A recent report by China Media Group revealed the top 10 Chinese cities with the best business environment, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Xi’an after detailed evaluation, aiming to offer reference for the country’s optimization of its urban planning.
“The ranking is a precise reflection of cities with opportunities and China’s urban development, when you look at its evaluation mechanism,” said Zhou Mi, a researcher at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank under the Ministry of Commerce.
The report’s evaluation framework covers seven fields including infrastructure, human resources, financial services, and many others, with reference to globally recognized guidelines. The data were collected from the National Bureau of Statistics and reports from central and local governments.
“It is also interesting to note the rise of lesser-known mega cities like Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Tianjin, in addition to the four first-tier cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou). The emerging cities’ development is mostly tech-driven and all of them are playing important roles in fostering regional economic growth,” Zhou said.
Take Tianjin as an example. The northern port city is fast emerging as a destination of choice for overseas and domestic businesses thanks to its tech advancement and industrial upgrade, and is growing to be a pivot in the strategic development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
The city attracted 2,539 projects in the first half of this year, with investment totaling 138.37 billion yuan ($20.1 billion). Its Binhai New Area, a key industrial area in the city, has seen 30,900 newly-established private companies in the first ten months of this year.
Commenting on the area’s increasing appeal, Zhou said tech innovation is playing an important role. In the first half, the added valued of Tianjin’s high-tech companies in manufacturing sector achieved 6.8 percent year-on-year growth. Tianjin Binhai New Area is already home to some top high-tech enterprises from home and abroad and is playing a pivotal role in the city’s upgrade plans.
To better incubate projects and businesses, officials from the Binhai New Area told China Daily that they have come out with a series of preferential policies for improved public and financial services, such as the Development Plan 2017-20, for the software and information technology industry. It is also setting up a 30 billion yuan fund to support the development of intelligent technologies.
Care has also been taken to upgrade the skills of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in the high-tech sector through educational programs on management and operations.
“Most of the efforts have started bearing fruit and many companies from emerging sectors like artificial intelligence and big data have chosen to set up facilities in the city,” Zhou said.
“Tianjin’s continuous efforts in urban planning has made it a good incubator for emerging businesses, in addition to its already well-known manufacturing industry. More importantly, businesses in both sectors are producing a synergistic effect, which makes the city special for the progress of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and an integral part of the region’s overall development,” Zhou added.
“Speaking of public and financial services in Tianjin, not just the Binhai New Area, the city has a well-developed infrastructure system, work on which started much earlier than most of its peers, and has come out with several preferential policies aimed to ease the financing, operational and logistics burden of companies,” he said.
The city is now adopting an online business licensing mechanism which makes the entire application procedure more simpler and easier. It has also eased regulations on startups aiming to create more room for their development.
“Companies were required to go to certain offices and fill different documents to complete the licensing procedures, which is a time-consuming and labor-intensive task for investors from other cities,” said Chen Pengyun, chairman of a Tianjin-based vehicle trading company.
“Things are much easier now with online licensing,” He said.
In addition, Tianjin has shortened procedures for approval of construction projects to 27 business days. Preferential policies have also been launched to make the entry of overseas businesses much easier.
Financial service is another sector that has seen a flurry of activities in Tianjin.
The city has set up a mechanism to ensure financing for small and medium-sized tech businesses, as they are less likely to get support from banks due to valuation and development concerns.
Prospective applicants are not required to furnish any collateral, but would need their projects to be certified by the relevant authorities.
“Tianjin is also taking moves to promote high-tech development,” Zhou said. “It also benefits the manufacturing sector which the city has been known for, as many manufacturers have high-tech adaptations.”