Home World News China China makes big strides in opening up service sector

China makes big strides in opening up service sector

Foreign tourists visit the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, on April 23, 2024. (Photo by Wang Chu/People's Daily Online)
Foreign tourists visit the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, on April 23, 2024. (Photo by Wang Chu/People's Daily Online)

By Luo Shanshan,

China has introduced a range of pragmatic policies to expand the opening up of the service sector, which have been widely welcomed.

On the morning of May 24, the Bahamian cruise ship “Mediterranean” docked at Tianjin International Cruise Home Port in north China’s Tianjin municipality. Nearly 800 foreign tourists on the ship entered China via the port without filling out entry card or having passport stamps.

It is reported that China enforced a policy allowing visa-free entry of foreign tourist groups aboard cruise ships via cruise ship ports along the country’s coastline.

Tourist groups each consisting of two foreigners or more, and organized or received by Chinese travel agencies, can enter China visa-free on board cruise ships via the cruise ports in 13 Chinese cities.

Apart from the cruise tourism market, cross-border tourism has also been thriving this year. 

Statistics showed that during the May Day holiday of 2024, China recorded 3.67 million inbound and outbound tourist trips, including 1.77 inbound trips and 1.89 outbound trips. In 2023, China saw its outbound passenger trips exceed 87 million, and this figure is projected to reach 130 million in 2024, according to a paper published by the China Tourism Academy.

The “two-way flow” of tourists is inseparable from a package of high-level opening-up policies released by China. For a period of time, China has been continuously expanding its visa-free “circle of friends” to better facilitate visiting foreign nationals. 

“The visa-free policy is a mutually beneficial measure for China and the global tourism market. More and more countries are granting visa-free access to China, and the economic benefits brought by Chinese tourists can effectively promote the development of local tourism markets. At the same time, the expanding visa-free ‘circle of friends’ also provides more convenience for foreigners coming to China,” said Wang Yalei, an industry analyst with the Ctrip Research Institute.

Currently, the service sector has become a main growth driver for the global economy. Last year, the added value of China’s service sector accounted for 54.6 percent of the country’s GDP. In the first quarter of this year, China’s services trade grew rapidly, with the total imports and exports of services exceeding 1.81 trillion yuan ($2497.96 billion), up 14.7 percent year on year.

To expand the opening up of the service sector, China has managed to facilitate the flow of production factors, continuously improving the convenience for foreigners to work, study and travel in China.

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in southwest China’s Sichuan province is a popular spot for foreign tourists visiting China. At the gift store of the base, an American tourist surnamed John bought a panda plush toy within just a few seconds, using his overseas bank card.

Payment is important for foreigners working, studying and traveling in China. This March, China’s State Council released a guideline to improve payment services for foreigners, promoting the establishment of necessary software and hardware facilities for accepting foreign bank cards, and advancing the development of contactless payment in a coordinated manner.

China has taken multiple measures to provide convenience for foreigners to work, live and travel in China.

China’s Ministry of Commerce recently compiled A Guide to Working and Living in China as Business Expatriates, covering matters such as residence registration, bank card, social insurance, and transportation.

China’s Ministry of Transport is expediting the popularization of online ticket sales, promoting the application of electronic tickets, and making it convenient for domestic and foreign individuals to purchase tickets online using identity cards, passports, and permanent residence cards for foreigners.

China is pushing for comprehensive opening up of manufacturing and service sectors in a coordinated manner. At the opening ceremony of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, it proposed to remove all restrictions on foreign investment access in the manufacturing sector. According to the Report on the Work of the Government this year, all market access restrictions on foreign investment in manufacturing will be abolished, and market access restrictions in services sectors, such as telecommunications and healthcare, will be reduced. 

This year, in response to the institutional and systemic barriers faced by the service sector in areas such as market access and industry regulation, China has expanded institutional opening up and pushed forward management system reforms to align with high-standard international economic and trade rules.

The General Office of the State Council has issued an action plan to steadily promote high-level opening up and make greater efforts to attract and utilize foreign investment, making a series of deployments for expanding the opening up of the service sector, such as continuously promoting the opening up of the telecommunications and healthcare sectors and allowing wider participation by foreign financial institutions in banking and insurance.

The Ministry of Commerce has rolled out national and pilot free trade zone (FTZ) versions of negative lists for cross-border trade in services to boost opening up. 

“The two negative lists uniformly manage market access for cross-border services trade, effectively enhancing the transparency and predictability of cross-border services trade management. This is a major reform of China’s services trade management system,” an official with the ministry noted.


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