Letter from China: Experiencing China's opening-up drive in multi-ethnic Guangxi

(Xinhua) 09:21, July 09, 2024

NANNING, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Visiting the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the south of China had been on my wish list for a long time, but I never imagined that my first trip to this scenic multi-ethnic area would be with a group of foreign-invested firms.

I traveled with the main organizer of the China International Import Expo (CIIE), the CIIE Bureau, to Guangxi last week, where the expo announced the opening of the exhibitor application process for the eighth CIIE, slated to be held in November 2025.

Nearly 120 investment promotion institutions and foreign-invested firms headquartered in countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany participated in the trip. Of these, 26 firms signed up to participate on-site at the exhibition recruitment launch ceremony in Nanning, Guangxi's capital city.

Such a gathering of many foreign-invested firms is quite an event for Guangxi, a local colleague told me, as Guangxi, like some central and western regions of China, still boasts ample investment space for foreign enterprises.

Guangxi, a coastal region, enjoys natural geographical endowments to promote trade and attract investment. It neighbors the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and is the only provincial-level region in China connected with the ASEAN by both land and sea.

Guangxi has for three consecutive years held an investment promotion meeting to attract global firms to tap development opportunities in the Guangxi pilot free trade zone. In 2023, 657 foreign-invested enterprises were newly established in Guangxi, an increase of 22.8 percent year on year.

In addition to the exhibition recruitment launch, an investment promotional event, a business match-making session, and field trips to several cities in the autonomous region were also organized to help introduce foreign investors to Guangxi in a targeted manner.

I participated in a field trip to Fangchenggang, a port city near the China-Vietnam border. The trip featured a foreign enterprise delegation of 13 people.

We chose this city for good reasons. Fangchenggang's economy expanded at the fastest pace in the entire Guangxi in 2023, and the city is building an international medical opening-up pilot zone.

Donald Tang, a senior executive of the China branch of German water treatment device maker SYR, had high hopes for the trip. He brought a cooperation plan to manufacture medical devices in Fangchenggang.

The local government gave the delegation a warm welcome. After a visit to an exhibition hall to introduce the city, a meeting was held for the delegation, with officials from nearly 10 government agencies attending to answer their questions concerning investing in Fangchenggang.

The foreign-invested firms asked about a wide range of issues, including the electricity price, the city's competitive advantages compared with peers, and its specific policies regarding developing medicines for certain diseases.

Many delegation members were impressed by the local government's eagerness to attract foreign investment, and so was I.

"Fangchenggang, Guangxi and the country at large look forward to more foreign investment. We have a set of preferential policies and services for foreign-invested firms," said an official from the city's commercial bureau.

An official in charge of administrative approval sought to reassure the delegation of the city's readiness for win-win cooperation.

"The widening opening up is an ongoing process," he said. "The improvement of the policy framework needs foreign-invested firms' contribution. You propose a demand based on a real scenario, and then we will study how to solve the problem."

In early 2024, Guangxi unveiled a policy package including 23 specific steps to attract foreign investment, ranging from encouraging foreign-invested firms to set up R&D centers to ensuring fair participation in government procurement activities.

"I'm glad to see that Guangxi is constantly changing for the better," said Tang, who worked in Guangxi over two decades ago.

He obtained the contact information of local officials, thereby paving the way for further discussions. He indicated that he would return to Nanning after the organized group trip to discuss potential cooperation in upgrading the water treatment facilities in an ancient town.

"See you at the upcoming CIIE," Tang said to me.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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