China’s government has told ministries to open up more sections of the economy to foreign investors amid increasing criticism from the US Trump administration about Beijing’s allegedly unfair trade practices.
The move also comes as foreign firms operating in China have expressed increasing frustration over limited access to markets and government policies which they say discriminate against overseas companies.
China’s cabinet, the State Council, published a long to-do list to ministries on Wednesday to encourage more foreign investment. In one example, the central bank and foreign exchange regulator were told to ensure that “foreign investors can freely remit their profits, dividends and other forms of investment returns in China overseas”.
China remains a major recipient of foreign direct investment, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is losing its attractiveness to investors, amid rising costs and limited access to markets. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has repeatedly pledged to open China’s markets wider to foreign investment. President Xi Jinping also told at an economic policy meeting last month that China should create a “stable, fair, transparent and predictable” environment for overseas businesses.
The State Council notice said ministries and related government agencies must draft clear timetables on opening up sectors of the economy, including new energy vehicle manufacture, ship design, aircraft repairs, maritime transport, railway passenger transport, petrol stations and call centres, as well as banking, brokerages and insurance. The foreign ministry and the public security ministry were told to make it easier for foreigners to live and work in China. In particular, the cabinet said China must issue more long-term, multiple entry visas lasting five to 10 years to “qualified” visitors.
Beijing has talked about some of these measures before, but it is the first time the State Council has put them together in one list and urged ministries to deliver on the promises. Cui Fan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the aim was for the wish list to be turned into specific measures and policies in the coming months.