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Guo Jianchun: Expediting construction of Hainan Free Trade Port

Updated: 2020-07-08 chinadaily.com.cn

The release of the master plan for the Hainan Free Trade Port has presented Hainan province in South China with a historic development opportunity. Free trade ports represent the highest level of openness in today's world. Constructing the Hainan Free Trade Port is one of the concrete steps taken to fulfill China's pledge to open its doors wider, demonstrating the country's confidence and determination in opening up to the outside world. 

Constructing a free trade port is no easy task. It requires concerted efforts by various parties from across the province and the entire country. Some of the priorities are to redress the disparities in rural development, bring in talent and make the province a more attractive destination for businesses. 

The Hainan Free Trade Port is the largest of its kind in China in terms of size. Eighty percent of its land is in rural areas and more than 60 percent of the local population is from rural areas. In recent years, Hainan has made marked progress in rural development and absolute poverty in rural areas has been basically eliminated.

However, the imbalance in development between urban and rural areas is yet to be tackled at root. The local agriculture industry lacks competitiveness and efficiency. Farmers are not yet rich and are in need of sustained income sources.

The biggest challenge facing the Hainan Free Trade Port lies in its rural areas. We need to work out an effective plan to redress the urban-rural imbalance and turn weaknesses into strengths. The goal is to make the rural areas a source of quality farm produce, human resources and land resources for the free trade port. 

To turn weaknesses into strengths, we need to first speed up institutional innovation and remove the institutional barriers that interrupt the flow of talent, capital and technology to rural areas. The ownership structures in rural areas are difficult to penetrate, which has created an invisible wall blocking the entry of outside talent, capital and technology. The wall must be removed if we are to achieve integrated urban-rural development in the true sense. 

Second, we must find ways to boost rural collective economy and rural industries. One way to do this could be to rent the deserted public welfare land to companies. We must also establish mixed-ownership enterprises to make use of the preferential policies for the free trade port and bring in professionals, develop the collective economy and drive the development of rural industries.

Third, we need to put in place an incentive mechanism to spur the movement of professionals, capital and technology from urban areas to rural areas. We must make use of the fact that the free trade port encourages bold moves and create a supporting environment for rural entrepreneurs and people who come to work in the villages to support rural development. In the selection and promotion of officials, we should break the boundary between urban and rural areas and give more consideration to rural grassroots workers. The government must also roll out fiscal and financial support policies for entrepreneurs who are starting a business in rural areas.

Fourth, we should strengthen the role of science and technology in driving the development of rural industries. The quality and efficiency of rural industrial development must be enhanced in order to meet the high standards of free trade port construction and this process relies on the support of science and technology. The government could consider prioritizing the building of technological infrastructure for tropical agriculture and rural tourism and include it as an important measure in the next stage of rural development in Hainan province. 

Guo is a member of the National Committee of the 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a member of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of Jiusan Society and vice-president of Hainan University.

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