Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang. Photo: Reuters/Nicolas Asfouri
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang. Photo: Reuters/Nicolas Asfouri

In an essay published in the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) mouthpiece People’s Daily on Friday, Vice Premier Wang Yang outlined the important work to be done to further open China’s economy to foreign investment.

Wang’s appointment to the Politburo Standing Committee last month was viewed as a nod to proponents of liberal economic reforms and greater role of markets, though some say a largly symbolic one. He underscored in his essay the importance of improving the environment for foreign investment, and cited the 19th Party Congress work report’s pledge that all enterprises licensed to operate in China will receive equal treatment.

China should not pursue preferential policies, but create a fair, transparent, law-based business environment,  he wrote.

Additionally, Wang stressed in the article that China would not force foreign companies to transfer technology in exchange for market access – an issue that has become the flashpoint of US-China trade tensions.

The sentiments expressed by Wang should be welcomed by foreign firms, and they coincided with an announcement Friday that China would open up its financial sector to full ownership by foreign firms. But his essay also appears to contrast with another essay published the next day in the People’s Daily.

On Saturday, top CPC official Zhao Leji, who recently took the reigns as China’s top anticorruption official, wrote in a bylined article that in “the Party, the government, the military, civilian organizations, educational institutions, north, south, east, west, the Party leads everything.”

“Except for the basic interests of the Chinese people and the Chinese ethnicity, the Communist Party of China has no special interests, and because of this is qualified to confidently dare to face challenges,” Zhao went on.

The CPC has drawn attention in recent months for its efforts to assert greater control over decision making in private Chinese firms, including those with foreign joint venture partners. It remains to be seen, should China follow through on the promises highlighted by Wang to ensure fair treatment of foreign firms, what role the party will play in a country where top officials continue to affirm its leadership role in “everything.”