Hunan leads way in Central China with international vision
Access to overseas markets is often hard for inland provinces. But Hunan, which is surrounded by mountains on three sides in Central China, has succeeded in turning its global ambitions into reality.
Since the 11th Party congress of Hunan province in November 2016, it has embraced a philosophy featuring innovation and opening-up and seen fruitful results, local officials said.
The province has been leading its peers in the middle of the country in further opening-up. This is evidence by an average annual export and import growth rate of 21.7 percent during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), which ranks first in the country. The value of its foreign trade is expected to exceed 500 billion yuan ($78.27 billion) this year.
Data from the Hunan Provincial Commercial Department show that from January to September, Hunan's actual utilized foreign capital stood at $1.7 billion, a year-on-year increase of 56 percent. The import and export volume of the province reached 425.1 billion yuan, up 28.43 percent compared to 2020,5.7 percentage points higher than the national average.
Over the first three quarters of this year, the actual use of foreign direct investment reached $1.34 billion, a year-on-year increase of 20.4 percent, topping Central China. The turnover of the contracted projects in foreign countries totaled $1.82 billion, up 20.8 percent from 2020.
Hunan owes much of its growth to its opening-up all year round. The China (Hunan) Pilot Free Trade Zone was established in September 2020 and now hosts 5,934 enterprises, 270 projects and 10 achievements, which were first of their kind in the country.
The second China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo was held in Changsha, capital of Hunan, in September. The expo involved 53 African countries and saw agreements worth $22.9 billion signed.
According to local officials, Hunan has forged close trade ties with more than 200 countries and regions. More than 1,600 Hunan-based enterprises have set up branches in more than 100 foreign countries and regions.
Over the past five years, the accumulated paid-in foreign investment amounted to $7.13 billion; the accumulated turnover of foreign contracted projects was $13.3 billion; and 58,000 laborers were dispatched overseas.
Moreover, the construction of five international freight hubs across Hunan is underway. They are: a regional international airfreight hub connecting airports in Changsha, Zhangjiajie and Changde; a China-Europe Freight Train (Changsha) hub; a freight hub in Chenglingji, Yueyang, with waterway routes to countries like South Korea and Australia; a Hunan-Guangdong-Africa freight hub in Zhuzhou; and a freight hub in Huaihua to serve trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Hunan has launched 783 China-Europe freight trains over the first three quarters of this year, up 85.1 percent over 2020, with routes to 29 cities in 14 countries. An international multimodal transport logistics network hub covering Europe and Central Asia is taking shape.
Drawn by employment opportunities, many talents from foreign countries have come to Hunan. Thanks to the newly launched one-stop service center for expats in the China (Hunan) Pilot Free Trade Zone, they can fill in all forms required for permits in the center without rushing from one governmental sector to another. The approval of permits will be granted in 10 workdays instead of the previous 30 days.
"Hunan has launched a series of competitive and attractive policies to encourage opening-up," said Shen Yumou, head of Hunan's Provincial Commercial Department.
Hunan offers a subsidiary of 100 million yuan to ease the burden of banks giving funds to foreign trade enterprises and gives fee waivers to enterprises taking part in exhibitions at home and abroad. Hunan has also published a catalog of imported goods.
Recently, Hunan has formulated measures to support the development of the China (Hunan) Pilot Free Trade Zone in reform and innovation; advanced manufacturing development; in-depth China-Africa economic and trade cooperation; rapid development of trade and investment; development of financial services for the export-oriented economy; international logistics channel construction; high-level talent recruitment; infrastructure and public platform construction.
Hunan will continue to build up the Hunan FTZ using innovative mechanisms and high standards to develop more innovative systems with international competitiveness, said Zhang Qingwei, Party secretary of Hunan province.
The province will also improve its trade cooperation with Africa and build itself into a national pilot area for conducting deep trade cooperation with the continent. It will also integrate the development of the areas of customs, special supervision and cross-border e-commerce comprehensive testing, and expand its international logistics network, Zhang said.