Businesses love Shanghai, and here's why

Huang Yixuan
Shanghai, a pioneer through 70 years of China's astonishing development, is set to become a global center of financial services, innovation and high-quality living.
Huang Yixuan

Throughout its history, Shanghai has always been a decidedly dynamic city. As a pioneer of China’s development, the metropolis is now well on its way to becoming a global center of financial services, innovation and high-quality living.

Not merely symbolic of the city's all-round development, the fantastic success of last year’s China International Import Expo sent a clear signal to the world of Shanghai’s ability and intention to become an aspirational destination for overseas enterprises and capital, across all industries.

Businesses are now lining up to register for the second China International Import Expo, already an unmissable event for those who aspire to penetrate the huge China market.

The area of the exhibition, to be held from November 5 to 10 this year, has been expanded to 300,000 square meters and by April 19, the beginning of the 200-day countdown to the event, thousands of enterprises had signed up, including big names such as 3M, Bosch, De'Longhi, Infineon, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Ricoh, Samsung and SAP SE.

This year, there will be special exhibition areas for some trending sectors, sure to include high-end consumer products, driverless vehicles and virtual reality.

The Expo is already seen by importers as an ideal venue to debut their latest products and technology. Indeed businesses in similar sectors are clamoring to compete with one another to make the biggest splash and draw the loudest wows.

The first CIIE last November was a great success by almost every metric. It posted a turnover of US$58 billion, putting the event firmly in the top 10 global business fairs, a list already topped by the Canton Fair in Guangzhou.

The Expo was conceived as a platform to open up the Chinese market as a whole. However, the event immediately became a strong driving force for Shanghai's three major strategies to reinforce the city’s reputation among the biggest global players: an expanded free trade zone, a new science and technology innovation board, and integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta.

Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang pointed out at a meeting on Monday that these three major tasks had been assigned by the central government and represent aspects of national strategies which should be pursued with the most vigorous zeal.

"We should consider the bigger picture, plan from a high starting point … and push forward the three new major tasks with high standards, creating a new pattern of reform and opening up for the whole city," Li said.

At the opening ceremony of the first CIIE, President Xi Jinping encouraged Shanghai to expand its FTZ and Shanghai's Vice Mayor Wu Qing dropped hints later in the month that the new area would be "much bigger."

The current FTZ covers only about 2 percent of the city's total land area, but generates about a quarter of the city’s GDP and tax revenue. Close to half of the regional headquarters of multinationals and foreign R&D centers in the city are now assembled there.

The Ministry of Commerce’s Gao Feng told a press conference this month that the ministry is working with Shanghai on plans to expand the zone.

Since it was officially opened five years ago, the FTZ has been unhesitating in its enthusiasm for institutional innovation in finance, investment, supervision and trade. A strong measure of the power the zone has brought to the region is that it is home to 59,000 entirely new enterprises. This is more than the total number of businesses founded in Shanghai in the previous 20 years.

More than 120 practices that were piloted in the FTZ have been replicated throughout the country. These policies lighten the corporate burden, stimulate market vitality, optimize the business environment and share the benefits from reform and opening-up.

Zhou Hanmin, deputy chairman of the Shanghai Commitee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said expanding the FTZ would bring the Shanghai zone in line with the highest global standards.

The future for trade in Shanghai is very bright indeed. 

Working together, the city and central authorities can undoubtedly make great strides toward a higher quality of commercial development. This evolutionary process can only lead to a better city, one that is more open and more competitive, and one where businesses, residents and nature prosper and coexist in harmony.

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