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Foreign execs bullish on continued reforms

By ZHONG NAN and WANG ZHUOQIONG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-23 07:14
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Visitors look at an urban mass transit model of Siemens during an industry expo in Beijing. [Photo by Chen Xiaogen/For China Daily]

The nation's accelerating opening-up with institutional guarantees, including rules and norms will enable more global companies to expand their presence in areas like high-tech manufacturing, new energy and retail in the coming years, said foreign business leaders at the 2021 China Development Forum over the weekend.

With more industries and areas being opened to foreign investment, Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestle, the Swiss food and beverage giant, said overseas companies investing in China now have more opportunities than ever in terms of preferential policies, such as exemption from or reduction of tariffs and taxes.

"We have seen improvement in the business environment for foreign companies. All levels of government are showing determination to support the companies. Our investment experience in Heilongjiang province certainly underlines this," he said.

Apart from promoting the integration of international and domestic industrial chains, the Ministry of Commerce introduced 22 measures in early March to further expand high-level opening-up and attract more resources, including technologies and talents from global markets, to reinforce China's strengths in attracting foreign direct investment.

Siemens AG, the German technology company, plans to deploy more resources to increase market share in China's infrastructure, healthcare, urban and interurban transport systems during the country's 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), said Roland Busch, president and CEO of Siemens AG.

By putting innovation and progress front and center, China's 14th Five-Year Plan will take economic and social development to the next level, he said.

"This plan stands for a conviction that Siemens shares and that drives us," Busch said, adding that with the ambitious expansion of future industries and markets, new technologies are brought into the mainstream.

Because many companies across various sectors have already started their digital transformation, especially in China, he said in Siemens' new digital factory in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, which will be put into operation later this year, its productivity would increase 20 percent by deploying Industry 4.0 digital technologies along the entire value chain.

Despite COVID-19, China's actual use of foreign direct investment surged 31.5 percent on a yearly basis to 176.76 billion yuan ($26.07 billion) in the first two months of this year, the Ministry of Commerce said.

Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH, said China's policies to speed up the growth of green finance and a low-carbon economy will increase energy efficiency, expand the supply of green energy, and procure more green power in its next development stage.

Climate change calls for action not only in the mobility sector, but in all industries. In consumer goods, products are becoming increasingly energy-efficient, especially heaters and home appliances. In manufacturing, lines are being upgraded so that they are smarter and more energy-efficient, he said.

The German company invested $594.4 million in electro-mobility, including new energy vehicle powertrains and fuel cells in China last year. It has set up a fuel cell technical center in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, and also achieved volume production of 48-volt-batteries in Wuxi and eAxles, a compact, cost-attractive electric drive solution for battery-powered electric vehicles and hybrid applications, in Taicang in the same province, as they are key technologies for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Florent Menegaux, CEO of Michelin Group, said China's move to further cut carbon emissions will push more multinational corporations to accelerate the pace to adopt more digital solutions and green electricity in China.

"All science-based evidence indicates that radical actions must be taken to ensure a sustainable future," Menegaux said. "The need for a green transformation is no longer a matter of debate. It is a necessity," he said, adding that the company has made big-ticket investments in China, including at its Shenyang factory in Liaoning province.

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