Published 12 May 2020
The Special Economic Zone (SEZ or jingjitequ) is a recognizable symbol of Chinese economic development since the opening up and reform. Today, however, the experience of the first Chinese SEZs has been almost entirely replaced by an increasing complex of legal rules addressing the demand for the expansion and diversification of development zones.
In particular, the Pilot Free Trade Zones represent the "last generation" of special zones, aimed at promoting not only domestic development, but also the trans-nationalization and globalization of Chinese economy. As such, their legal frameworks enter in a complex dialogue with both domestic legislation and the rules of international economic law.
The notion of SEZ as revitalized by Chinese experience is therefore not a solely domestic economic law instrument anymore. It instead displays an inherent transnational dimension, on different levels. On the one hand, the critical position of China within the WTO raises questions about the compliance of SEZs with international trade rules; on the other hand, China's international cooperation schemes (above all, the Belt & Road Initiative) paved the way for the diffusion of new SEZs all over the world and especially in developing countries. Are this SEZs inspired by Chinese models? If so, to what extent?
The article is aimed at describing, through referral to case studies - in particular to that of the recently established Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone - and recent researches, the current legal regime of Chinese SEZs in relation with international trade rules. In the second place, it will assess how the trans-nationalization of such model functions and how it implies subsequent issues of harmonization with international legal frameworks.
This paper will be part of the upcoming TDM Special Issue on "The Interaction Between International Investment Law and Special Economic Zones (SEZs)". More information here www.transnational-dispute-management.com/news.asp?key=1771