Park Economy and Economic Development Lecture Series: Lecture 1| Zeng Zhihua: Park Economy in the Eyes of the World Bank

On the morning of September 23, 2019, the first session of the Park Economy and Economic Development Lecture Series titled the “Park Economy in the Eyes of the World Bank” was held at Conference Room 205 of the Central Main Building of Tsinghua University. Zeng Zhihua, Senior Expert of the World Bank, delivered the speech, which was hosted by Prof. Wang Yong, Associate Professor of the Institute of Economics, the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University, and attended by doctoral students from the Institute of International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University.

Mr. Zeng introduced in detail the special economic zones and structural transformation of developing countries from various aspects.

Mr. Zeng started the lecture with the definition of “special economic zone”. He pointed out that a special economic zone is a geographically separate area and is usually geographically safe. It has only one regulatory authority and provides investors in the area with tangible benefits. It also features a separate customs area (duty-free concessions) and simplified procedures. Next, Mr. Zeng analyzed China’s experience in special economic zones, some of the special economic zone projects in Africa and China’s special economic zone initiatives in Africa. He reviewed the special economic zones in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, Xiamen, Hainan, Shanghai Pudong New Area and Tianjin Binhai New Area and the key reasons for their success. Then he turned to compare the shortcomings and problems in the process of developing special economic zones in various countries, including Liberia, Djibouti, Burundi, Sudan, Gabon and Ethiopia among African countries from the 1970s to the beginning of the 21st century, and also discussed the achievements of Chinese investments in Africa.

Mr. Zeng pointed out that for African countries to enhance the regional economy, it is important to incorporate the park planning into the national development strategy, establish a favorable legal and regulatory structure and effective institutions, have a strong and long-term government commitment to establish sound infrastructures, attach importance to skills training and technology transfer and proliferation, and strengthen the connection with the local economy.

Finally, Mr. Zeng introduced the status quo of China’s foreign direct investments in Africa by reviewing the World Bank Group’s projects in special economic zones and industrial zones. He highlighted that Africa is China’s third largest investment destination, after Asia and Europe. However, China’s investments in sub-Saharan Africa declined in 2017 after the slight drop of China’s total investments in the region. African countries accounted for less than 4% of China’s global trade and less than 3% of China’s global foreign direct investment flow and stock. Similarly, China’s direct investments in Africa in 2015 only accounted for about 5% of the world’s total. What is worth looking forward to is that in recent years, China is easing restrictions on infrastructure investments in Africa, and Chinese companies are highly willing to hire local workers to promote the development of China-Africa economic cooperation.

After the lecture, the students present enthusiastically spoke and asked questions based on their own research directions, before the lecture ended successfully.