Xi Jinping, the President of China’s Communist Party, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of its first “Special Economic Zones” or “SEZs” which are located in Shenzhen. On Wednesday, while marking the special day, the president announced his plans to boost the country’s ‘innovation capabilities’ and ‘global technological influence’.
President Xi Jinping traveled to Shenzhen and Guangdong province to share his happiness on the anniversary talked about the future ‘unprecedented’ challenges in an hour long speech as the country grapples with a bruising geopolitical trade war with its biggest rival, the United States. However, he did not mention relations with the United States or Trump explicitly.
The Guangdong visit by Jinping is seen as a key political event for China. The event coincided with the plans of the ruling party to work towards eliminating poverty and building a‘ moderately prosperous society’ in 2020. Another imperative event lined up for the Xi as well as the whole country is the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China in 2021.
The other events planned by the Party were disrupted and derailed by the novel coronavirus spread which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. However, now it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a hindrance in Xi’s campaigns as China is now broadly tackling the spread of the outbreak at home for now.
What issues did Xi address?
Mr. Jinping said that the country ‘unswervingly’ needs to implement an innovation-driven development strategy that would help foster new engines and new trends. This would give China an edge in building a technological and industrial innovation high-ground attached to the benefits of global influence and dominance. He addressed this to an audience all packed with mask-wearing dignitaries at a hall in the visited province. Calling it “a miracle in the world development history”, he talked about the SEZs located in Shenzhen and the industrial reforms because of which China has been able to attain the present stature of the world’s second-largest economy.
He also shared the contours of his plans to take forward the integration of Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macau as part of the Greater Bay Area plan. This plan is accused of being a smart strategy to leverage Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center. The integration ideology has received mixed reactions as several big business houses of Hong Kong have backed it up while some people in the Special Administrative Region think it as worrisome. These people are concerned about the deepening of Chinese influence that can go against the ‘one country, two systems’ model in Hong Kong, especially at a time when the nation is seeing massive protests. The president did not say anything about the wide unrest prevalent in Hong Kong since last year. But, he called for “efforts to synergize economic rules and mechanisms in the three regions and urging wider exchanges and deeper integration among young people in those regions to strengthen their sense of belonging to the motherland.”
What is the importance of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Chinese history?
The SEZs were set up for the first time in 1980 and since then the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Shenzhen has grown 20% annually to reach $400 billion. Shenzhen is of critical importance to China as it is its key tech hub and is also home to some of the biggest corporate giants such as Huawei and Tencent. In 2018, the GDP of this tech-hub surpassed the GDP of the entire Hong-Kong.
How much “Aatma-Nirbhar” is China presently? And can it do without importing materials?
China has a full-fledged surety of domestic grain supply and several daily-use products. However, it still has an undeniable need to import raw materials as well as finished goods and to maintain import sources due to structural problems. According to Chinese officials and agricultural experts, such a market offering will prove to be a long-term trend in China’s gain strategy.
Despite the disastrous situations thrown by the pandemic, insect pests, and plant diseases, China’s summer agricultural level has still outshined itself as well as the other countries. The country produced a record high grain output of 142.8 billion kilograms in the current year, which is 1.21 kilograms more than the last year’s produce. Adding on to this, Han Changfu, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, says this year China is expected to have a bumper autumn harvest with a stable grain supply. All the above-mentioned details clearly prove that China has an abundance of grain and is probably not going to see problems with food security anytime in the near future.
Interestingly, China owns only 9% of the world’s arable land from which it feeds around 20% of the world’s population. On this World Food Day, China’s measures of self-reliance and food security bring a boon for the world.
Even though it is able to maintain the grain supple and demand in the domestic boundaries itself, the country has to import certain crops such as high-quality wheat and soybeans. The grain imports account for only 2% of its total domestic output. Moreover, the country’s imports of food crops have been stable for the last few years. Thus, the volume of imports from the world’s second largest economy won’t be a big threat to world food security either.
In the first three quarters of the year, the imports of grain in China crossed 253.36 billion yuan, which is tantamount to $37.69 billion. This marked a 20.7% year on year increase. Needless to say, the deepening of the trade war has pressurized China to prepare itself for the worst and it has done so by diversifying its farm imports.
Another factor to consider is the effect of China’s import policies on international trade. It is quite obvious that China is one of the smartest and most economy oriented nations in the world and at no cost, it would want to diminish its international relations (which by the way have already pretty much deteriorated due to coronavirus controversies). Thus, it has maintained a certain level of food imports, kept its market open, and did not engage in trade protectionism. Thus, the maintenance of an appropriate amount of agricultural import is quite important for its international trade development and it may not be willing to sacrifice that position in the name of self-reliance. As a result, it is of no shock that Li Kuiwen, China’s customs spokesman, said that China will fully guarantee the imports of key products, and continue to expand the scope of importing countries and commodities in the next phase, adding that it will continue to increase the protection of important agricultural products and food such as meat, grain, aquatic products, and fruits.