China pledged to create a more open business environment for foreign companies and treat domestic and foreign investors equally, with concrete steps and timetables coming soon, according to the nation’s top economic regulator.
The government pledged to allow foreign companies to compete on equal footing with domestic counterparts in business registration, government procurement and participation in the nation’s strategic development plans, such as the Made in China 2025 strategy, Yan Pengcheng, spokesman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said on April 18.
He said the government will roll out concrete road maps and timetables for sectors that will be further opened up in the next few years.
In the near future, China will issue measures and take major steps toward opening its financial market and new energy, infrastructure construction, transportation and service sectors, he said.
The government will also quicken the drafting of laws to improve regulation of foreign investment and protect investor rights, Yan added.
His comments come one day after the commission announced a timeline for removing ownership limits for foreign companies in the auto industry.
China will remove foreign ownership caps for companies making electric cars in 2018, and for joint ventures producing commercial cars in 2020, and will phase out the equity cap on automotive joint ventures by 2022, according to the commission.
Before the announcement, China had long had a capital cap for foreign auto companies, restricting them to no more than 50 percent ownership in joint ventures with local carmakers.
Bai Ming, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said he expected such moves in other sectors following President Xi Jinping’s recent keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia.
Xi said China will further ease import tariffs and continue to open China’s markets to foreign investors.
During the forum, People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang unveiled plans to open up the financial sector, including opening of the long-awaited Shanghai-London Stock Connect this year.
“The decision to further promote opening-up reflects the government’s intention to foster competition,” said Tjun Tang, head of Boston Consulting Group’s Financial Institutions Practice in the Asia-Pacific.
He said opening-up would benefit foreign companies because of the huge untapped potential in the financial market.
Foreign players will need to adapt to new challenges as they invest and operate in China, Tang said.
“Some local players in China have already taken the lead, for instance, in the fintech industry,” he said.
“Foreign players need to localize their products, improve talent pools and make sure they follow regulations and rules.”