Japanese fashion manufacturer and retailer UNIQLO opened its first store in Ma'anshan City in east China's Anhui Province earlier this year, thanks in part to China's campaign to streamline administration.
With the help of a local subdistrict office, Fast Retailing (China) Trading Co., Ltd. managed to obtain a business license, despite lacking an important document.
"We needed the department store's certificate of title for our business license before making orders and employing people. However, the construction work was not done yet and we didn't have much time to wait," said Qiang Lili, a manager with the company.
The company went to the city's government affairs service center for help and learned that Ma'anshan had just launched a new regulation simplifying business location registration.
According to the new rule, which went into effect on December 31, 2014, those who temporarily lack the certificate of title for business license applications can submit proof of location from the local subdistrict office instead.
"We know the streamlining campaign is going on and we experienced the convenience this time. It's encouraging," said Qiang.
In addition to making business registration easier, Ma'anshan has also shortened the vetting period for investment projects. For example, the approval time for industrial projects was slashed from more than 30 to just 17 days.
"Foreign investors came for business opportunities, but the better government affairs services gave us more confidence," Qiang said.
In the first quarter of this year, Ma'anshan City's utilization of foreign direct investment reached 347 million U.S. dollars, up 12.8 percent year on year.
Similarly, foreign direct investment in other provinces also achieved steady growth in the first quarter of this year.
In Hubei, utilization of foreign investment hit 2.24 billion U.S.dollars, up 10.1 percent year on year. In Jiangxi, utilization of foreign investment reached 2.21 billion U.S. dollars, up 10.3 percent, and in Tianjin, it hit 6.37 billion U.S. dollars, up 10.5 percent.
Since 2013, China's State Council has been streamlining government administration to reduce government control and unleash market vitality.
In two years, more than 700 approval items controlled by central government departments have been canceled or delegated to lower agencies, more than a third of all approval items handled by the State Council prior to streamlining.
Following the steps of the central government, local administrations also explored ways to simplify the approval process and lower the threshold for investment.
On May 12, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang again called for more efforts to streamline administration procedures at a national teleconference attended by senior and mid-level officials.
Li said the government will cancel more approval items, make business registration easier and waive administrative charges it deems unreasonable this year.
"It is a positive trend," said Wang Yukai, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Governance. "But to create a better foreign investment environment in the long run, the government management system should also be improved."
China's first funding program aimed at providing finance exclusively to female entrepreneurs has been launched by a group of heavyweight finance organizations.
International Finance Corporation, Ant Financial Services Group, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Goldman Sachs Foundation will jointly run the program.
The funds to be offered - through loans from Ant Financial Services' microcredit arm Ant Credit, with the backing of IFC and Goldman Sachs - are expected to benefit around 46,000 female entrepreneurs. The program has 500 million yuan ($80.13 million) available to it.
"The market opportunity for financial products designed specifically for female entrepreneurs is huge", said Ji Min, deputy director of finance research institute of the People's Bank of China, with few, if any, currently on the market.
Karin Finkelston, IFC's vice-president for Asia Pacific, said women starting out tend to invest their business knowhow in different directions from their male counterparts, for instance into family-oriented fields, including children's education and family healthcare, which often represent appealing prospects for financial companies.
On the flipside, however, research shows that women entrepreneurs have traditionally found it hard to get financed, and if they do, the amounts approved can be tiny, even as little as 10 percent of what they are seeking, said Finkelston.
She claims her own organization, however, is female-friendly when it comes to financial support, a philosophy shared with its partner in the new fund, Ant Financial Services, which already has a strong client base of female-led startups, many of which run their businesses on Alibaba's online market platform.
Yu Shengfa, Ant Financial's vice-president, said that just over half of the business owners using Alibaba's online market platforms are female.
IFC provided 1 billion yuan in senior loan funding to Ant Credit in 2014 which it loaned, in turn, to 62,000 micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises across China.
Online-based Ant Credit's role is to evaluate potential borrowers' creditworthiness based on their transactional and behavioral data, without the need for deposits, it says, or using any assets as guarantees.
By the end of March 2014, Ant Credit had loaned 190 billion yuan for more than 700,000 small and micro-business.
Ding Qinyan, 26, an Ant Credit customer, started her online apparel store on taobao.com when she was still in college.
Her first online business loan was granted in 2013, for the deposit needed to join an online sales campaign.
Based on Ding's sales records and credit history, the application was approved within a minute at an interest rate of 0.0005 percent per day.
Foreign banks in the Chinese mainland continue to be optimistic about their future performance going forward, according to a report released by Ernst & Young Greater China here on Tuesday.
"The regulatory landscape continues to challenge foreign players, while alongside are also the opportunities generated from the evolving RMB internationalization and interest rate liberalization," Managing Partner of Financial Services at Ernst & Young Greater China Jack Chan said.
In terms of total assets, based on the China Banking Regulatory Commission's 2013 annual report, foreign banks' market share in China was just 1.73 percent as of Dec. 31, 2013, below the market share of 1.84 percent back as of Dec. 31, 2004.
According to the report, foreign banks in China expect a modest improvement in performance over the next three years. Half of the participants predict a slight improvement, while 45 percent of them hope to see a significant improvement.
Despite the optimism, the report said many of the CEOs that they have surveyed find the market challenging and complicated by issues surrounding financial reform and economic uncertainty.
The most difficult regulatory challenge in 2014 was access to the bond market, followed by the myriad of rules and regulations and capital and liquidity constraints, Chan said.
As China's economy evolves, the foreign banks believe it is critical that the capital markets open up and the foreign banks participate more fully in the bond market, he said.
The report is based on interviews with 41 foreign bank CEOs and senior bank executives based in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong and conducted during August and September 2014.
It examines the challenges facing players as they push to improve their footprint in China. It also looks at the trends and regulatory reform that is shaping the market and offer insights into ways of driving growth now and in the future.
This year's "Invest in Beijing" Fair, which aimed at attracting more investment to the city's high-end industries, opened in Beijing on Dec 9.
As an annual investment promotion event taking place in the city since 2009, this year's Invest in Beijing attached more emphasis on social and private capital's involvement in its cutting-edge sectors, such as the new generation of information technology, biological medicines, as well as energy conservation, and environmental protection.
The organizing committee also set up a service station to offer face-to-face counseling for potential investors and companies in various fields, such as laws and regulations, investment environment and planning of industries.
Representatives from the city's governmental departments, including the commission of science and technology, commission of education and commission of development and reform, came to explain the investment policies at the station, as did the investment promotion organizations from all the districts and counties of Beijing, as well as the city's major industrial clusters 鈥擹hongguancun Science Park, Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area and Beijing Tianzhu Free Trade Zone.
At the Fair, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform released a batch of pilot projects which call for social investment in public services and utilities, and the new list of industries that are prohibited or limited by the municipal government.
The China National Gold Group Corporation, the country's biggest gold producer, Nanshan Group, a chemical firm based in east China's Shandong province, and China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group signed contracts worth 31.1 billion yuan ($5 billion), higher than the 27.9 billion yuan at the contract signing ceremony during last year's "Invest in Beijing" Fair.
This year's Fair highlighted the promotion of projects in high-end sectors and strategic emerging industries to help advance the city's economic restructuring and strengthen its role as the country's center of politics, culture, global exchanges and scientific and technological innovation.
More than 500 representatives from state-owned enterprises, large private companies, multinational corporations, leading players from different industries, as well as chambers of commerce from China and abroad attended the fair.
Ma Peihua, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the China National Democratic Construction Association, Niu Youcheng, a member of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee and the city's vice mayor Cheng Hong were present at the Fair.
Chinese shares continued rising on Monday, with the benchmark Shanghai index jumping over 2 percent to regain the 3,000-point psychological mark, the first time since April 25, 2011.
China's State Council, the Cabinet, has unveiled a series of measures to promote independent innovation and encourage entrepreneurship.
According to a statement released Wednesday after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, the country must expand pilot programs for independent innovation and seek "multiplication" in social enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship with the "subtraction" of government grip.
Since 2010, China has experimented with policies promoting scientific and technological innovation in the Zhongguancun National Innovation Demonstration Zone in Beijing.
The government will roll out six Zhongguancun policies to the rest of country, including new rules on research funds and equity financing for small enterprises.
There will also be some tax preferences for innovation demonstration zones. For instance, the income tax for equity incentives given to technical and managerial employees can be paid by installment within five years, according to the statement.
The statement added that China will do research in Zhongguancun concerning overseas talent, diversify corporate financing channels and support the construction of bonded warehouses.
China has six national innovation demonstration zones and plans for more.
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