Shandong province is expected to be a new powerhouse in the Northeast Asian region, with the eastern Chinese province leading the way in high-quality opening-up, experts said at a high-end forum.
Ships get ready for their voyages in the foreign trade container terminal of Qingdao port in Shandong province. (Photo: China Daily)
Evidence that the province will be an important conduit in China's economic growth became evident after the China (Shandong) Pilot Free Trade Zone was set up as one of the six new FTZs in the country in late August.
Shandong, birthplace of Confucius, is an important economic powerhouse in the coastal areas, with a GDP surpassing 4 trillion yuan ($560 billion) in the first half of this year. It was ranked third after Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces. However, the province has faced a problem with lagging economic drive.
Zhao Zhongxiu, president of the Shandong University of Finance and Economics, said the FTZ in Shandong should focus on institutional innovation and find a unique way of high-quality economic growth, with its optimized geographic position and abundant resources.
"The province should take the free trade zone opportunity to become more involved in the China-Japan-South Korea regional economic cooperation, as well as the Belt and Road Initiative, and play a bigger role in improving exchanges of capital, technology, talent and information between east and west," said Zhao on the sidelines of the High-Level Forum of Shandong Pilot Free Trade Zone Development Strategy on Oct 17 in Qingdao, a coastal city in Shandong.
The forum invited officials and scholars from across the country to discuss how to build high-quality pilot trade zones.
An employee works on the assembly line of Shandong Lingong Construction Machinery Co in Jinan, Shandong province. (Photo: Xinhua)
Zhao said that Shandong could also explore more economic integration of Northeast Asia by joining hands with Liaoning and Heilongjiang FTZs, and play a more active role in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Integration Plan and Yangtze River Delta region.
Shandong also needs to put more efforts into the innovation of marine sectors, as the province boasts first-class research facilities and topnotch talents in those sectors, Zhao said.
During the forum, a research institute backed by the School of International Trade and Economics at Shandong University of Finance and Economics was officially unveiled.
Zhao said that the research institute would focus on areas including big data in FTZs, financial reform and innovation at FTZs, policy assessment and talent training.
Chen Wenling, chief economist at the Beijing-based China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said the development of China's FTZs should be placed at the background of international economic restructuring and China's national strategies.
Chen suggested that the Shandong FTZ could first try to gather resources around Bohai Bay. Covering a total area of 120 square kilometers, the Shandong FTZ consists of three parts in Jinan, Qingdao and Yantai.
With three to five years of reform trials, the Shandong FTZ is set to develop into a high-level and high-quality zone with features including convenient access to trade and investment, sound financial services and drive development in surrounding areas, Ren Airong, vice-governor of Shandong, said during a news conference in August.