A Trio Bands Together
It's time for Beijing to lose some economic weight and synergize with neighboring Tianjin and Hebei Province
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Cover Stories Series 2014> Jing-Jin-Ji Economic Intergration> Archive
UPDATED: February 19, 2014 NO. 52 DECEMBER 26, 2013
New Year, New Direction
Conferences on economy and urbanization spell out the roadmap for 2014
By Lan Xinzhen

FTA talks

Another major task is opening China up to the outside world and furthering talks on free trade areas (FTAs) and investment agreements.

China may make breakthroughs in FTA negotiations, said Guan Qingyou, Assistant Dean of Minsheng Securities Research Institute.

At present, China is establishing 18 FTAs, involving 31 countries and regions. Of them, 12 free trade agreements have been signed, including agreements with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore, Pakistan, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Iceland and Switzerland, closer economic partnership arrangements with Hong Kong and Macao, and Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with Taiwan. All but free trade agreements with Iceland and Switzerland have come into force.

Another six free trade agreements under negotiation include ones with South Korea, Gulf Cooperation Council, Australia and Norway, as well as China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Guan believes negotiations for the China-South Korea free trade agreement are most likely to see progress in 2014. The bilateral talks started in 2012, and went through eight rounds this year. Now, the two countries have exchanged draft texts concerning other sectors, drawing closer to a conclusion.

China and the United States have finished 10 rounds of talks. Negotiations on a Sino-U.S. investment treaty will also be sped up.

In the next year, China is prepared to accelerate the opening up of its central and western regions, promote the Silk Road Economic Belt in central Asia and Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century among ASEAN members.

Guan noted that FTA talks were picking up steam across the world. By October, a total of 221 FTAs had been submitted to the World Trade Organization, most of which were finalized in recent years. As the trend of trade liberalization becomes increasingly overwhelming, China has been committed to building a global free trade network.

New urbanization

The central urbanization work conference was also held on December 12-13, where the concept of "human-centered urbanization" was proposed for the first time. In view of that, 2014 is regarded as the starting year of China's new urbanization.

Urbanization was stressed as one of the major economic tasks at the 2012 Central Economic Work Conference. This year, things have moved ahead. A special session was held for urbanization, indicating the Central Government's determination to push forward urbanization in a rapidly developing country with a population of 1.3 billion.

Wang Yong, an analyst from Citic Securities, noted that the Central Government intends to carry out urbanization more rationally by emphasizing development quality and benefits people can enjoy. Different from the blind pursuit of urban spatial expansion in the past, human-oriented urbanization is a timely adjustment.

Today, 52 percent of Chinese residents live in urban areas, but migrant populations from rural areas cannot enjoy the same public services as urban residents. In the process of new urbanization, more attention will be devoted to the will and demands of the rural population and ensuring equal access to urban public services. Wang said in the process of new urbanization, efforts will be made to help migrant rural population settle down in the cities.

Cities should develop characteristic industrial systems, intensify the specialized division of labor, promote industrial transfer, boost the service industry and strengthen innovation capacity.

While maintaining at least 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) of arable land, urban construction land should be efficiently used, ensuring that the space for production is used intensively and efficiently, that living space is livable and proper in size, and that ecological space is unspoiled and beautiful.

Three urban agglomerations have gradually taken shape in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta. In the future, some qualified areas in China's central, western and northeastern regions are expected to nurture more city agglomerations.

"There is a long way to go in promoting new urbanization. China must make a good start in 2014," said Xu Shaoshi, Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a national meeting on development and reform held on December 15.

Xu suggested that the new urbanization plan will be promulgated as soon as possible.

Email us at: lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

Economic Tasks in 2014

- Ensuring grain security

- Industrial restructuring

- Containing debt risks

- Coordinating the development of all regions

- Improving people's livelihoods

- Further opening up to the outside world

Urbanization Tasks in 2014

- Giving urban status for migrant workers from rural areas

- Improving the utilization efficiency of urban construction land

- Establishing multiple sustainable fund guarantee mechanisms

- Optimizing the layout of urbanization

- Enhancing urban construction

- Strengthening management of urbanization

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