From centers of China’s trade to innovation hubs, Fuzhou and Xiamen attract local startups and the world’s largest hi-tech companies turning the Fujian Province into a strategic gateway to southeast China and the global market
Due to Deng Xiaoping’s opening reforms, Chinese cities have shown extraordinary growth over the past decades helping the country to become the second largest economy in the world. Moreover, some of these cities have achieved such an economic development that now Western business hubs have got nothing on these Eastern economic centers. Chengdu, Jinan, Weifang, and Xi’an are just some of the second-tier cities that are quickly developing new industries attracting worldwide enterprises.
Although they are mostly unknown to the Western world, these are the Chinese Tier 2 cities, which are now considered “first-class opportunities” by both Chinese and foreign investors. Boosted by local investments, the growth of these emerging areas and the country as a whole have been influenced by the development of infrastructures that increased access to these regions.
© Pixabay. Although it is popular for its mountains and nature, the Fujian Province is also home to Chinese internet giants such as Net Dragon, Meitu, and MeetYou.
Fujian Province, with its two emerging Tier 2 cities, Fuzhou and Xiamen, is surely one of the most promising growing local economies of the country.
Located in China’s Southeast, the Province is a top choice tourist destination for Chinese citizens. It is referred to as “八山一水一分田” meaning “eight parts mountain, one part water, and one part fields” but it recently became much more than that.
Thanks to the “Digital Fujian” project started by Xi Jinping when he was Vice President of the Republic, the region now embodies the production prototype of China 2.0 with few heavy industrial zones, spaces for hi-tech, respect for the environment and also great opportunities for foreign investments.
Today, Fujian’s GDP ranks 10th among China’s provinces with an annual growth rate of 8.4% and it is the 6th most digitized region having given birth to many of the country’s most successful startups.
In April 2015, the Pilot Free Trade Zone in the Fujian Province was implemented, and since then cities like Fuzhou and Xiamen could benefit from the possibility of importing goods without the application of customs duties.
Ranked as the 10th Fastest Growing Metropolitan Areas in the world by Brookings Institution in 2015, Fuzhou is the Province’s capital. It is known as the “city with good luck” and it is one of the cities, which developed the most after the reform and opening policy since the late 70s.
During the 80s, Fuzhou was the first city in China where the stored program control – a telecommunication technology – was introduced and it was opened to overseas investments marking both a milestone in the history of telecommunications and the building of a rapid development area.
© Unsplash. Fuzhou, Fujian. Many of China’s industry leaders have been funded in Fuzhou such as Net Dragon, one of the first and best-known Fujian tech companies.
Since the Fuzhou High-Tech Industrial Development Zone was launched in 1991, the city entered the first group of state-level hi-tech zones. The 42 square miles area now hosts six industrial parks attracting various kind of resources and influencing the local economy. The area always attracted talents from all over the country, in fact, several industry leaders have been funded in this Zone while many international companies such as LG and Epson set up their factories here.
Today the Fuzhou Zone is among the top 34 of 116 state-level High-Tech Industrial Development Zone, powerfully supporting the most promising startups and actively contributing to the country’s hi-tech development.
In addition, in December 2016, the first offline cross-border business center was opened, covering an area of 7.45 square miles, with a wide variety of stores selling products from many overseas countries. A project that allowed the city to become one of the forerunners in the vast cross-border market.
© 123rf. Recently, supermarkets such as Walmart and Carrefour in Fuzhou have launched the “Pay while Buying” service that allows consumers to scan and pay food directly from the smartphone.
However, although Fuzhou is the administrative capital of the region, Xiamen is the true pearl of this coastal province. Positioned exactly in front of Taiwan and hosting one of the most prestigious universities in all of China, Xiamen has been labeled one of the best Chinese cities for quality of life.
Much of the economic success of this second-tier city comes from its nomination as one of the first four China’s Special Economic Zones that engaged in trade with the outside world, an advantage that still pays off after thirty years.
The city not only hosts the annual China International Fair for Investment and Trade but it is also the headquarter for the country’s best-known sports brands such as Anta, 360°, and Peak Sport.
As the primary international port of the Province, Xiamen soon became a center of China’s trade, with hundreds of thousands of tons shipped abroad every year.
In 2018, Amazon Global Selling decided to invest in the city and it launched its Xiamen Cross-border E-commerce Park, the first cross-border e-commerce park in South China opened by Amazon, and the second cross-border e-commerce park in the country. This marks the strong intention to promote the export of regional cross-border e-commerce embracing foreign trade.
Today, the Xiamen International Airport welcomes 38 million passengers per year. Moreover, Fujian’s flagship airline, Xiamen Airlines, which links the province with some of the best known international destinations such as Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and Singapore, was the first Chinese air carrier founded entirely with private capital.
So, Xiamen embodies both a strategic commercial route as well as one of the most popular Chinese tourist destinations.
© Pixabay. Xiamen, Fujian. Historically known as the British tea trade harbor, today Xiamen is one of the busiest centers of China’s trade.
Fuzhou and Xiamen are thus rapidly expanding manufacturing and commercial hubs while many of the world’s leading digital Chinese companies have been founded by people from the Fujian area.
Currently, Fujian ports have recorded cargo traffic of 500 million tons, while Xiamen’s port keeps being one of the most important in the People’s Republic. Then, since the Fujian Free Trade Zone was developed in 2015, the Province quickly became the most important gateway to the entire southeast of China.
So, as more foreign companies do business in China’s second-tier cities, why is Fujian so important?
In China 2.0, the Fujian Province represents an all-dimensional, multilevel and wide-ranging model of openness.
The Province not only is a huge market with the highest growth rates but it represents also a hub for the arrival of foreign goods through developed infrastructures, which facilitate influx into all the areas bordering Fujian.
For this reason, since 2015, international brands with offices in Beijing or Shanghai have opened branches in Xiamen enabling the Province to trade globally. Fujian, in fact, already established economic and commercial relations with 225 new markets that include entire nations.
While the Made in China 2025 plan lays its foundations in ambitious local economies for building a self-sufficient hi-tech leader, Fuzhou and Xiamen are two strategic outposts for the Belt and Road Initiative that will connect this new Chinese hi-tech superpower with the global market.
The two fast-growing cities speeded up their development to become future hubs for Beijing’s new plans of innovation and now they represent an emerging opportunity for both local economy and foreign enterprises.
From a strategic port for the tea trade from Britain to a strategic gateway for the global market, the Fujian Province is probably going to attract much more foreign interest in the near future.
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