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China

Stumbling blocks to ASEAN-China smart city cooperation

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Prospective buyers look at model for Forest City Johor Bahru in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, 21 February 2017 (Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

Author: Melinda Martinus, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

China is moving full speed ahead in the race for global technology leadership having promoted artificial intelligence, expanded venture capital and funded start-ups worldwide.

ASEAN countries have seen a surge in Chinese capital flows through massive infrastructure projects that have significant smart city elements, including Forest City Johor Bahru, New Clark City, New Manila Bay City of Pearl and Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor. China has also shown a great interest in the region’s newly planned township projects, including the Indonesia’s new capital city in East Kalimantan and New Yangon City.

To promote its investments in the region, China has emphasised the opportunity to leverage solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT) while advertising projects as ‘smart’, ‘green’, and ‘liveable’. This includes the use of sensors, networks and data to optimise public services and enhance liveability through automated energy management, integrated traffic control and faster internet connections in newly built towns. Chinese-owned technology platforms like digital wallet by Alipay, AI adoption and 5G networks by Huawei, and communication platforms by Tencent have also become essential solution providers to enhance public services.

The Chinese government frequently promotes smart city cooperation under its Digital Silk Road Initiative, a significant component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In ASEAN, cooperation is enhanced through the ASEAN–China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 where China has pledged to support ASEAN’s technology transformation initiatives, including the ASEAN ICT Master Plan 2020 and the ASEAN Smart City Network.

Despite lofty ambitions and political buy-in from ASEAN leaders, China still faces technical challenges. Huawei’s failure to win the bid to provide Singapore’s main 5G network demonstrates how aware policymakers are of security and data protection issues. Huawei has frequently faced accusations of enabling espionage by the Chinese government. Huawei’s loss to Nokia and Ericsson also shows how competitive and rigorous the process of bidding for critical infrastructure is in Singapore.

The Jakarta–Bandung High-Speed Rail was delayed by land acquisition barriers that have revealed challenges China must overcome to execute large-scale projects in a country that embraces the rights of individual ownership and fully adheres to the land market economy. This experience has also shown the limit of China’s development model even with its extensive experience building large infrastructure projects domestically.

China is yet to create a ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ image from its BRI projects. Chinese-backed investment projects like Forest City Johor Bahru have received criticism for their detrimental impacts on the surrounding ecosystem by destroying marine biodiversity and polluting waterways. Similarly, the ongoing New Manila Bay City of Pearl project has been criticised for the potentially harmful impacts caused by the loss of both mangrove biodiversity and livelihoods of fisher communities.

There is also concern over trust. Malaysian civil societies frequently raise the issue of equity, questioning how Forest City Johor Bahru will bring employment and affordable housing to local people. The appointment of China Harbour Engineering to conduct reclamation work in Manila Bay has also sparked concerns as the company was involved in a bribery scandal in Bangladesh.

China may also face fierce competition from other players. Although Japan has not yet signed significant deals on large-scale smart city projects, it has recently announced a US$2.4 billion fund to pave the way for companies seeking smart city projects, particularly projects that help ASEAN cities to decarbonise. South Korea has also recently increased funds for ASEAN infrastructure projects through the Korea–ASEAN Global Infra Fund, and the Construction, Plant and Smart City Policy Fund. 

Non-Chinese private investors have also started smart city projects in the region. Japanese company Mitsubishi recently announced a joint venture with Singapore’s state-backed investor Temasek Holdings to build a 100-hectare smart city in Jakarta. Amata Corporation, a Thai industrial estate developer, has also started to expand capital in the Mekong countries. The company also sealed deals to build industrial complexes in Myanmar (which has been halted due to the coup) and Laos in addition to its extensive portfolio in Vietnam.

China’s…

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Lingang New Area in Shanghai Introduces Whitelists for Data Export to Enhance Cross-Border Data Flows

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The Lingang New Area in Shanghai has introduced trial general data lists to simplify data export procedures for companies in automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual funds sectors. This aims to reduce regulatory burdens and facilitate cross-border data flows, following efforts to improve business environment for foreign companies.


The Lingang New Area in Shanghai has introduced trial general data lists aimed at simplifying data export procedures for companies in the automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual fund sectors. These lists outline specific scenarios where businesses can export data out of China with reduced regulatory burdens, bypassing more stringent compliance requirements.

The Lingang New Area of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) has released the first batch of trial lists of general data for three sectors, facilitating cross-border data flows for companies operating in the area. This announcement closely follows the release of the Tianjin FTZ’s Negative List, which similarly seeks to facilitate cross-border data flows for companies operating in the FTZ by specifying the types of data that are restricted from being exported without certain approval procedures.

The first batch of general data lists has been provided for the fields of intelligent connected vehicles, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual funds, three sectors with a significant presence in the Lingang New Area. The general data lists are scenario-based, meaning they outline various situations in which data export is required and freely permitted. These include scenarios, such as multinational production and manufacturing of intelligent connected vehicles, medical clinical trials and R&D, and information sharing for fund market research.

The general data lists will be implemented for a trial period of one year from their date of implementation, May 16, 2024.

In January 2024, the Lingang New Area announced a new system for data management and export in the area, which included the release of two data catalogs, one for “important” data and one for “general” data. This new system will help facilitate cross-border data transfer (CBDT) for key sectors in the area by delineating the types of data that are restricted or subject to additional compliance measures to be exported (through the important data lists) and data that can be more easily exported (through the general data lists).

In March, the area released the Measures for the Classification and Graded Management of Data Cross-border Flow in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Lingang Special Area (Trial) (the “Lingang CBDT Management Measures”), which outlined the rules and requirements for this new system, including how companies can use the general data lists.

These developments follow many months of efforts by the central Chinese government as well as local authorities to improve the business environment for foreign companies in particular, a core part of which has been resolving headaches surrounding data export.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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The New Company Law brings substantial changes with implications for new and existing foreign invested enterprises and stakeholders. Foreign investors must assess if adjustments to existing structures

Despite recent economic challenges, many organizations’ China operations provide unparalleled access to one of the world’s largest and most competitive global supply chains. Over the past 30 years, a significant number of foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) have been established in China. As of the end of 2022, the number of FIEs operating in China had exceeded 1.12 million.

Compared to their domestic counterparts, FIEs demonstrate greater caution regarding legal revisions and are diligent in making swift adjustments. This stems not only from the closer scrutiny FIEs face from regulatory authorities but also from their commitment to compliance and maintaining a competitive edge.

Clearly, there has been a shift in China’s corporate regulations—from merely encouraging an increase in the number of companies to focusing on attracting mature enterprises and higher-quality investments. While the transition from a broad approach to a more refined one may cause short-term challenges, it ultimately benefits the company’s long-term development. By returning to the original intent of setting registered capital, it not only protects the interests of creditors but also shields shareholders from the operational risks of the company.

In China’s foreign investment landscape, while most FIEs exercise commercial prudence in determining registered capital—factoring in capital expenditures, operational costs, and setting aside surplus funds—some opt for higher registered capital levels to avoid future capital increase procedures. This typically involves lengthy document signing and registration changes, lasting 1-2 months.

Joint ventures (JVs) often impose stricter payment deadlines for registered capital in their articles of association to ensure both parties’ simultaneous contributions align with operational needs. Conversely, wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) tend to favor flexibility in payment deadlines, often allowing full payment before the company’s operational period expires.

Given these circumstances, despite the generally stronger capital adequacy among foreign companies compared to domestic entities, many FIEs could be affected by the new capital contribution rules.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Foreign Tourist Groups on Cruise Ships Fully Permitted Visa-Free Entry in China

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China will allow visa-free entry for foreign tourist groups arriving by cruise ship at 13 ports along the coast, starting May 15, 2024. Visitors must stay with the same ship and in permitted areas for up to 15 days. This policy aims to boost tourism and facilitate high-quality development in the cruise industry.


China’s immigration agency announced that it will grant a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups to enter China by cruise at all cruise ports along the coast of China, starting May 15, 2024. The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within permitted areas for no more than 15 days.

Effective May 15, 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has officially implemented a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships. This progressive move aims to enhance personnel exchanges and foster cooperation between China and other nations, furthering the country’s commitment to high-level openness.

Under this policy, foreign tourist groups, comprising two or more individuals, who travel by cruise ship and are organized by Chinese domestic travel agencies, can now enjoy visa-free entry as a cohesive group at cruise ports in 13 cities along the Chinese coast.

The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within China for no more than 15 days. The eligible areas for this policy are coastal provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) and Beijing.

Furthermore, to support cruise tourism development, seven additional cruise ports—Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai—have been included as applicable ports for visa-free transit.

The recent implementation of the visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships is poised to have several significant effects. The policy will provide crucial support for the cruise economy and the overall cruise industry. By facilitating smoother travel for foreign tourist groups, it acts as a catalyst for high-quality development in this sector.

Additionally, under this policy, international cruise companies can strategically plan their global routes by designating Chinese port cities, such as Shanghai, Xiamen, and Shenzhen, as docking destinations. This move is expected to attract more cruise ships to Chinese ports, ultimately bringing in a larger number of international visitors to the Chinese market.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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