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Hainan mulls negative list to attract overseas talent to free trade port

By MA ZHIPING in Haikou | CHINA DAILY || Updated: 2021-07-30

China's Hainan province is considering implementing a new short negative list management model-this time for foreign work permits-in a move to attract talent from around the world to Hainan, provincial Governor Feng Fei said.

In general, China's negative list includes industries that foreigners are not allowed to invest in.

The National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce jointly issued a negative list for Hainan's Free Trade Port on Dec 31 that was shorter than the national version in a bid to bring greater investment opportunities for foreign investors.

Hainan is now considering another model that would focus on industries that foreigners cannot obtain work permits for, and that list would also be short, allowing international talent more job opportunities on the island.

Feng said luring professional talent, especially overseas talent, is a core issue for the construction of the Hainan FTP. "Hainan is offering visa exemptions to citizens of 59 countries. We will further improve the level of facilitation and extend the length of the visa-free stay," Feng said at a news conference outlining the newly released law for the Hainan FTP in Beijing on June 21.

On June 1, China released a master plan to build Hainan, its southern tropical island, into a world-class free trade port by the middle of the century.

On June 10, China passed a law making institutional arrangements for the construction of the FTP at the national legislative level. The law stipulates measures promoting trade, investment and environmental protection and enables market entities, especially foreign-invested companies, to enjoy more opportunities as it features a shortened negative list.

The law also stipulates visa and work permit facilitation for international talent, aiming to gather talent from around the world to Hainan.

Feng said Hainan will ensure overseas talent have a promising platform for development and easy access to work permits. "Hainan is exploring the implementation of negative list management of work permits for overseas individuals," the governor said.

Regarding the certification of professional qualifications, Hainan is installing a one-way ratification list system for professional qualifications, he added.

"A serious shortage of high-caliber professional talent is the biggest challenge in developing the Hainan Free Trade Port-especially the lack of high-end industrial professionals and businesspeople who are experts on international trade rules. Hainan is in urgent need of international experts with global vision and advanced management experience," said Xia Feng, executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hainan University.

"The introduction of a negative list for work permits for overseas talent will be an innovative practice that will attract international professionals from various fields around the world to participate in the new business formats of the Hainan FTP," Xia said.

The island province announced in April 2018 that it would attract 1 million skilled workers to help promote local development. To accomplish that, it has adopted measures to support free housing, child education, spousal employment, medical insurance and car purchases for topnotch personnel.

Fiaz Ahmad, a Pakistani postdoctoral researcher at Hainan University, said he is fully confident in Hainan's development due to its abundant natural resources and the burgeoning FTP construction, which has created enormous opportunities for talented foreign personnel.

Ahmad said his research into the biochemical characteristics of algae and bacteria under heavy metal stress, and the tolerance of algae and bacteria to heavy metal ions under certain conditions, can be applied in multiple areas including environmental protection, which echoes the development trends of Hainan's science and technology sector.