Song Gang, Deputy Director General, Chongqing Commerce Commission
What’s your favourite, best memory of the European Chamber experience?
Since early this year, global public health security has been facing challenges arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (European Chamber) responded quickly to the outbreak and arranged with the Chongqing Commerce Commission to jointly organise policy talks and activities.
On 9th April, to boost the confidence of foreign investors in Chongqing of overcoming the adverse effects of the epidemic and facilitate normal operations of European enterprises in our city, our Commission and the European Chamber Southwest Chapter jointly hosted the Chongqing Municipal Conference on Helping Foreign-funded Enterprises Return to Work and Resume Production and Investment Promotion Policies, which was held online. The European Chamber gathered nearly 200 people, including representatives of 111 member enterprises, to attend the online conference. Representatives of the participating enterprises and municipal departments had direct in-depth exchanges on issues such as policies to support the resumption of work and production in enterprises and policies to attract foreign investment.
The conference got a great response from participating enterprises, with many saying they had established contacts, gained insights and boosted their confidence through the meeting. We were deeply impressed by the European Chamber’s efficient organisation and mobilisation capabilities and execution.
What’s the difference of China’s business/regulatory environment in your industry today vs. 20 years ago?
We have increasingly emphasised that productivity comes down to business environment, the concept of which has evolved from pursuing the advantages in resources and policies in the past to that of creating an international, legalized and convenient business environment. Over the past 20 years, China has carried out a lot of work in furthering opening-up, streamlining administration and delegating power, and protecting intellectual property rights. As a result, the improvements in the business environment are self-evident. The Doing Business 2020 report released by the World Bank ranks China’s business environment 31st out of 190 economies in the world, and for two consecutive years among the top 10 economies with the most improvements to the ease of doing business locally. This is undoubtedly a recognition of China’s continuous efforts in recent years to optimise the business environment. As part of this, Chongqing’s business environment has been reformed to facilitate opening up in inland areas.
I. Continuous Improvement in International Business Environment
Over the past 20 years, the opening up and development of Chongqing has achieved positive results and significantly improved the city’s internationalizsation. The import and export volume of total foreign trade increased from United States dollars (USD) 1.78 billion in 2000 to USD 83.96 billion in 2019. The actual amount of foreign capital utilised increased from USD 340 million in 2000 to over USD 10 billion at present. Foreign direct investment in Chongqing is at the forefront of that in the west and central areas. The opening up of inland areas of Chongqing has achieved remarkable results.
In terms of opening access channels to and from Chongqing, this will be based on the advantage of [Xi Jinping’s] “two points” position, forming new patterns of interconnectedness in all directions as well as the four well-developed channels for transportation: water, highway, train and air. This includes the Yangtze River, which has continuously played its part in Chongqing’s development. In addition, the China Railway (CR) Express (Chongqing) has operated more than 4,500 trains and has become the main channel for overland China-Europe trade. The construction of new land and sea channels to the west has been upgraded to a national strategy. Rail lines now extend to 88 countries and 213 ports globally, while 95 international and regional routes have been opened. In terms of special zones, Chongqing has formed a ‘1+2+7+9’ national open platform system, all of which are operating well. The cooperative development mechanism of open platforms has been gradually established, and their influence continuously strengthened. In terms of opening ports, 18 ports and sites with port functions have been built, and the National Comprehensive Reform Pilot Zone for Inspection and Quarantine.has been approved. The “three mutual” large customs clearance mechanism with countries and regions along the Belt and Road Initiative has been continuously improved. In terms of opening up industries, Chongqing has sped up the cultivation of new industries, new formats and new models, and has become an important global production base for laptops and the largest automobile production base in China. The city now hosts 293 of the Fortune 500 corporations. In terms of opening up the business environment, the city’s public service system has been improved, and international exchanges and cooperation in various fields have been expanded, which is conducive to the administrative environment, legal environment and living environment.
II. Continuous Improvement in Law-Based Business Environment
Operating under the rule of law provides for the best business environment. In the past two decades, Chongqing has made great efforts to create a stable, fair, transparent and predictable business environment governed by the rule of law, to improve the legal system and standards system, to establish the Corporate Social Credit System, and to fully stimulate the vitality and creativity of the socialist market economy within this environment.
Chongqing fully implemented the Foreign Investment Law and its regulations, as well as the Regulation on Optimising the Business Environment, to provide a solid foundation as well as reliable and long-term legal guarantees to facilitate further opening up to the outside world. The promulgation of the Regulations on China (Chongqing) Pilot Free Trade Zone marks the Basic Law for the construction of and provides comprehensive legal guarantees for the Chongqing Pilot Free Trade Zone. The promulgation of the Chongqing Regulations on Optimising the Business Environment further systematises and standardises the policies, measures and experiences, thus providing more powerful guarantees and support in optimising the business environment from the institutional level.
III. A Continuously Optimising Convenient Business Environment
To serve all market entities better, Chongqing has thoroughly planned and taken measures to build an efficient, high-quality and convenient business environment. The reform of the testing and approval system and the commercial system has continued, focusing on issues such as separation/integration of certificates to reduce the frequency of testing, the time required for approval and processing, and expenses. We greatly reduced the tax burdens and administrative fees of enterprises as well as their external costs. We implemented the foreign investment management system of national treatment plus negative list, optimised the process for establishing foreign-invested enterprises in Chongqing, and promoted the facilitation of foreign investment. We will speed up the reform of the commitment system for investment projects, and the government will set standards and strengthen supervision. Enterprises that fufill their commitments will achieve the ‘zero approval’ management, facilitation of cross-border trade and further reductions in customs clearance times for import and export.
What do you expect to see China’s business/regulatory environment to change in 20 years?
President Xi Jinping pointed out that China will expand the fields of opening up, and the business environment will only get better and better, as more and more opportunities will be created for global multinational companies. The opening-up in China today is changing from a flow of goods and factors of production to a rule-based opening-up. This is what the world expects and what China needs. In the next 20 years, I look forward to seeing changes in the following two areas:
One is to create an international first-class business environment. Building such an environment is not only conducive to stabilising market expectations and stimulating the vitality of market players, but also has the benefits of attracting foreign investment and enhancing the international competitiveness of China’s economy. Our country already has a solid foundation for creating an international first-class business environment. Chongqing is also actively contributing to the business environment. In the future, Chongqing will focus on areas such as examination and approval services, innovation and entrepreneurship, investment and trade, enterprise management, market fairness, legal protection, social services, and government-business relations. It will facilitate the further development of efficient government services, an open and convenient investment and trade environment, a fair and competitive market, and a relaxed and orderly business environment.
The second is to build a country
;government ;and society based on the rule of law. President Xi’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era has established the goal of governing the country by rule of law as one of its “eight fundamental issues”. The adherence to the rule of law as one of the basic strategies of adhering to and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. The establishment of a country ruled by law, a government ruled by law, and a society ruled by law as an important goal of making China into a modern socialist country by 2035 marks that the rule of law constitutes an important part of our party’s guiding ideology, strategies and goals, and provides a fundamental guideline. If we say that a country ruled by law is our goal and society is our foundation, then the government undoubtedly bears the main role. In the future, Chongqing will continue its efforts in accordance with the direction of a government ruled by law with scientific functions, statutory powers and responsibilities, strict enforcement of laws, openness and fairness, honesty and efficiency, and law-abiding integrity. This will open a new chapter in the construction of a government ruled by law by deepening the practice of ruling the country by law in the new era.
What role do you expect the European Chamber to take in the next 20 years?
It is expected that the European Chamber will further play its role as a bridge and link between the government and European enterprises, build a platform for exchanges between companies in European countries and the Chinese government and domestic enterprises, encourage more European enterprises to invest in China, and cooperate with the Chinese Government and domestic enterprises effectively to promote the sound development of European enterprises in China. At the same time, it is expected that the European Chamber will play a greater role in assisting Chongqing’s open economic development and the construction of an economic circle in the Chengdu-Chongqing region, jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of foreign-funded enterprises in Chongqing, continuously provide more accurate and high-quality services, and further do a good job in assisting foreign investment in China.
What value has the European Chamber brought to you/your company/your industry?
For a long time, the European Chamber has maintained close cooperation with our city and has set up a platform for exchanges between enterprises from European countries and Chongqing, thereby making positive contributions to promoting cooperation between Chongqing and EU countries on economy and trade. The European Chamber regularly issues its Position Paper every year, which provides recommendations and direction on ways Chongqing could improve its investment environment and create an international, legalized and convenient business environment. The European Chamber has a large number of member enterprises, and also has a great influence on these companies. The Chamber jointly organised with our municipal government events to help European enterprises better understand Chongqing’s economic and social development, and invest in Chongqing and the development of the economic hub in the Chengdu-Chongqing region.
长期以来，中国欧盟商会与我市保持着密切的合作关系，搭建了欧盟国家企业与重庆交流的平台，为推动重庆与欧盟国家经贸合作做出了积极贡献。中国欧盟商会每年定期发布《欧盟企业在中国建议书》，为重庆改善投资环境提供了参考和努力方向，有助于我市打造国际化、法治化、便利化营商环境。中国欧盟商会拥有庞大的会员企业数量和对会员企业巨大的影响力。中国欧盟商会与我市联合组织举办的相关活动有助于欧盟企业更好地了解重庆经济社会发展情况，为欧盟企业来渝投资兴业和推动成渝地区双城经济圈建设作出贡献。Song Gang, Deputy Director General, Chongqing Commerce Commission