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Qianhai head says internet to be unblocked in part of Shenzhen

Posted: 10/2/2013 3:19 pm

We’ve been telling you for a while about the Qianhai Economic Zone in Shenzhen, situated just northwest of Shekou, and how it aims to be Ground Zero for financial liberalization in China.

The zone is expected to experiment with financial reforms, but has had much of its thunder stolen by the larger and more ambitious Free Trade Zone in Shanghai. Shanghai’s FTZ launched last weekend along with a few policies designed to internationalize China’s financial markets, but fell far short of expectations.

The South China Morning Post reported in an “exclusive” last week that banned websites in China would be viewable in the FTZ, but that was shot down a day later by a report in Xinhua, which assured everyone that dangerous ideas on Facebook would be kept at bay.

At least one financial expert in China has told this correspondent that Shanghai’s experiments with reform won’t amount to much, precisely because they’re happening in Shanghai. The city is far too important, and far too high profile, to begin experimenting with. If reforms are real (as they were in the early 1980s), then they’ll most likely be enacted far away from China’s capital and undisputed financial centre. They’d most likely happen here.

On that note, the head of the Qianhai zone has come out and said that the Internet will be unblocked once the project gets underway. This is from Reuters:

“In Qianhai, we will be able to see what they can see in Hong Kong,” said Wang Jinxia, director of the research and innovation centre of the Qianhai Authority, which is overseeing the proposed $45 billion financial zone in southern China.

“We will strive for an exclusive international communication channel in which information won’t be filtered,” he said, adding that Facebook and Twitter would be available.

It could be argued Qianhai is already having more success than Shanghai. The Financial Times covered the Shanghai FTZ’s launch on the weekend:

Overseas banks have given Shanghai’s much-hyped free-trade zone a chilly reception – Sunday’s launch included just two branches of non-Chinese institutions.

But the tepid reaction of foreign banks so far reflects widespread confusion about how the zone will operate, even as regulators have appealed for patience.

While here in Shenzhen

Qianhai, dubbed a “mini-Hong Kong”, has attracted about 1,700 companies – about 70 percent related to financial services – with registered capital of 200 billion yuan ($23 billion) as of mid-September.

There are 20 Fortune 500 companies registered in Qianhai, including HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and Standard Chartered.

This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, and both zones have murky policies in place at best. But it’s not a foregone conclusion that Shanghai’s FTZ will be the most important experiment driving China’s economic future.

(Photo Credit: SCMP; h/t Shanghaiist)


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