SHANGHAI—China aims to establish a free trade zone in the island province of Hainan by 2020 and will encourage multinationals to set up their international and regional headquarters there, as part of plans to open up the province’s economy to foreign investors.
The guidance was published on the government’s official website. It comes after Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced last week that the country would grant foreign firms greater economic freedom in the southernmost province.
Known for its sandy beaches and resort-lined coast, Hainan is the headquarters of China’s aviation-to-financial services conglomerate HNA. This week, the province hosted the Bo’ao Forum, known as Asia’s equivalent of Davos.
The document said that the Chinese authorities would set up an investment fund to support the building of a free trade port in Hainan by 2025, with the aim that the system will become “mature” by 2035.
It will phase out sales of traditionally fueled vehicles for greater environmental conservation in Hainan, and encourage foreign firms to participate in the building of the port.
It will also allow sports lottery games and horse-racing as part of plans to promote the development of the province’s tourism industry.
Bloomberg reported in February that China was considering allowing sports betting or a lottery on Hainan in a move that could open the door to physical casinos. The former Portuguese territory of Macau is currently the only place on Chinese soil where casino gambling is permitted.
The Chinese government plan for Hainan did not mention gambling or casinos.
Citing insider sources, Taiwan newspaper United Daily News reported on April 16 that Xi’s right-hand man and current vice chair Wang Qishan was the one who suggested to Xi the idea of establishing a free trade zone in Hainan. Wang was the Hainan party secretary back in 2002, but less than a year later, was transferred to Beijing to help deal with the SARS outbreak as Beijing deputy party secretary. Wang felt he had some unfinished business on the island, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the previous Hainan party secretary, Luo Baoming, was a known confidant of former Party leader Jiang Zemin and once accompanied Jiang on a tour of the island’s famed Dongshan Mountain.
Epoch Times staff member Annie Wu contributed to this report.