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Chinese carmakers bullish on new opening-up measures

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-04-16 16:30
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GUANGZHOU - For Chinese carmakers attending the country's largest trade fair, the country's pledge to further open the economy will bring more opportunities than challenges.

Authorities recently announced that China would ease foreign equity restrictions in the automobile industry and significantly lower import tariffs for vehicles, as part of the country's broader opening-up push.

While analysts said wider access could intensify competition in the Chinese market, Wu Jun, assistant general manager of international trade at Zotye Domy, a privately owned automaker, shrugged off the worries.

"The easing of foreign equity restrictions can allow domestic private auto companies better interact with foreign firms and help us improve," Wu told Xinhua at the ongoing China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, in South China's Guangdong province.

According to Wu, the performance of many Chinese cars could now rival vehicles made in Japan as China's manufacturing capabilities have advanced significantly compared with 30 years ago.

In addition, thanks to government initiatives to support the new energy vehicle (NEV) industry, many Chinese carmakers have a competitive edge in terms of NEVs, making the cooperation between foreign and Chinese carmakers win-win for both sides.

Shen Hui, founder and CEO of WM Motor, an NEV startup, said a series of domestic brands such as Geely Auto have emerged and become internationally competitive after China's four decades of reform and opening-up.

One of his concerns was whether Chinese carmakers are allowed to conduct mergers and acquisitions in foreign markets such as the United States, where protectionism seems to be rising.

Fu Yuwu, head of the Society of Automotive Engineers of China, said China is fully prepared for relaxing ownership restrictions.

"It's not something to be afraid of considering China's strength in technology, capital, management, and talent. It's just a matter of time for restrictions to be eased," Fu said.

Data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that China produced some 29 million automobiles and sold 28.9 million last year, ranking the first worldwide for nine years in a row.

In terms of lower tariffs for imported vehicles, carmakers attending the Canton Fair said that would inevitably bring increased competition for domestically-made vehicles, especially medium-level passenger cars sold at above 200,000 yuan (about $31,800).

But more fierce competition will also force carmakers to invest more in research and development (R&D) and encourage innovation, resulting in overall upgrading of China's auto industry, they said.

He Xiaopeng, chairman of electric vehicle maker XPENG Motors, said the new opening-up policy would be a turning point for China's auto sector to shift from quantity-oriented to quality-oriented growth, bringing benefits to domestic consumers.

Wu said that Zotye Domy invests about 1 billion yuan annually in R&D, or roughly 10 percent of its sales.

"For an emerging company like us, if we don't invest heavily in R&D, it will be hard to sell our products on the market," Wu said.

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