Zhuhai, one of China’s special economic zones, is determined to make the most of the opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative to give its economy new momentum.
The city, bordering Macao and a one-hour speed ferry ride from Hong Kong, aims to serve as a new development engine to the bay area where it is located and become a national leader.
“We are becoming stronger in transport, innovative development, environmental protection and the business environment,” said Guo Yonghang, Party secretary of Zhuhai.
“We are endowed with outstanding assets, and the prospects are bright in relations with BRI countries and regions in infrastructure, industries, culture and tourism, especially in the construction of the Maritime Silk Road.”
He made the remarks at the opening ceremony of The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road China (Guangdong) International Communication Forum on Sept 19, an annual meeting being held for the second time to promote collaboration between Guangdong and countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Zhuhai, a birthplace of the Marine Silk Road, has long been a window that showcases cultural exchanges between China and Western countries and has enjoyed frequent trade and cultural ties with countries and regions in ASEAN, South Asia and South Pacific, Guo said.
The total value of imports and exports between the city and BRI countries was $93 billion from 2013 to the end of this June, the Zhuhai Commerce Bureau said.
The city’s exports to BRI countries rose 45.4 percent to nearly 36.5 billion yuan ($5.3 billion) in the first half of this year, accounting for more than one third of the city’s total export, the bureau said.
Exports to ASEAN countries in the first half of this year were worth about 11 billion yuan, 42.7 percent more than in the corresponding period last year.
Under the framework of the BRI, which was launched in September 2013, an increasing number of companies in Zhuhai have established or expanded their presence in BRI countries.
Gree Electric Appliances Inc, a Chinese home appliance maker based in Zhuhai, sells and distributes its products to more than 200 countries and regions and it is looking to broaden its business as part of the BRI.
It has won several bids in BRI countries including Pakistan, Brazil, Laos and Myanmar since the beginning of this year. In February it was selected to install more than 400 sets of central air-conditioning units with direct-current-inverter compressors in Gwadar Port in Pakistan, a significant hub that could reduce delivery time for goods transported from China to the Middle East and to Africa by at least one month.
In 2010 its market share was minuscule in Pakistan, a market that was dominated by local brands then, according to a report by Nanfang Daily.
It introduced inverter air-conditioners to Pakistan in 2014 and had 30 percent of market share the following year, becoming the first brand of the same category, the report said.
The brand accounts for nearly half the total sales of air conditioners in Africa, 20 percent of the household air conditioner market in Saudi Arabia and nearly 10 percent in Vietnam, the report quoted the company as saying.
Print-Rite, a world-leading maker of aftermarket printer consumables based in Zhuhai, shifted part of its focus to emerging markets in BRI countries from North America and West Europe shortly after the BRI was unveiled.
“The Belt and Road Initiative has created new opportunities for Chinese companies that plan to do business overseas,” Nanfang Daily quoted Wang Xin, director of overseas sales of Print-Rite, as saying.
Its products have been distributed to more than 40 B&R countries and regions, and its sales accounted for 40 percent of its overseas income after nearly five years of growth, Wang said.
It is estimated that the value of exports to BRI countries and regions surpassed 200 million yuan in the first half of this year, he said.
The Zhuhai Commerce Bureau said investment from the city totaled $17.2 million over the past five years and between 2014 to 2016 there was at least 10-fold growth annually.
The government of Zhuhai has accelerated the construction of infrastructure and logistics, set up overseas representative offices and staged international exhibitions and forums to facilitate rising demand from local companies to tap emerging markets in BRI countries and regions.
The city has established a comprehensive transport network that links the city globally and domestically by airport, port, rail, road and bridge.
Zhuhai Port Holdings, the State-owned port operator, has reinforced its international network to provide more convenient sea routes to exporters. It now runs a total of 68 routes for container liners, including 17 international routes that can reach Japan, Vietnam and the South Pacific.
It is expected to open new routes to Haiphong of Vietnam and Thailand by the end of this year and gradually to enlarge its international network, the company said.
The city is also taking part in building a logistics passageway that can connect Guangdong, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces of China with countries in South Asia, with which 15 cities in six provinces and five countries will be linked mainly by road, railway and water.
In a drive to promote the city’s image and its industries, Zhuhai has held dozens of exhibitions and forums to attract the attention of the outside world.
The China-Israel Investment Summit was one of the important events held in Zhuhai in July aimed at deepening high-tech collaboration between the two countries.
Fifteen high-tech cooperative agreements were signed at the opening ceremony, with a total investment of $530 million, covering a wide range of industries including manufacturing and automation, internet and information technology, healthcare and life science, agricultural technologies and financing.