Sichuan province’s efforts to attract more private entrepreneurs have got off to a good start with a substantial growth in the number of private enterprises at the China (Sichuan) Pilot Free Trade Zone in Chengdu.
The free trade zone, which was set up on April 1, 2017, has till date attracted investment from 44,400 firms with a total registered capital of nearly 543 billion yuan ($78 billion).
Among the newly established firms, 522 are foreign-funded, accounting for more than one-third of the foreign-funded firms set up in Sichuan since April 2017, according to data from the provincial government. Prominent among them is Allergan, a US-based pharmaceutical company which has set up an innovation center in the FTZ.
Accounting for less than 0.025 percent of the land area in Sichuan, the FTZ is now seen as an inland vanguard in the province’s opening to the outside world, said Sheng Yi, former president of the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences.
In addition to market potential, investors attribute the influx of firms in the zone to its advantageous business environment and convenient transportation links.
The pilot zone covers nearly 120 square kilometers, with 100 sq km in Chengdu and the rest in Luzhou. The zone’s Chengdu section has advantages such as aviation and railway transportation, while the Luzhou section has a port connecting the Yangtze River to the East China Sea.
The Chengdu section will stress on development of the modern services sector, high-end manufacturing, high-tech and airport-related business, while the Luzhou section will emphasize shipping logistics, port trade, equipment and food and beverage manufacturing, said Tang Limin, chief of the General Office of the Sichuan provincial government.
Zeng Xuelin, general manager of a company providing management services for startups in the Luzhou part of the zone said he was impressed with the speed at which approvals were given and said the entire approval and registration procedure for his company took less than an hour.
Xu Xin, the manager of a catering chain said he got a food management permit to start a new restaurant in the Chengdu part of the zone in just two days.
Since its debut in the Chengdu part of the zone in early 2017, the southwest operation center of dhgate.com, which helps small and medium-sized enterprises in Sichuan to sell their commodities to some 130 countries and regions, has witnessed a rise of 300 percent in its business volume and a drop of around 30 percent in its logistics fees in the past 18 months.
Its general manager Zhu Rong said the growth has been largely due to the facility’s proximity to the Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu. With 111 international routes, the Chengdu airport handles 5 million visitors a year.
Liu Xing, head of the Sichuan provincial department of commerce, said the approval procedure for newly established firms in various parts of the zone will be simplified further in order to attract more private entrepreneurs.