Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei to offer 144 hours visa-free
The cities of Beijing and Tianjin, along with Hebei province, will allow 144-hour visa-free entry for nationals from certain countries and regions by the end of 2017, a vice-mayor of Beijing said on Thursday.
The move is part of the nation's long-term commitment to modernize and upgrade its service industry.
Cheng Hong, a vice-mayor of Beijing, said the policy will extend the visa-free time for travelers from some countries who want to visit the three areas. Currently, the maximum stay in Beijing and Tianjin is 72 hours.
The policy adjustment will facilitate "the free circulation of resources" in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Cheng said.
In 2016, Shanghai, joined by Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, took the lead in permitting 144-hour visa-free entry, which gave foreign visitors from 51 countries and regions more than enough time to travel or attend conferences in the region.
Cheng made the remarks at a news conference on a comprehensive pilot plan, which the State Council promulgated in late July, to further open up the capital's service industry.
Under the plan, the local authorities will reduce investment restrictions in major service sectors, including aviation, culture and arts, publication, banks, legal services, tourism and medical research and development.
By streamlining regulations, Beijing expects to offer one-stop service to foreign investors considering the capital by the end of this year.
Foreign investors who intend to set up a business in the city are now required to obtain about 15 licenses and certificates issued by 11 departments. The materials include an administrative license, information collection and management filings.
"Within this year, they will just need one single license," Chen said. "By sharing repeated basic information among different departments and making the registration procedures available online, the whole process will only take five working days."
For years, China has been working to shift its economy toward a growth model based on consumption, services and innovation.
Describing Beijing as a testing ground for the nationwide opening-up of the service sector, Wang Shouwen, vice-minister of commerce, said: "We can expect new progress and breakthroughs in easing market access, speeding up institutional reform and establishing supportive systems for the sector."
In 2016, China's service sector accounted for 51.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product, up 1.4 percentage points from a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
For Beijing alone, the added value of its service sector was around $292 billion in the same period.