China is ready to unilaterally open up its industries that it has long-standing traditional advantages in, including manufacturing and services, to businesses from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, experts said on Sunday.
While speaking over the weekend at a sub-forum of the 89th International Forum on China Reform held in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, Chi Fulin, president of the China Institute for Reform and Development, said that the overall conditions for unilateral opening-up to ASEAN are in place.
Reform and opening-up was introduced in China in 1978, and has remained a strong driver of the nation's economic growth over the following decades.
Explaining that the next three to five years represent a strategic window of opportunity for China to open up to ASEAN, Chi explained that China has already entered a mature stage of industrialization-possessing the world's most comprehensive industrial system — and that its trade structure is consistently being upgraded.
Using rice as an example, a CIRD study found that even if the four major rice-producing ASEAN countries, including Thailand and Vietnam, tripled their rice exports to China based on existing scales, it would still only account for 3.27 percent of China's total rice output, and this would not generate any substantial impact on the Chinese economy and grain supplies.
"Drawing from historical experience, the move of unilaterally opening up to ASEAN is not only practical but also of great urgency," said Chi.
He suggested that by following a gradual and systematic approach, the government can transform places such as Yunnan province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region into new frontiers in the nation's effort to open up to ASEAN, as well as leverage the Hainan Free Trade Port's key role in leading the opening-up of the labor market, including by hiring domestic helpers from the Philippines.
In that vein, China has proposed accelerating the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area 3.0 Upgrade negotiations, and has called for those negotiations to be concluded by next year. The goal of the mega deal is to transition from a free trade area to an open and cooperative economic area, said Zhang Yunling, a member of the academic committee of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
This transformation requires essential conditions, including open markets, connectivity and multitiered linkages, based on collaborative development, Zhang said.
Faced with the evolving East Asian supply chain structure, Zhang said it is crucial to advance the linkage of new supply chains, utilize the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact to build a stable regional supply chain between China and ASEAN, and align the Belt and Road Initiative with supply chain restructuring.
Echoing the suggestions, Aristotle C. Dy, president of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, said that China's high-level opening-up will continue to generate opportunities for ASEAN in the coming years.