Shenzhen will strengthen property rights and its protection of entrepreneurs, China’s President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday in a speech marking the establishment of the country’s first economic zone in the southern city 40 years earlier.
In his speech, Xi praised the city for “achieving miracles” and said it “must carry out development with the courage to break the ground and to strive to be the first”.
A testing ground for the reforms that have spurred China’s high-paced growth over the last 40 years, Xi touted Shenzhen as symbolic of China’s emergence as a global economic power.
Xi’s speech took place in Shenzhen’s Qianhai district, which is positioning itself as a hub for cross-border services for the Greater Bay Area, a region that includes Hong Kong, Macau, and nine cities in China’s Guangdong province, including Shenzhen.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was in the audience for the speech in neighbouring Shenzhen, whose skyline is visible in parts of the Asian financial centre. She cancelled her annual policy address scheduled for Wednesday to attend the event and now plans to give it late next month or earlier after consulting with officials in Beijing.
Business groups have expressed concern about Hong Kong’s autonomy from the mainland in the wake of sweeping new national security legislation imposed by Xi in June. The law, meant to subdue protests that turned violent last year, came as the city looks to revive an economy battered by unrest and the pandemic.
Xi’s speech called for further exchanges between the two territories and Taiwan, as well as overseas Chinese, and to “strengthen their sense of belonging with the motherland.”
The Shenzhen government will get more leeway to pursue reforms and become a “model city for a strong socialist country,” Xi said.
On Sunday, the government published plans to increase foreign investment in the city, encourage foreign talent and reduce red tape in sectors including energy and telecoms.
Xi also alluded to “turbulence” in the global economy from rising protectionism and unilateralism and emphasised that China would pursue a “dual circulation” model that relies more on domestic consumption while attracting foreign investment.
The speech in Shenzhen followed visits to nearby cities Chaozhou and Shantou, where Xi emphasised industrial upgrades and innovation.