Across China: Italian businessman experiences more open China in past decade

Business 28

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TAIYUAN, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- After more than ten years of working and living in China, Lorenzo Riccardi, a business owner from Italy, believes that China has become a more attractive destination for global investors with an open and inclusive business environment.

Riccardi first came to China as a tourist in 2004. After taking a closer look at the Asian country with its vast population and market potential, an idea gradually grew inside him: why not give it a try here?

Three years later, he settled in Beijing and started a consulting company. Thanks to his vision and the continuous growth of the Chinese economy, his business has kept expanding, with the number of employees increasing from four to over 50, and branch offices opened in cities like Shanghai, Suzhou and Haikou.

As the chief financial officer of the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce, Riccardi noted that his success "also owes to the tremendous changes in the business environment in China over the past decade."

China's global business environment ranking has jumped from 96th in 2013 to 31st, the National Development and Reform Commission said at a press conference in June.

Riccardi bears witness to such changes. Just a while ago, an Italian auto parts manufacturer obtained a business license in Jiaxing City in east China's Zhejiang Province within a week, and almost everything could be completed online. However, he recalled, the same procedures took about four to five months ten years ago.

With continuous efforts to deepen reform and opening up, China's total trade in goods and services reached 6.9 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021. It has been leading the world for two consecutive years, and its actual utilized foreign capital reached 1.15 trillion yuan (about 166.4 billion U.S. dollars), up 62.9 percent from 2012.

China is now the world's second-largest consumer market, boasting a middle-income group of over 400 million people, making it a magnet for global companies.

A rising number of European companies are showing strong interest in investing in China because of the massive market and improved government efficiency, said Riccardi, whose consulting company has seen its clients increase more than ten times since 2012, with most of them from Italy.

As a culture and tourism enthusiast, Riccardi has traveled across China and found in recent years that many previously underdeveloped regions have seen accelerated development and shown investment potential.

In May 2021, he participated in the 12th Central China Investment and Trade Expo held in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, which attracted representatives from over 200 multinational companies.

Riccardi said that compared with eastern China, which is more familiar to foreign companies, Shanxi and some other inland regions have more new opportunities with competitive advantages such as lower labor costs and larger untapped markets.

With the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest free trade deal, coming into force on the first day of 2022, Riccardi believes that China's market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized business environment will be further optimized.

"The Asia-Pacific region enjoys the most active economic growth in the world, and the implementation of the RCEP allows China to provide better development opportunities for foreign capital," he said.

The Italian businessman said China's rapid development in infrastructure has provided strong support for future growth.

"Only when you have been to these places can you realize how big China is and how convenient the transportation is. The railway and road networks make it so convenient to travel to various regions far apart," he added. ■