In September 2013, China established its first pilot free-trade zone in Shanghai. It was conceived as a special economic zone, where overseas investors could operate with specially defined inducements that included tax breaks and a simplified administrative process.
By 2020, the number of pilot FTZs in China had grown to 21. Experts believe they have served effectively as a testing ground for the country's experimental approach to further opening-up, deregulation and enabling a business climate for overseas investors.
Since the severe global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, these FTZs have played a notable role in boosting growth in China.
Figures from the Ministry of Commerce show that in the first seven months of this year, import and export volumes at the FTZs amounted to 16.6 percent of the national total, an increase of 42 percent from the same period last year, and faster than the national average by 10 percentage points. In addition, actual use of foreign capital in the zones accounted for 17 percent of the national total, a growth of 33.5 percent year-on-year.
Tu Xinquan, dean of the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the FTZs are a result of China's willingness to engage in wider opening-up. Read more>>