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Pudong still powering development after 30 years

By YUAN SHENGGAO China Daily Global Updated:2020-11-12

New area has been at the forefront of China's reform and opening-up

Shanghai's Pudong New Area has been at the frontier of China's reform and opening-up for the past 30 years, achieving excellent advances in social and economic development. Officials from the area have vowed to continue supporting the country's development strategies.

Pudong, meaning east of the Huangpu River, was once a less developed area where there was little to no interest for people to invest, work or live. However, changes came in the early 1990s when the State Council decided to develop the region to grow the population while boosting enterprises and implement more reforms.

Pudong, which celebrates its 30th anniversary of development and opening-up this year, has become an important symbol of China's overall reform and opening-up, and the epitome of the municipality's modernization, said Weng Zuliang, Party chief of Pudong New Area.

According to local officials, Pudong's GDP reached 1.27 trillion yuan ($192.01 billion) in 2019, about 211-fold of what it was in 1990.

Occupying just one-8,000th of China's land, Pudong created one-80th of China's GDP and one-15th of all foreign trade value for the country in 2019.

The district has also shown strong resilience in the face of this year's unfavorable economic conditions. In the first nine months of 2020, GDP of the area was 934.8 billion yuan, up by 1.7 percent year-on-year. Its foreign capital inflow increased 4.3 percent year-on-year despite the outbreak of COVID-19.

In the last 30 years, the district has opened market access in different industries, producing many firsts for China. It had the country's first bonded zone, the first export processing zone, the first foreign bank, the first foreign insurance company, the first wholly foreign-owned automotive company and the first wholly foreign-owned hospital.

The total foreign capital inflow of Pudong was $102.95 billion from 1990 to 2020. As of Nov 1, the area boasted 36,200 foreign companies from 170 countries and regions and 350 multinational's regional headquarters. Weng said 364 Fortune 500 companies have invested in Pudong.

Seaports in Pudong, connected to more than 600 ports around the world, reported processing 39.07 million twenty-feet-equivalent-unit containers in 2019. Pudong International Airport is linked to 132 airports in 45 countries and regions.

"The development of an open economy in Pudong continuously improved," Weng said. "The region's position in the global industrial chain has also been improving."

Pudong features an industrial system with a modern service industry that's led by a strategic emerging system and supported by an advanced manufacturing industry. In 2019, the trade value of financial markets in Pudong was more than 1.92 trillion yuan. The district was home to 247 foreign research and development centers, accounting for 52 percent of the total number in Shanghai.

Breakthroughs have also been made in urban development. Pudong is home to a slew of iconic buildings, including the 632-meter-Shanghai Tower. Ten metro lines with a combined length of 228 kilometers, expressways with a combined length of 285 km, four bridges and 15 underwater tunnels connect the district with other parts of Shanghai.

In 2019, annual disposable income of residents in Pudong was 71,647 yuan. Life expectancy has increased to 84.46 years from 76.1 years in 1993.Park area per capita was 12.9 square meters, up from 2.85 sq m in 1995.

A powerhouse of the future

Pudong New Area has been promoting innovations in a broad range of fields to maintain its vitality and better serve global investors.

"Promoting opening-up and reform is the mission and the most significant characteristic of Pudong," said Hang Yingwei, district governor of Pudong New Area.

The district is home to the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the first of its kind in China, which has been a leader in the country's reform and opening-up since its establishment in 2013.

Some of the FTZ's most successful innovations include lists of areas that are off-limits to foreign investment, the introduction of the China (Shanghai) International Trade Single Window, the separation of business licenses and operating permits, and the Free Trade Account system. In August 2019, the Lingang Special Area was included in the Shanghai FTZ, marking the zone's second expansion to further supporting the opening of the Chinese market. To date, more than 300 innovative policies have been promoted nationwide.

Pudong has worked to strengthen its position and influence in global finance. According to the Global Financial Centres Index report released in September this year, Shanghai rose one place to the third among the world financial centers, thanks in part to Pudong's efforts.

"As the core area in supporting Shanghai to become an international financial center, Pudong has the most financial resource markets, the largest financial institute cluster and the most active financial trade, which supports the city's success," Hang said.

To date, Pudong is home to 13 financial resource markets. It has more than 2,000 professional financial service providers in banking, security, insurance, funds, trusts and asset management. The district also boasts 95 foreign asset management firms, accounting for 90 percent of all in China. Nine out of the top 10 global asset management companies have settled in Pudong, according to Hang.

Pudong has also improved its business environment to support the long-term development of global companies.

Companies now have shortened procedures and waiting times for business-related applications. Online application and approval systems are also being used to save time for businesses.

United States-based electric car maker Tesla's "gigafactory" in Pudong, which has attracted over 50 billion yuan in investment, started construction just six months after the project was signed off on by the local government.

In the biopharmaceutical field, Pudong is the first district in China to introduce the Marketing Authorization Holder system, which has helped many small companies turn research results into real products.

A system to help innovation and business incubation and development has been set up in Pudong. A total of 172 innovation-centered incubators and more than 190 public innovation supportive platforms that help startups in different phases have been established to reduce the cost of innovation and entrepreneurship for small and medium-sized businesses. An intellectual property protection mechanism was built to provide the strongest support to companies and individuals.

Pudong has also accelerated its creation of clusters of innovative industries, mainly in the fields of integrated circuits, smart manufacturing, large aircraft, internet-connected vehicles and artificial intelligence.

Local officials has set up measures to support emerging industries and technologies such as cloud computing, big data and 5G development. Pudong is promoting the development of six key industrial clusters, each with an annual industrial output value of more than 100 billion yuan. The clusters cover chip making, innovative drugs, aviation, new energy vehicles, smart manufacturing and big data, to serve China's high-quality development.

A lively hub

The area has become increasingly attractive for global business, and it will continue to be a lively hub for businesses to capitalize on opportunities, the local government said.

Swiss industrial giant ABB will open a robotics manufacturing and research facility in the Kangqiao area of Pudong in 2021. The factory, which started construction in 2019 with a total investment of 1 billion yuan, is expected to achieve an annual production capacity of 100,000 robots.

"It will be the most advanced, automated robotics factory across the world where robots make robots, utilizing the latest manufacturing processes including machine learning and digital solutions," Liang said.

He noted the choice of the facility's location-Pudong New Area-is rooted in the company's anticipation in terms of where the Chinese market is going and the robotics industry.

"We are optimistic about the manufacturing industry and export market in China, and Shanghai, including Pudong, is a talent pool where the local government is supportive," Liang added.

Since it entered the local market in 1994, the company has cooperated with the Shanghai government in fields such as energy, transportation and infrastructure, helping drive the city to become a global science and innovation center.

"We are also exploring not merely ways to develop in areas, covering big data and 5G, but scenarios where robots will be deployed in the future, such as in garbage sorting and medical services," he said.

Shanghai Disney Resort, operating in Pudong for more than four years, has made great success in its partnership with the local government and enterprises, according to Murray King, vice-president of public affairs and communications for the Shanghai Disney Resort.

He said Shanghai Disneyland became a top 10 global theme park destination in its first year since opening. It broke Disney's worldwide record for the highest first-year attendance of a new resort. The success has been continued in the following years. It opened the Disney-Pixar Toy Story Land in 2018, marking the first new themed land since 2016. It is also the fastest expansion in the company's history.

"Shanghai is the obvious choice for us to choose to expand our presence in China. Pudong of Shanghai is also the obvious choice," said King.

He said the last 30 years of Pudong's opening-up and development mirrored the development of China. The most iconic examples are from the skyline of Lujiazui to the incredible infrastructure of the maglev train, high-speed rail, subway network and highway network.

"Pudong's future is about the service industry from financial to cultural, and Disney is a global leader in culture and tourism, so it is a perfect partnership for us to be here," King said.

He said the Shanghai Disney Resort will launch a second expansion with Zootopia-themed land in the near future.

During the past year, Volvo Construction Equipment and Dassault Systemes moved their Asia Pacific headquarters from Singapore and Japan respectively to Pudong. Alibaba's supermarket Fresh Hippo has also set up its global headquarters in Pudong.

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