On April 13, 2018, the central government announced its support for building Hainan province into a pilot free trade zone with Chinese characteristics. The China (Hainan) Free Trade Zone General Plan was consequently released on October 16, 2018.
The scope of the free trade zone is the entirety of Hainan Island.
The plan also clarifies the strategic positioning of the free trade zone. It aims to build Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone into a deep reform and opening-up pilot zone, a national ecological civilization pilot zone, an international tourism consumption center, a national major strategic service and support zone, and an important gateway to the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
According to the plan, the free trade zone will have a scientific industrial layout led by tourism, the modern service industry and high-tech industry. In accordance with development needs, the plan aims to set up a special customs supervision area to carry out institutional innovation to liberalize and facilitate investment and trade, as well as businesses such as international investment and trade, bonded logistics, and bonded maintenance. The plan also sets up an additional customs supervision and isolation area in Sanya for the businesses of introducing and transiting global animal and plant germplasm resources.
In order to speed up opening up, the free trade zone will greatly relax the access regulation on foreign capital, and fully implement the pre-access national treatment plus negative list management system for foreign capital. At the same time, it will foster a new trade model, support the development of cross-border e-commerce and global maintenance, and promote trade transformation and upgrading. The free trade zone will also strengthen scientific and technological exchanges and innovation cooperation with Belt and Road countries in the construction of joint laboratories, science and technology parks, technology transfer, and in investment, trade, finance, education and other aspects.
At the same time, the free trade zone will accelerate the innovative development of the service industry; promote the agglomeration of modern service industries such as medical health, trade and logistics; enhance the service quality of high-end tourism; foster and expand the characteristic marine economy; and improve international shipping capabilities.
It will build a world-class business environment, implement the Internet + Government Service model, improve the intellectual property protection and application system, and provide entry, exit, residence and permanent residence services for foreign talents working and starting businesses in the zone.
The Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone has five advantages.
The first advantage of the Hainan FTZ is an efficient approval process. The Hainan FTZ has canceled 875 declaration materials in provincial administrative licensing matters, and the project approval process has been reduced from 70 to 4 steps. Approval time has been shortened to 57 working days. Moreover, 86 percent of provincial government services can be finished on the Internet.
Secondly, Hainan have already introduced over 1,300 thousand talents, including nearly 50,000 at a high-level, a number expected to increase to 1 million by 2025.
Thirdly, the Hainan FTZ has high-leveled infrastructure. Hainan has the world’s first island-looping high-speed trains which connect 12 cities, 20,860 km of highways and three airports. The airports’ passenger throughput has now exceeded 40 million. It also has excellent Internet service, as well as ample water and electricity.
The fourth advantage is Innovative Development Planning. Hainan was the first pilot province to adopt a “Multiple-Plan Integration” policy requiring fewer administrative approval items and links and creates more efficient projects and lower administrative cost.
The last advantage is location. Hainan is located at the junction of Asia and the Pacific Ocean, between Japan and Singapore. It is a major maritime transportation route connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans, with unique geographical advantages.