A demonstration area under construction in Qingdao, Shandong province, is expected to add momentum to cooperation between China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as highlighted at the ninth meeting of the Communist Party of China’s central committee for deepening overall reform recently.
The building of the demonstration area for economic and trade cooperation between China and the SCO is aimed at creating a new platform for international cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative and expanding cooperation in areas including international logistics, modern trade, two-way investment, and business, tourism and cultural exchanges, according to the meeting’s statement.
The country will promote Qingdao’s role in the construction of the economic corridor of the New Eurasian Continental Bridge under the Belt and Road Initiative and maritime cooperation, the statement said.
“It marks China’s determination to continue deepening reform and opening-up,” said Shen Chi, vice-director and professor of urban planning at the China Center for Urban Development of the National Development and Reform Commission. “Despite the pushback against globalization in the world, China is committed to further opening up instead of pursuing development with the door closed.”
Shen said the building of a demonstration area in Qingdao will help boost economic growth in countries and regions along the New Eurasian Continental Bridge.
“Qingdao is a major port city in northern China, with the northwestern China region as its vast hinterland for development. Setting up a demonstration area in Qingdao, the port will extend to more SCO countries, offering them a key gateway to the Pacific Ocean. And it will help boost local economic development and improve interconnectivity among SCO countries,” Shen added.
China announced plans to set up the demonstration area during the SCO summit held in Qingdao in June 2018.
Located in Jiaozhou, which forms part of Qingdao, the demonstration area has launched 17 major projects with a total investment of 13 billion yuan ($1.89 billion). Eight new projects are expected to come into operation in the near future.
The demonstration area has a multimodal transportation center, which is well connected to countries and regions involved in the BRI, with 10 domestic and eight international freight train services.
Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce, highlighted Qingdao’s distinctive geographical advantage, saying it will be a key starting point at the eastern end of the New Eurasian Continental Bridge.
“The SCO was originally created to combat terrorism and protect security, and the organization has effectively accomplished those tasks,” Mei said. “Today we are able to expand its role to focus on topics related to economic development. As the world’s second-largest economy, China is becoming an increasingly important driving force to boost the regional development of surrounding countries.”
Mei said the key is to leverage the decisive role of markets in resources allocation, and SCO countries need to step up efforts to create a better business environment and establish business consciousness.
According to him, the demonstration area will offer China more opportunities to compete globally and provide safe and efficient large-volume transportation services.