BEIJING, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- A spate of initiatives adopted by the Chinese government has aroused the country's enthusiasm for reform, with many people expecting the country's ruling party to kick off more intensive and tougher reforms at a key summit in November.
A few weeks after the launch of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, a catfish effect has evidently come into play across China.
Shenzhen, a coastal city in south China's Guangdong Province and the nation's first special economic zone after China opened up its economy three decades ago, is mulling a free trade zone that would connect Guangdong with regional financial center Hong Kong.
The proposed zone would integrate three existing trade zones within Guangdong and leverage their proximity to Hong Kong and Macao to promote trade and services.
"Like measures unveiled for the Shanghai zone, our proposal includes regulatory and financial reforms, and Shanghai could serve as a lesson in how we innovate in our trade environment," said Niu Jing, director of the Administrative Committee at Hengqin New Area, one of the three existing zones.
Guangdong has been the bellwether in China's export-driven economic growth in the past. Yet as overseas demand weakens and labor cost rises, the coastal province is losing its competitive edge but wants to reinvent itself through industrial upgrades and administrative reforms.
In a separate attempt by Tianjin Binhai New Area (BNA) to spearhead administrative reform, authorities have decided to close down three administrative committees and pass their jurisdiction over three districts to the BNA authority.
A total of 51 senior officials who previously served on the three committees will be relocated as a result of the move.
"This reshuffle is very unprecedented in terms of people and organizations involved," a source with the BNA government told Xinhua.
However, authorities deemed it a necessary step to cut bureaucratic red tapes to stimulate economic activities at the BNA.
"The Shanghai free trade zone has pressured Tianjin to change," according to Zhou Liqun, deputy dean of Nankai University's Binhai Development and Research Institute.
"But unlike the central government's mandate to open a trade zone in Shanghai, the changes at the BNA are self-motivated reform that will increase the zone's appeal to investors in the long run," Zhou said.
Zhuang Jian, an economist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said that the ongoing reforms by local authorities fit into the reform scheme likely to be rolled out at a upcoming session of China's ruling party.
Thirty-five years after the Communist Party of China (CPC) lifted the country out of 10 years of chaos and started economic reform and opening up, analysts say that the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of CPC has the potential to be a landmark event, if it can chart out a comprehensive plan to propel the world's second-largest economy on a more sustainable growth path.
Such sentiment was consolidated on Monday when Chinese President Xi Jinping said China is drawing up a comprehensive plan to deepen reform.
Xi admitted that the problems facing China are "hard nuts to crack" and vowed to tackle them through economic and administrative reforms while taking prudent and proper measures to forestall any potential problems.
The Chinese economy expanded 7.6 percent in the first half of 2013, down from the 7.8-percent growth recorded last year. Authorities say the slowdown is an intended result of the government's industrial upgrade and reform initiatives for quality growth.
To achieve that, the new administration has made transforming government functions its priority since the new leaders took office in March.
The State Council, or China's cabinet, has either canceled or relaxed a total of 221 administrative approval procedures since March this year. It is also considering revising for the first time in nine years an investment catalog to open more sectors once reserved for state players.
"At the heart of these reform measures is the drawing of a clear line between government and the market," said Wang Xiaoguang, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Governance. "We should have faith in market forces."
Wang Tao, chief economist at UBS Securities China, said streamlining administrative procedures and easing private capital's access to certain industries signals the government's resolve to reduce intervention in the market as it presses ahead with reform.
Citing the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone as a typical example of China's resolution to advance complex reform prudently, Zhuang said it could provide valuable experiences for reform in a broader sphere in China.
Officially inaugurated on September 29, the zone opens 18 industries in the service sector and will spearhead reforms in yuan convertibility and interest rate liberalization.
"While the packages unveiled for the Shanghai free trade zone aim at bolder reforms, they should be experimented with in a way that could be applied elsewhere in the country," said the ADB's Zhuang Jian.