China will develop 10 new State-level high-tech industrial development zones, the Ministry of Science and Technology said on Feb 15.
The new zones have been selected and the majority of them are upgrades from provincial ones in central and western China, some of which will focus on specific industries and integrate with the Belt and Road Initiative, said Qin Yong, the ministry’s director of high-tech development and industrialization.
The State Council, China’s Cabinet, has approved the locations and will publish the details soon, Qin added.
With the new zones, the government could ease the uneven development between high-tech zones across China, allocate resources more efficiently to help local high-tech companies grow and expand Chinese companies’ global influence via the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, experts said.
China’s high-tech industrial development zones, first launched in 1988, are government incentivized industrial parks for developing high-tech industries ranging from biomedicine to electronics.
China now has 146 State-level high-tech zones, and “most of them are experiencing strong growth”, said Yin Hejun, vice-minister of science and technology.
From 2011 to 2015, average revenue for all State-level zones combined grew 17.4 percent per year. Last year, projected revenue was 28.3 trillion yuan ($4.1 trillion), an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year, Yin said.
“These State-level high-tech zones have become vital engines for innovation and economic reform,” he said.
However, Yin added that high-tech zones in coastal provinces generally grew faster and were more competitive than those in central and western China.
Sun Lijian, a professor of economics at Fudan University, said that was because most of China’s capital and talent is concentrated in the coastal cities, where infrastructure is more mature. Moreover, some provincial-level zones are pursuing technologies above their capabilities, lowering efficiency.
“The newly added State-level zones can even the playing field for central and western regions because they will enjoy better planning and more resources,” Sun said. “They still need to tap into their local advantages, such as cheaper land and labor costs, to attract high-tech industries from coastal provinces.”
Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said the new zones not only facilitate cooperation for high-tech companies within China, but also allow companies to expand their global presence via the Belt and Road Initiative.