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Thursday, October 15, 2020, 09:58
Shenzhen takes lead in China’s further opening-up
By Zhou Bajun
Thursday, October 15, 2020, 09:58 By Zhou Bajun

China’s economic reform and opening-up to the outside world that started in December 1978, when the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China officially set the reform drive in motion, can be seen as two sides of a coin. Shenzhen has been a pioneer in this historic endeavor since the beginning. Over the past 40 years, Shenzhen has developed from a small fishing village to a modern mega-city known around the world, thanks mainly to economic reforms and opening-up, which have fueled its growth and transformation with both domestic and foreign investment attracted by favorable policies, especially from or through Hong Kong. In terms of diversified industrial development and a trendsetting performance in reform and opening-up, Shenzhen has no doubt been a towering model city for the rest of the nation.

The Chinese people are ready to begin marching toward the second “centennial (development) goal” after achieving the first one, which is to become a moderately affluent society by the time the CPC celebrates its 100th anniversary next year. It was against this monumental backdrop that Shenzhen celebrated its 40th anniversary with a grand ceremony on Wednesday, attended by President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. In his speech at the ceremony, President Xi summarized the last 40 years as “preparing for further reform and opening-up from a higher starting point built on the last 40 years of the special economic zone development”.

In his speech, Xi also noted: “Today the world is, amid unprecedented changes in a century, experiencing tremendous challenges posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic, a worsening economic slowdown bordering on another Great Recession, and a rising tendency to reverse the tide of globalization by resorting to protectionism and unilateralism. The world economy is falling to new lows as international trade and investment shrinks, while the geopolitical pattern of economic, technological, cultural and security status around the world is also undergoing profound adjustment. The world has entered a period of turbulent and even violent uncertainties.”

A new situation requires new responsible players ready to break new grounds. So Xi gave Shenzhen five things to do, of which the third is “sparing no effort in further opening up on all fronts”, as “the world today is faced with many challenges but we must not stop advancing because of strong headwinds and steep troughs. We must remain on the positive side of history and irrevocably committed to opening up on all fronts, pushing for greater efforts to keep the world economy open and pursuing a shared future for mankind”.

Hong Kong society and the SAR government need to find out what went wrong and how to fix it fast, beginning with recognizing the fact that its capitalist system needs a serious overhaul, which means a thorough reform of its own

In response to the erroneous idea that Beijing is backing off from opening-up with the new development pattern driven mainly by “internal circulation”, Xi emphasized, “The new development pattern is driven by internal/external dual circulation, not just closed domestic circulation.” He also expects Shenzhen to “optimize its production, distribution, circulation and consumption systems, deepen economic ties with the rest of the country, extend its economic radius, enhance its role in promoting nationwide internal circulation in smooth connection with internal/external dual circulation, speed up systematic opening up of rules and standards, and take the lead in building a new, higher-quality open economy.”

In Xi’s speech, I found two fundamental characteristics of the nation’s advance toward the second centennial goal of higher-quality opening-up; namely, remaining committed to further opening-up on all fronts and pursuing a shared future for mankind.

To maintain further opening-up on all fronts, the nation must remain willing to develop bilateral economic ties with countries even if they have been forced to join the United States-led anti-China alliance and “new Cold War” against China on the one hand, and remain committed to further opening up its industries and economic sectors that don’t concern critical national security matters, on the other hand. As Xi said not long ago, China is not interested in any cold or hot war, but the nation is not afraid of defending itself and its national interests against any aggressor. It will not change the fundamental strategy of continuing reform and opening-up on all fronts, such as the vital financial markets, by lifting more restrictions on financing.

China has remained committed to opening-up for more than 40 years to boost its economic reform and sustainable development. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC and particularly the 19th Congress, when the governing Party of the country set a development plan for completing two stages in three steps, the country’s opening-up has reached new highs and definitely boosted nationwide deepening of reforms as well as the pace of modernization, which is conducive to the pursuit of a shared future for mankind.

Hong Kong has made remarkable contributions to Shenzhen’s development and no one can ever deny or obliterate this fact, but it is also undeniable that Hong Kong has fallen behind its neighbor in economic development. Ten years ago, Shenzhen’s GDP was merely half of Hong Kong’s, but it has now overtaken the latter. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted Shenzhen’s ability to handle a serious challenge like this and get its socioeconomic development going strong again soon after lockdown. In dire contrast, Hong Kong has been fighting a seesaw battle with the stubborn coronavirus, which is effectively holding its recovery back despite unreserved support from the central government and Shenzhen. Hong Kong society and the SAR government need to find out what went wrong and how to fix it fast, beginning with recognizing the fact that its capitalist system needs a serious overhaul, which means a thorough reform of its own. 

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


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