More than 30 years after China established its first special economic zone as a pilot for economic reform and opening-up in the coastal city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, Fangchenggang, a western border city, is moving to set up an experimental zone to explore new methods of developing the border economy.
The central government issued opinions on the western development strategy in June 2010, advising the region to create three border experimental zones for development and opening-up, including Dongxing in Fangchenggang city.
The city will work hard to build the Dongxing Experimental Zone to be the "border special zone, western Shenzhen", said Liu Zhengdong, Party chief of Fangchenggang city in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Under a plan that is awaiting central government approval, the zone will encompass Dongxing town and coastal areas, covering 1,226 square km, about 20 percent of Fangchenggang.
There will be five functional districts: international trade, port logistics, port-associated logistics, international business and ecological agriculture.
Liu explained that the zone aims to combine domestic development and opening-up by using domestic and foreign resources in an integrated way.
The zone is intended to be a pioneer zone connected with strategic cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Fangchenggang is the biggest port in the western region, bordering Vietnam on water and land, and it has shipping services to more than 250 ports in some 100 countries, said Liu. "That is why it is suitable to establish an experimental zone here."
In 2011, the zone's exports to ASEAN countries accounted for 70 percent of those of Guangxi, and its border trade hit 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion).
The number of people crossing the border ranks third in China after Shenzhen and Zhuhai, which are both in Guangdong province.
The Dongxing mutual trade zone, the biggest in China, has been functioning since 2011.
"We will expand our exchanges with ASEAN and achieve mutual advantage," said Liu. Through the opening-up, Dongxing will introduce needed resources and develop border trade and cooperation, added Liu.
The experimental zone is applying for preferential treatment related to trade policies, personnel exchanges and financial policies, Liu said.