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Transparency, consistency at the forefront as regulations and drafts build on foundation of success
The State Council"s plan for setting up regulations and submitting them for legislation this year has reflected China"s progress in reform and opening up as well as its progress on policy transparency and consistency, experts said.
On March 14, the general office of the State Council, China"s Cabinet, unveiled the State Council"s list of setting up guidelines and regulations in different areas in 2018, as well as the list of drafts that will be submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People"s Congress for legislation.
Compared to the draft plan a year ago, a total of 58 new items were added into this year"s plan, covering a variety of areas including economic development, political system, measures to improve people"s livelihoods, culture, environmental protection, government information publicity, as well as foreign policy.
Among them, sixteen will be submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for approval for legislation, including the drafting of the tax law on vehicle purchasing, foreign investment law, tax law on (nature) resources, and archives law, as well as some others.
Wang Baoming, professor on legislation at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the new plan shows China"s resolution on opening up and maintains policy consistency.
"Last year, the State Council issued two guidelines encouraging foreign investment, which was not common in the past. While this shows the government"s resolution in furthering opening up, putting these guidelines forward will help China to embrace foreign investors in a fairer, more transparent and better-regulated manner," Wang said, adding the context this year marks the 40th anniversary of China" reform and opening-up policy.
China"s resolute steps in further opening up and attracting more foreign investment were also reiterated by Premier Li Keqiang during his news conference on March 20.
"The negative list for inbound investment will be shortened in the course of this year and the coming years. We aim to merge the three laws governing foreign investment into one law, and fully honor our commitment to foreign investors...," Li told reporters.
"Our goal is to gradually create a level playing field in a market of 1.3 billion consumers for both Chinese and foreign-invested enterprises of all types of ownership. This will provide Chinese consumers with more options and incentivize the upgrading of Chinese products and services and that of the overall economy."
While applauding the legislation move, Wang pointed out that legislation should move at a proper pace and avoid being dragged out for too long before legislation was enacted.
"In the past, there has been a phenomenon that saw one piece of legislation draft seek opinions from the public and among ministries for a year or two, and this has slowed the pace of legislation. Such delays have also led to problems in economic development," he said.
At the same time, a number of tax laws will also be submitted to the NPC for approval, according to the State Council notice. Among them are tax laws on vehicle purchasing, resource tax and tax on cultivated farmland. Information from the State Administration of Taxation shows that both drafts of the vehicle purchasing law and resource tax have been published to gauge feedback from the public and different ministries.
Liu Jianwen, a professor at Peking University Law School and a specialist on tax regulation, said that putting the vehicle-purchasing regulation into legislation is an important step in implementing the principle of law-based taxation.
Wang said that customers pay up in the form of fees rather than taxes, while the amount of fees may vary across different provinces and regions.
Pointing out that there are only three years left before realizing the goal of implementing the law-based taxation principle, Liu said there are currently 18 types of taxes yet only six tax laws for regulation, adding that steps in drafting tax laws need to be accelerated.
According to the statement, the State Council also plans to draft some 27 regulations in areas of government investigation and social organization registration. Another 15 regulations, such as government information publicity, will be revised by the State Council for further improvement this year.