China to make Shenzhen a new economic zone
Beijing has unveiled a detailed plan for wide-ranging reforms to be implemented in Shenzhen, including in the legal, financial, medical and social sectors. A report by state broadcaster CCTV said, under the plan, Shenzhen would become a model of “high-quality development, an example of law and order and civilisation, as well as societal satisfaction and sustainability”. The goals were to make the city a leader in terms of innovation, public service and environmental protection by 2025, the report said. The plan also aimed to make Shenzhen competitive in the world in terms of comprehensive economic abilities by 2035, and a global “benchmark” for competitiveness, innovation and influence by the middle of the century. International organisations and big companies would be encouraged to set up branches or headquarters in the city, and it would be allowed to “make flexible changes to laws, regulations and local ordinances according to authorisation and based on Shenzhen’s need for reform and innovation”.

Special emphasis would also be placed on integrating Hong Kong and Macau into the Greater Bay Area scheme, which aims to link those cities with Shenzhen and eight others in Guangdong in an economic and business hub. That would include promoting connections between Shenzhen’s financial market and those in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as expanding financial regulation and the portfolio of financial products available to trade bonds and foreign exchange.

The report added that a “big data” centre for the Greater Bay Area would be located in Shenzhen. Hongkongers who lived or worked in Shenzhen would be granted residential status, with new cultural activities launched in Shenzhen in coordination with Hong Kong and Macau.

The report was released amid unprecedented tension in Hong Kong, with anti-government protests taking place for the eleventh consecutive week. The mass protests, and the violence that has accompanied them, have raised questions over whether Beijing might downgrade Hong Kong’s place in the Greater Bay Area plan.

Guo Wanda, executive vice-president of the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, said Shenzhen had been exploring reforms in various economic areas. “For example, in the Qianhai Bay Free Trade Port Zone, it has already explored [reforms in] foreign exchange management and cross-border financing, including financial cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, so it’s not odd what the report says about having an open economy,” he said.

The Greater Area Bay blueprint was unveiled in February this year, aimed at transforming the 11 cities into a combined economic powerhouse, with Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou identified as the four “pillars” of development.

In New Jersey, US President Donald Trump has warned that trade talks with China would be hampered if Beijing uses violent means to crack down on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Protests have taken place in Hong Kong since June 9, sparked by demands for the city’s government to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of suspects to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong did not have an extradition agreement, including mainland China. The protests have included violent clashes, which Beijing said showed “sign of terrorism”, and paramilitary troops were mobilised to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. President Trump said that if a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown happened in Hong Kong, “there’d be tremendous political sentiment not to do something”, referring to trade negotiations between China and the United States.

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