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New Preferential Policies to Boost Western Investment
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China is pulling out all the stops to encourage foreign funding in the western region with new preferential policies for investors, a senior Chinese official said Saturday.

"China's massive western development is creating golden opportunities for foreign investors," said Wang Chunzheng, vice-minister of the State Planning and Development Commission.

Wang, who is also the deputy director of the State Council's Western Development Office, told the Western Forum of China that foreign investment would be allowed to expand in the service and retail sectors in the capital cities of the 11 western provinces and autonomous regions and Chongqing municipality.

Wang also announced other new government policies to encourage funding in the capital-thirsty region, including:

Establishing joint venture industrial investment funds;

Allowing domestic banks to grant more loans in renminbi to foreign-funded enterprises;

Easing restrictions over the proportion of foreign equity in overseas-funded projects;

Giving foreign-funded firms in the economic development zones of Xi'an, Chengdu, Guiyang and Kunming the same preferential policies as those in coastal state-level development zones;

Expanding the trial of BOT (build, operate and transfer) to attract foreign investment into infrastructure construction.

The campaign, initiated last year, has attracted world attention and eager investors have been waiting with bated breath to see what kind of preferential policies would be granted.

The central government has already taken multi-pronged measures to make investment in this economically undeveloped region more lucrative for investors.

Last year, the government issued a directory of priority industries for foreign investment in the central and western regions.

The government has also encouraged foreign-funded enterprises in the eastern coastal areas to re-invest in the west. If the re-investment reaches 25 percent of the total project capital, the firm qualifies for the same preferential policies given to other investors.

The country aims to bring the entire country into modernization by the mid-21st century, Wang said. The western region would be built into a new area of economic prosperity, social progress, national solidarity, stability of life and clean environment.

In another speech Saturday at the Western Forum, Wu Jichuan, minister of information industry, outlined the development targets of China's information sector in the coming 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005).

During the period, the growth rate of the sector is expected to triple that of national economy while the market scale would double, he said.

"The industry will make up 5 percent of the country's total gross domestic product (GDP) by 2005," he told the forum, which has been the highest-level meeting on China's "go-west" program so far with more than 1,700 participants.

(China Daily 10/22/2000)

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