and opening-up, Hainan seems set to become a prosperous province with a livable ecology, and to develop an international pilot free trade zone (FTZ) by 2020 and a free port with Chinese characteristics by 2025.
The establishment of a special economic zone (SEZ) almost three decades ago has transformed Hainan into one of China's most open and dynamic regions today. And supporting Hainan to deepen reform in the new era is a major national strategy of Xi, which will also demonstrate the advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The world economy has entered a new era of development and change, though instability and uncertainty continue to affect it. And despite globalization becoming an irreversible trend, protectionism, unilateralism and other anti-globalization practices have increased.
Countries across the world face a major choice－between globalization and protectionism, between moving forward and going backward. China chose its path, the path of globalization, years ago. In line with its chosen path, it will deepen reform in Hainan. China will also explore and implement new measures, including building a free port and creating a new platform for integrated global development, to further open up the island province.
Pivotal stage for new growth model
Four decades of reform and opening-up have liberated the social productive forces and, as the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China stressed, helped socialism with Chinese characteristics enter a new era. Now, the on-going transition of the Chinese economy from rapid economic growth to high-quality development presents the right opportunity to take measures to improve the economic structure, and foster new drivers of growth, of which Hainan is a part.
No wonder the CPC Central Committee has assigned Hainan a new mission: to deepen reform and further open up to the outside world, by taking measures to enhance tourism and promote innovation in institutional mechanisms.
The establishment of a pilot FTZ and a free port with Chinese characteristics will help deepen reform and opening-up in Hainan. Since deeper reform leads to further opening-up and vice-versa, the pilot FTZ and free port with Chinese characteristics, once they start operation, will facilitate institutional mechanism reform and promote the construction of a modernized economic system and high-quality development in Hainan.
China has 11 pilot FTZs, including those in Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangdong province, which have explored administrative system reform, investment management, trade facilitation and financial innovation. And their accumulated experiences have been applied to other industrial zones in the country, reflecting China's high level of openness.
But while building Hainan's pilot FTZ, the authorities should take the island's geographical, environmental and other sensitive factors into account, and give full play to innovation. Plus, the FTZ should be encouraged to conduct bold trials and develop its own reform strategy, for it would be conducive to expeditiously developing a truly global business environment and a fair and unified market.
And since Hainan's pilot FTZ will be the largest in the country in terms of population and area, it will become an important channel for China to communicate with the rest of the world in the new era.
Highest level of openness for SEZ
Free ports allow goods, funds and people to enter and leave a country with greater freedom, with most goods being exempt from duties. The free port with Chinese characteristics to be built in Hainan will focus on the following aspects: tourism development, modern services and high-tech industries, instead of re-exports or processing and manufacturing industries.