As part of the strategy for further opening-up, nine cities in eastern China's Yangtze River region have teamed up to introduce 30 new measures allowing foreign companies to establish or grow their business in the region more easily.
The nine cities include Shanghai; Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province; Suzhou, Jiangsu Province; and Hefei, Anhui Province. Combined, they boast a population of 49 million people and cover one-fourth of the delta region.
The new measures, announced at a news conference on Thursday during the ongoing China International Import Expo in Shanghai, include forming a shared network for the administration of business applications, so that licensing work for individuals or enterprises in one city can be applied in any of the other eight.
Collaboration by the member cities that are involved in, or located along, the China Railway Express to Europe will also be enhanced, including more efficient customs clearances.
The cities will also take the lead in erasing limits on foreign companies' ownership of local banks and asset management companies, and will permit foreign banks to set up local branches.
"It is both an honor and a responsibility for Hefei to join better-developed cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou to initiate a new phase of economic opening-up," Song Guoquan, Party secretary of Hefei, Anhui province, said at the news conference.
The measures that were introduced are in line with the keynote speech delivered by President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the expo on Monday, elevating integrated development of the delta region to a national strategy.
It is expected that by taking advantage of each other's strengths, the alliance will become a growth engine for the region's technical and economical development.
A purchasers' association has also been formed to extend the effect of the six-day Expo, with 705 enterprises from the nine cities signing up as initial members.
It is estimated that by Thursday, purchasers from the nine cities will have placed orders at the Expo with a total value of nearly 38 billion yuan ($5.48 billion), of which 25 billion yuan is for advanced manufacturing.
The alliance was pioneered by Shanghai's Songjiang district in 2016. It wanted to create a science and technology valley along the G60 highway running through the Yangtze River Delta region on the order of Route 128 in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. Dubbed America's Technology Highway, the Boston route is known for opening the technology age with its proximity to university labs such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"As China is looking to drive its economic growth with a new and higher-quality phase of opening-up, the role of technology and innovation has been unprecedentedly essential," said Gao Yiyi, deputy head of Songjiang district and director of the nine-city alliance office.