context: Provincial leaders appearing in the Party media—especially People’s Daily—are not only speaking for their own localities and experiences, but have support for advocating their approach to be trialled elsewhere.

Wang Wentao 王文涛 Heilongjiang governor spoke recently at a provincial conference on rectifying government work style and optimising the business environment. In a People’s Daily essay, he argues that officials should work to build a new type of government-business relationship with investors.

Wang says that conditions for such a relationship rest on a good business environment, comprised of

  • efficient and transparent government
  • fair and just legal procedures
  • honesty, integrity and compliance
  • green ecological setting of mountains and rivers

Wang concedes that it takes a long time to construct and sustain an optimal business environment. Typically, local officials and Party cadres, Wang says, are dictatorial, want everything done by themselves, and prefer to operate in an opaque environment. But that approach breeds rent-seeking, he contends, and also makes it difficult for investors to ‘deal with things and find people to do things’. Wang argues to continue to simplify and decentralise government, and to create an efficient and transparent authority.

Officials need to take the rule of law as a basic way of thinking and working, so that investors can rest assured of business. Government departments should take the lead in abiding by the law, and strictly guard against arbitrary implementation and enforcement. Conditions for investment negotiations should be observed, not arbitrarily changed; new officials should handle old accounts according to law, rather than ignore them.

Wang argues that officials should warmly welcome and serve in good faith those who have investment plans in Heilongjiang. Specific land transfer prices, preferential policies for projects, and the like should be left to the functional departments to negotiate according to market conditions reflecting the market’s decisive role in allocating resources, rather than a word from the leadership.

At the same time, Heilongjiang officials need to create political ecology with clean air and good natural ecology, Wang notes. They should understand that foreign investors not only look at whether a place is suitable for business, but also pay attention to whether it is livable, and work to protect and leverage this advantage.