Aerial photo taken on Aug 13, 2020, shows a view of Shenzhen, South China”s Guangdong province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Reforms include granting wider access, aligning with international practices

For Martin Papp, a US entrepreneur who founded a tea startup in China, the COVID-19 pandemic has pressed a pause button on many of his plans. The virus has forced him to work remotely in Los Angeles for 10 months and suspended the opening of his tea factories.

But all this did not stop his commitment to the Chinese market, which has not only a robust customer base but a business environment that is becoming increasingly fair and friendly, he said.

Like Papp, more and more foreign entrepreneurs in China will benefit from the country’s continuous efforts to level the playing field for domestic and foreign-invested enterprises, among other priorities to vitalize market entities in the next five years, experts said.

China has vowed to further promote fair market competition as part of the deepening reform and opening-up efforts to improve its socialist market economy in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, according to a communique of the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which was held from Oct 26 to 29.

China will advance reforms to give full play to the role of the market in resource allocation, with major progress to be made in the reforms of the property rights system and market-based allocation of production factors, the communique said.

Experts said the reform plans outlined by the Party’s central leadership will provide foreign businesses with greater development opportunities by granting wider market access, improving the rules-based fair business environment and aligning domestic rules with international practices.

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CG Lai, CEO of BNP Paribas China, an arm of the French international banking group, said that during the uncertainty wrought by the pandemic, China has remained committed to financial market reform and opening-up and boosting investment confidence among domestic and international investors.

“Access is no longer a problem for foreign institutions in China,” Lai said, adding that as one of the first foreign banks that obtained access to underwriting onshore corporate bonds from Chinese issuers, BNP Paribas performed the first lead underwriting by a foreign bank of this kind in December 2019.

The country has removed foreign ownership limits in the futures, securities, mutual funds and life insurance financial sectors this year. This was done after implementing the Foreign Investment Law starting on Jan 1 to better protect the interests of foreign businesses.

China’s regulatory reforms have been recognized by the World Bank Group’s Doing Business study. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period, the country climbed to 31st globally in terms of the ease of doing business for the 2020 study, versus 90th for 2015.

“I’ve never experienced a situation where I thought it was more difficult because I was a foreigner or we were a foreign company,” Papp said, adding that his business, Papp’s Tea, has obtained about 40 new corporate clients this year despite the pandemic.

Via China Daily