An international cruise ship anchored off the coast of Sanya, Hainan province. (Photo by Sha Xiaofeng/for China Daily)
Xi's speech seen as spark in making free trade port into economic powerhouse
Tower cranes lined up one after another at a building site near the coast, with construction equipment shuttling back and forth and structures rising from the ground.
In Lingshui, Hainan province, workers have been in a race against time to prepare a campus－part of a pilot area for a new model of international education－for the enrollment of the first group of students in September.
So far 16 prestigious universities from China and overseas, including Coventry University from the United Kingdom and the University of Alberta in Canada, have decided to host education programs at the campus, which is one of 11 key zones for the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port.
"We are looking to enable Chinese children to enjoy top-notch international education resources here, without having to travel abroad," said Luo Qing, head of the department for collaboration with colleges at a government bureau administering the area.
The development of the project was part of a host of measures announced by President Xi Jinping at a grand gathering in Haikou, the provincial capital, on April 13, 2018, to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the province and the Hainan Special Economic Zone.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, highlighted the importance of focusing on institutional innovation, offering the free trade port greater autonomy in reform and opening up key sectors such as healthcare, education, telecommunications, the internet, culture and aviation.
He also spelled out policies to encourage the province to bring in high-caliber education resources from overseas and host high-level cooperation programs with foreign academic institutions, which spawned the international education program in Lingshui.
"Xi's speech at the meeting has pointed the way for the development of Hainan, both in theoretical terms and in laying out the specific path it should follow," said Cui Fan, a professor of international economics and dean of the Hainan Research Institute at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
The Hainan FTP has taken up a pioneering role for China to expand opening-up and served as a testing ground for deepening reform, Cui said.
Photo taken on April 5, 2021 shows Lingshui Li'An international education innovation pilot zone in Li'An peninsula of Lingshui Li autonomous county, South China's Hainan province. [Photo/Xinhua]
The FTP has welcomed another significant boost from the central government, which unveiled two sets of measures on Thursday and Friday to support the port in broadening market access and further opening up its financial sector.
The nation has greenlighted the free trade port to explore the online sales of prescription drugs, boost the development of an online games sector, press ahead with autonomous driving technologies and step up the development of homegrown high-end medical equipment, according to a policy document jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce.
Another document, released by the People's Bank of China together with three other top financial regulators, set out 33 detailed measures to facilitate free trade on the island, including steps to perfect its financial market system, further open up its financial market, enhance innovation, improve financial services and strengthen financial regulation.
Xu Shanchang, head of the department for institutional reform at the NDRC, told a news briefing on Thursday that the latest move demonstrates to global investors and consumers China's resolve for reform and opening-up during major changes unseen in a century.
"The measures will develop Hainan into a benchmark for market access worldwide and create a highly attractive market environment," he said.
Chi Fulin, president of the Haikou-based China Institute for Reform and Development, said the latest support measures have sought to further strengthen weak areas in the development of the Hainan FTP, such as healthcare, education and the financial sector.
"The development of the Hainan Free Trade Port must use the world's highest opening-up standards as the benchmark and work toward a flagship that leads China's opening-up for the new era and is an important gateway to the world," he said.