Written by Zhong Shuangxia / Translated by Chen Zhiying
Guangxi is the only region in China that connects ASEAN countries by land and sea and surrounding provinces by rivers thus earning the reputation of “linking eleven countries with one gulf and being able to promote the positive interaction between the east, central, and west of China”. Here in Guangxi, China’s frontier and window to ASEAN, you can see the promising future of all-round opening and development in the blueprint it depicted.
At the beginning of the new year 2022, strengthening China-ASEAN cooperation again becomes one of the priorities in the development plan of Guangxi. In the fifth session of the 13th People’s Congress of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the fifth session of the 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Guangxi Committee (Two Sessions) held from January 16 to 20, members centered on the achievements made in China-ASEAN cooperation and looked forward to both sides setting sailing again for better scores.
China-ASEAN cooperation with remarkable achievements
ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner in two consecutive years from 2020 to 2021, especially in 2021, bilateral trade grew rapidly, with the total amount reaching US$ 8,782, a year-on-year increase of 28.1%. Under the severe situation of global economy being fatally hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, China-ASEAN economic and trade cooperation has developed in a good momentum, setting an example for stabilizing regional development around the globe and providing a solution for the world to emerge from the economic crisis.
These outstanding accomplishments were not easily attained. China-ASEAN cooperation has left traceable footprints on its way to realize quality improvement and upgradation. In Guangxi, a region with the geological advantages of locating in the south of China and adjacent to ASEAN, one can see the door it has opened for all-round cooperation with ASEAN.
When Lan Tianli, Governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, made a report on the work of the government in the 2022 Two Sessions, he said that in 2021, Guangxi conscientiously promoted the construction of major projects, with breakthroughs made in the New Western Land-Sea Corridor. For example, Beibu Gulf Port was navigable for 300,000-ton ships, achieved a container throughput of over 6 million TEUs, and put into operation more than 6,000 sea-rail combined trains.
Along the Beibu Gulf, an international gateway rose. In 2021, Beibu Gulf Port continued to take the lead in the growth rate of container and cargo throughput among the top 10 coastal ports in China. As the major node in the New Western Land-Sea Corridor, Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port has made rapid progress in building itself an important international gateway to connect inland China and access ASEAN countries.
Upholding the principle of “Opening doors wider for development and gaining a strong foothold in the strong tide of competition”, China (Guangxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone (GXFTZ) which locates in the critical position in China-ASEAN region also made new contributions to building China-ASEAN community of a shared future. Lan Tianli mentioned in the Report on the Work of the Government that in 2021, GXFTZ completed 95% of its tasks in pilot reform, with more than 56,000 enterprises making presence in the GXFTZ and an increase of 2.6 times and 10 times in the import and export volume in Nanning and Chongzuo Cross-border E-commerce Comprehensive Pilot Zone respectively.
China-ASEAN cooperation is the most distinctive feature reflected in GXFTZ. What is worth mentioning is that in 2021, a new pattern of opening and cooperation was taken shape in the “Two Countries, Twin Parks” cooperation between China and Malaysia in Qinzhou Port Area, achieving results that satisfy the people. According to the Summary on 2021 Economic Development released by Qinzhou Port Area, in 2021, China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park formed the first China-Malaysia cross-border industrial chain of raw bird’s nest in China and received the approval from People’s Bank of China to implement the cross-border RMB two-way flow facilitation policy in GXFTZ and loan policy for overseas project from Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park to the whole ASEAN region.
For Guangxi, a border region, the entry into force of the world’s biggest free trade agreement — Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement has brought it historic new opportunities for all-round opening and development. According to the agreement, after its entry into force, more than 90% of the trade in goods will realize zero tariff among ratified member states. Statistics from Nanning Customs showed that in 2021, the scale of foreign trade in Guangxi hit a record high, with the total volume of import and export reaching RMB 593.06 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 22.2%. Among them, the volume of import and export to RCEP member countries except ASEAN accounted for a high proportion, up to RMB 320.91 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 18.9%.
Accelerating the docking with RCEP to make well-crafted plans and arrangements for seaward economy
“Guangxi’s potential lies in opening, momentum lies in opening, and future lies in opening,” said Lan Tianli.
What measures will Guangxi take to seize the opportunities brought by the RCEP, build the New Western Land-Sea Corridor at a high level, and serve the China-ASEAN community with a shared future, so that to achieve higher-level opening? From the development goal and major tasks in 2022 put forward in the two sessions, one can see that Guangxi has made detailed plans and arrangements to promote China-ASEAN cooperation. Valuable insights from deputies and members also made the blueprint of Guangxi’s high-level opening more clear.
According to Lan Tianli, in the 2022 work plan, Guangxi made clear the direction of all-round cooperation with ASEAN that is to adapt to the RCEP, upgrade China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, and accelerate the implementation of projects such as China-ASEAN commodity trading platform and China-ASEAN digital economy industrial park.
Wang Lei, Member of CPPCC Guangxi Committee, Director-General of Guangxi International Expo Affairs Bureau, and Secretary-General of CAEXPO Secretary, said in an interview during the two sessions: “ The 19th CAEXPO will take new measures in serving the RCEP.” He also said that the CAEXPO would closely follow the implementation of RCEP, further improve the RCEP exhibition hall, invite more high-level enterprises to participate in the CAEXPO, hold economic and trade activities facing RCEP member countries, and upgrade the CAEXPO, thereby promoting China and ASEAN to achieve a better-quality and upgraded economy.
The entry into force of RCEP will bring many development opportunities to Guangxi. How will this region align with the new international economic and trade rules and sum up its experience in effectively implementing RCEP rules for others to replicate? Yang Chunting, Deputy of Guangxi People’s Congress and Director-General of Department of Commerce of Guangxi, said Guangxi would promote the landing of 701 binding obligations of RCEP, give play to the guiding role of the List of Potential Goods in Guangxi’s Trade in Goods and the List of Advantageous Areas in Guangxi’s Trade in Services under RCEP, popularize the intelligent service system on trade in goods within RCEP for Guangxi enterprises, and further expand economic and trade exchanges with trading partners.
It is worth mentioning that in the Report on the Work of the Government, Guangxi plans to start the construction of major projects like Pinglu Canal and Huangtong-Baise Railway. This is undoubtedly Guangxi’s major step in building the China-ASEAN International Channel, which will give a strong support to the development of seaward economy in Guangxi.
Developing seaward economy is one of the major tasks in Guangxi’s 2022 work plan. Guangxi, boasting the Wijiang Golden Waterway, ports accessing to sea, and China-Vietnam border port, no doubt will achieve the goal of building the New Western Land-Sea Corridor at a high level, improving the cooperation level with ASEAN countries, and integrating into the Belt and Road.
Li Yanqiang, Deputies of Guangxi People’s Congress and Chairman of Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group, said the Group would construct ports well support the construction of local industrial parks, and expand and strengthen port industries, to foster and develop seaward economy. Wang Xiongchang, Deputies of Guangxi People’s Congress and Mayor of Qinzhou City, said Qinzhou would complete the task of building an international gateway port, develop an industrial agglomeration area for seaward economy, and strive to make the total output value of seaward economy account for half of the city’s GDP by the end of the 14th Five-Year period.
In the Guangxi Seaward Economy Development Strategic Plan (2021-2025) issued in 2021, we can found that deepening maritime economic exchanges and cooperation with ASEAN countries, actively exploring and building a mutually beneficial and win-win blue partnership, and promoting the construction of a China-ASEAN maritime community with a shared future were also the development direction of Guangxi’s seaward economy. It is expected that a new pattern of all-round opening to seaward and border economy and ASEAN will appear in our sights soon.