China declares Hainan island international free-trade zone

Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to establish an international free-trade zone on the island province of Hainan, where he recently spoke at the Boao Forum for Asia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen (R) walk pass the People's Liberation Army honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. China is expanding ties with European countries while building new free-trade zones. Photo by Wu Hong/EPA-EFE
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen (R) walk pass the People’s Liberation Army honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. China is expanding ties with European countries while building new free-trade zones. Photo by Wu Hong/EPA-EFE

Xi, who now rules the world’s second-largest economy without term limits, formally declared the new plans on Friday, Chinese state radio reported.

The statement on the new international trade zone was made during a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Hainan’s designation as a special economic zone and province.

“The party center has decided to build a free-trade zone in Hainan, and I support the decision,” Xi said. “We will make a special free-trade zone port safely and in stages.”

The Chinese president added the government will follow through with a “scientific plan” to make important decisions and that the decision shows China’s will to open up further to the outside world.

The plan will involve steps toward freer movements of goods, people and services that is currently the case in port cities like Hong Kong, according to Yonhap news agency’s correspondent in Beijing.

China has expressed support for globalization and continues to encourage countries to join its Belt and Road Initiative.

During a visit from an Austrian delegation to Beijing, China launched a new China-Europe freight train service, linking Chengdu to Vienna, Xinhua reported Friday.

The Austrian officials signed $1.85 billion in contracts with China, according to the report.

By Elizabeth Shim