Foreign firms should keep pace with China's economic changes
China's business environment and legal system have improved over the four decades of reform and opening-up, said foreign business representatives in South China's Guangdong Province, adding that foreign companies need to continue to adapt to evolving development modes of the second-largest economy.
Xue Zengyi, vice chairman of Chia Tai Group Agro-Industry & Food Business, told the Global Times on Wednesday that over the past 40 years, the company has enjoyed dividends of China's economic evolution.
"The foreign investment environment in China is becoming better and better. The country's legal system, in particular laws governing the market economy, is improving," Xue said.
Government services have also improved, which are exemplified by faster, more concise procedures for application approval, said Xue.
Sensing opportunities at the onset of China's nascent reform and opening-up and driven by a sense of patriotism, Xie Yichu, founder of the Thailand-based transnational group, sent his son to oversee investment in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. They established the first solely-funded foreign enterprise in the Chinese mainland, Chia Tai Conti Co, with U.S. Continental Grain Co in 1981.
Another business leader, Kwokwah Lui, director of Dongcheng Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment in the city of Dongguan, said low land use cost and cheap labor were a strong impetus for foreign manufacturers to invest in the Chinese mainland in the early stage of China's reform and opening-up.
Dongguan, located in Guangdong Province, has become a hub of manufacturing in the past few decades. Foreign capital and technologies helped local industries grow. Today, a wide range of products can be sourced in the city, such as electronic components and circuit boards. It recorded trade valued at 1.23 trillion yuan ($194.5 billion) in 2017, according to media reports.
However, some foreign companies have stressed China's slow progress in further opening of its market to foreign investment. The EU Chamber of Commerce in China called on the Chinese government to demonstrate its commitment to economic globalization and openness in a report released in September 2017. It said the implementation of some proposed measures for establishing a level playing field for all business has been slow and uneven.
"We've seen tightened regulations in environmental protection. Also, manufacturers are facing rising challenges such as a surge in labor costs, which made some of them move to other countries including Cambodia and Vietnam," Lui said.
However, not all foreign business people are considering moving to another country to take advantage of lower costs, said a local Dongguan entrepreneur surnamed Xu. "The region has a full supply chain, which is a crucial advantage in global competition."
Foreign investors should note that China's investment policies are continuously being developed, Xue noted. "Preferential policies for foreign firms are intended for the early phase of their entry and are only temporary," he added.
"Foreign firms should take a long-term view and keep pace with economic changes instead of only requesting preferential policies from the government," said Xue.