China News Service Urumqi, November 11 (Xinhua) -- Why do you say that the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone supports the construction of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt?

——Interview with Wang Hongli, Deputy Director of the Institute of Economics, Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences

China News Service reporters Wang Jinsheng, Yan Wenlu, Zhu Jingchao, Wang Xiaojun

On November 11, the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone (hereinafter referred to as the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone) was officially inaugurated. This is not only China's 1nd pilot free trade zone, but also the first pilot free trade zone in China's northwest border region, with an implementation area of 22.179 square kilometers, covering the three areas of Urumqi, Kashgar and Khorgos.

How can Xinjiang build a high-level pilot free trade zone? How does the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone connect with the world? On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, what is the role of Xinjiang being approved as a pilot free trade zone? Wang Hongli, deputy director of the Economic Research Institute of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, recently gave an exclusive interview to China News Service's "East-West Question" to answer the above questions.

The transcript of the interview is summarized below:

China News Service: What is a "Pilot Free Trade Zone"? Why does the country set up a pilot free trade zone?

Wang Hongli: There is no standard definition for a pilot free trade zone. Its basic connotation is a special economic zone established by the state, which aims to promote more liberalization, facilitation and rule of law in trade, investment, finance and other fields through the innovation of a series of more open and optimized institutional arrangements. The normative system, facilitation policies and preferential measures enjoyed by the region are uniformly applicable to all traders and investors at home and abroad, aiming to create an excellent business environment, attract international investment and trade activities, and form a new driving force to promote economic development and innovation, and lead the opening up.

The establishment of a pilot free trade zone by the state can achieve the following purposes:

First, promote economic development and promote industrial upgrading and transformation. Through experimenting and exploring new economic systems, policies, laws and regulations, management models, etc., we will realize reforms and developments such as trade facilitation, investment liberalization, financial innovation, and economic transformation and upgrading, attract more enterprises and investment, reduce enterprise operating costs, improve operational efficiency, enhance technology availability, promote the development of new technologies, new industries, and new business forms, promote the industrial development and upgrading of the region, and improve the added value of the industrial chain.

Second, attract more investment. Preferential investment policies and an optimized business environment can attract investment from domestic and foreign enterprises, which in turn will bring capital, new technology and advanced management experience, and enhance market vitality and competitiveness.

Third, promote international trade cooperation. The pilot free trade zone is a window and platform for international trade cooperation, which can better connect domestic and foreign markets, encourage multinational enterprises to set up headquarters or branches, promote international trade cooperation, investment and economic exchanges, and improve the country's international competitiveness.

On November 2023, 11, the Kashgar Area of the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone was inaugurated. Photo by Sun Tingwen

Fourth, improve the efficiency of government administration. The establishment of the pilot free trade zone is conducive to promoting institutional innovation, increasing the intensity of administrative reform, simplifying the administrative approval process, optimizing government services, and improving administrative efficiency.

Fifth, the Pilot Free Trade Zone is an innovation test platform that explores new policies and institutional reforms, tests policy effects, and provides experience and reference for the development of various regions through early implementation and pilot trials.

China News Service: What is the difference between China's pilot free trade zones and those of Western countries?

Wang Hongli: The establishment of the pilot free trade zone is a major strategy for China to continuously explore the path of economic development and comprehensively deepen reform and expand opening up under the new situation. It is a specific area that is open up autonomously, leading the test field of opening up, with the goal of promoting economic development, especially local economic development. Pilot free trade zones usually set up a special management mechanism to implement a series of policies and measures such as relaxing trade restrictions, simplifying administrative approvals, optimizing the business environment, etc., and take the road of self-innovation and exploration and development with complete independence.

At present, there are about 3500,135 free trade zones in <> countries and regions around the world, although they are different in name, scale, function, management, rule of law, and policy, and their essence is "pilot free trade zone". The "pilot free trade zone" in Western countries originated early, and its current characteristics include: the comprehensive function is increasingly enhanced, the rule of law system is gradually completed, and the management is gradually standardized, efficient and convenient. Many countries have participated in one or more free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA). These FTAs are basically established between two or more countries, and the countries negotiate or negotiate trade agreements aimed at reducing international trade barriers, lowering tariffs, and promoting trade and investment liberalization.

On November 2023, 11, the Kashgar Area of the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone was inaugurated. The picture shows that the first batch of business entities settled in the free trade zone were issued business licenses. Photo by Sun Tingwen

China News Service: What is the significance of the establishment of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone for Xinjiang? What is the connection with the previously established "Kashgar Economic Development Zone" and "Khorgos Economic Development Zone"?

Wang Hongli: The establishment of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone is a major decision made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, and an important strategic measure to promote reform and opening up in the new era. To build a new development pattern, promote high-quality development, and promote Chinese-style modernization, Xinjiang is facing new opportunities and must make new achievements. The establishment of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone can bring major development opportunities to Xinjiang.

Based on the resource endowment, geographical advantages and industrial foundation, the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone can attract more domestic and foreign enterprises to invest and start businesses, attract more talents to start businesses in Xinjiang, help stimulate market vitality, enhance the strength of Xinjiang's real economy, promote industrial upgrading and innovation-driven development, and promote Xinjiang's high-quality development. At the same time, the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone is conducive to expanding the depth and breadth of Xinjiang's opening up and cooperation, boosting the construction of the core area of the Xinjiang Silk Road Economic Belt, deepening exchanges and cooperation in connectivity and economic and trade exchanges with the Belt and Road countries, and further enhancing economic competitiveness and influence. More importantly, the construction of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone can also promote employment, increase income levels, enrich commodity markets and service methods, improve people's quality of life and improve people's livelihood.

Proposed in 2011, the Kashgar Economic Development Zone and the Khorgos Economic Development Zone aim to build an important window for China's opening up to the west, form a new growth point that leads Xinjiang's economic development, and promote the formation of a new pattern of China's opening up to the outside world with equal emphasis on "land opening" and "maritime opening". The two economic development zones have implemented special economic policies and played an important role in promoting Xinjiang's economic development, improving the level of opening up to the outside world, and strengthening economic and trade exchanges with neighboring countries.

The Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone is a further upgrade and expansion on the basis of the two major economic development zones, and is a countermeasure to adapt to the current new situation of economic development at home and abroad, which puts forward new requirements for Xinjiang to deepen opening up, promote economic transformation and upgrading, strengthen regional economic cooperation, and implement a wider scope, wider fields and deeper opening up.

On September 2014, 9, Khorgos City, located in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, was officially launched, and the construction of urban infrastructure was fully launched. Photo by Qin Jie

China News Service: How to build the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone at a high level and with high quality? How to connect with China's domestic and international free trade zones?

Wang Hongli: In the overall plan for the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone, eight major tasks and 25 policies and measures are proposed to accelerate the transformation of government functions, deepen the reform of the investment field, promote the innovative development of foreign trade, build an open characteristic industrial system, deepen financial services and open innovation, build a comprehensive logistics hub connecting Europe and Asia, deepen exchanges and cooperation in multiple fields to the west, and deepen the reform of the talent development system and mechanism. Compared with the overall plan of China's other 21 pilot free trade zones, this is the action plan with the most tasks, very detailed and specific measures, and Xinjiang characteristics.

To build a high-level Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone, institutional innovation is the core, and the transformation of government functions is the key. The development experience of other countries in the world and China's pilot free trade zones shows that innovative systems, mature mechanisms, efficient management systems, convenient customs clearance measures and facilities, standardized supervision, competitive tax systems, law-based market environments, talent gathering highlands, and integration into the national development strategy are important aspects that Xinjiang needs to learn from and accelerate its integration. At the same time, Xinjiang should build its own economic strength based on its comparative advantages, actively participate in various regional free trade agreements, obtain more trade opportunities, assume more roles, and play a greater role.

On November 2023, 11, the Kashgar Area of the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone was inaugurated. The picture shows the centralized signing of the project at the unveiling ceremony. Photo by Sun Tingwen

China News Service: Compared with other pilot free trade zones, what are the differences and unique advantages of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone?

Wang Hongli: The Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone has a certain foundation for economic development, has distinctive comparative advantages, and is facing the opportunities of the times, but also facing practical challenges, and needs to strengthen confidence and innovate and work hard.

At present, Xinjiang's economic development and social harmony have significantly enhanced the sense of gain, happiness and security of people of all ethnic groups, and the breadth and degree of cooperation with the "Belt and Road" countries have been significantly improved, which has continuously attracted the attention of domestic and foreign enterprises. The state has always vigorously supported the development and construction of Xinjiang, with greater policy support, more resources, lower investment costs, better humanistic care, richer development carriers, more convenient and faster for enterprises to "go out" and "come in", huge investment potential, and broad development space.

Snow scene in Kashgar, Xinjiang. Photo by Adilijiang

China News Service: On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, the approval of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone will play a role in the construction of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt?

Wang Hongli: The approval of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone has greatly contributed to the construction of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

The biggest role of the pilot free trade zone is to reform and innovate and promote economic development. It is a necessary condition for the construction of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt to achieve greater results in the construction of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt to create an open, inclusive, flexible, efficient, rule-of-law and vibrant economic environment through pilot policy measures and reform practices, and to promote trade liberalization, investment facilitation and market openness. The important tasks of the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone such as "promoting the innovative development of foreign trade, building an open characteristic industrial system, deepening financial services, building a comprehensive logistics hub, and leading the opening to the west", as well as the construction goal of "building a high-standard and high-quality free trade zone with a good business environment, convenient investment and trade, agglomeration of advantageous industries, sharing of factor resources, efficient management, and outstanding radiation and driving role" are also the high-quality construction standards of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

The "dual-zone" development strategy of the core area of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Xinjiang Pilot Free Trade Zone provides development goals, development directions and development modes for Xinjiang to actively serve and integrate into major national strategies and build a new highland of reform and opening up in the new era. (ENDS)

Interviewee Profile:

Wang Hongli is a researcher and deputy director of the Institute of Economics, Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. He is mainly engaged in scientific research in the fields of regional economy and public administration. He has presided over and completed 1 project of the National Social Science Fund and 15 horizontally commissioned projects; Participated in the completion of 10 projects of the National Social Science Fund and the National Natural Science Fund, and 51 provincial and ministerial level and horizontal commissioned projects. He has published 1 monograph and edited 3 books. He has published nearly 80 articles.