Serving as the “windows and bases” through which China opens itself to the outside world, the national Economic and Technological Development Zones (the ETDZs) have been powerful engines driving the regional economies around them, and have played an important role in developing China’s larger industrial structure. The Chinese government has reiterated its determination to save the economy from the global financial meltdown through heavy government spending and a series of stimulus policies. On March 26, 2009, the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (MOFCOM) published its Guiding Opinions on the Work of National Economic and Technological Development Zones in 2009, attaching great importance to improving the investment environment, stimulating domestic demand, stabilizing export volume, and creating more jobs in order to produce a rebound in the economy.
The Guiding Opinions prioritize adjusting the budget of the ETDZs to increase their fundraising scale and infrastructure investment; creating efficient mechanisms for foreign investment to attract foreign capital and improve the quality of foreign-invested projects; encouraging foreign investment in high-technology, energy-saving, environmental protection, and modern service industries; strengthening financial and tax policy support to promote the development of the service outsourcing business; stabilizing export volume by providing more preferential financial and tax policy support, and by exploring emerging markets in South Asia, Central-East Asia, South America and Eastern Europe; promoting the coordinated growth of regional economies by adjusting their industrial structures and facilitating cooperation between the eastern and mid-western regions; and creating more job opportunities and improving the social security system.
To date, there are 54 ETDZs in China, among which the eastern coastal regions boast 33 and the mid-western regions 21. Since their beginnings in the 1980s as Special Economic Zones that granted special tax incentives for foreign investments and greater independence with respect to international trade, the ETDZs have achieved remarkable success. The publication of the Guiding Opinions reflects the government’s need to fill the void left by collapsing exports and private sector investment, and its expectation that the ETDZs will play an active role in China’s economic recovery.