Category Archives: Features

Foshan plans for end of ‘demographic dividend’

Foshan has just updated its population plan. Setting goals that stretch until 2030, Foshan has no ambitions to become a “mega city” of more than 10 million people, like Dongguan does. Yet it will continue to grow in a measured pace and cross the 8.1 million mark in the next three years. 

This equates to a healthy growth of 6% from the last time a census was conducted in 2017, or more than 450,000 people. That is an acceleration, as it took the city seven years to grow by roughly the same number, in 2010-2017.

Why isn’t Foshan as ambitious as Dongguan? It is a question that the population development blueprint does not answer. An educated guess is because Foshan does not have as much available land as Dongguan. Moreover, Foshan is doing everything it can to integrate more closely with Guangzhou. “Guangfo” is a description used for many joint projects, such as the Intercity Railway line connecting its six main townships to the Guangzhou South station. 

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Macau pushes for Nasdaq-style offshore RMB market

The central government is giving serious consideration to a formal proposal submitted by Macau to establish a new kind of stock exchange in the Special Administrative Region. Traded in the offshore Renminbi, stocks listed on this exchange would be heavily weighted toward technology companies, much like the Nasdaq board in New York, and the recently established STAR Market in Shanghai.

It looks like this new market is part of a broader move within the region, if not the rest of country, to embrace diverse means of raising equity for Chinese companies. At the same time, Guangdong is looking into establishing a market like Shanghai’s STAR Market, in Guangzhou. And it has also applied formally to establish a Commodity Futures Exchange, like the Chicago equivalent, in Guangzhou’s Nansha district.

Could this be the start of a major push to get more Guangdong-based companies into the hands of equity investors? It certainly seems so, and there is huge upside room to move on this: just 1.8% of Guangdong’s 45,000 National-Level technology firms are publicly listed. Moreover, the person who revealed the details is just the kind of official to make this clear – and public.

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Nansha Cruise Terminal set to open

The Greater Bay Area collectively has grand ambitions for its cruise industry, with at least three major terminals serving large-scale ocean-going liners, and others being built. The biggest of them all is about to open in Guangzhou’s Nansha. 

The Nansha Cruise Terminal, with an immigration area of more than 3,000 sqm, is five times bigger than the current Nansha cruise port. It will open next month and is expected to become a major node in regional cruise itineraries. 

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In Shenzhen, vocational education steps up

Shenzhen is renowned as a city of doers rather than thinkers. Despite the presence of Huawei, Tencent, DJI, and many other highly successful technology firms, its universities lack national and global recognition. The government appears determined to address this perceived shortcoming in typical leapfrog manner, wooing Tsinghua and Peking universities from Beijing to set up joint-venture postgraduate projects in Shenzhen, as well as one of the world’s most prestigious names, Cambridge University, which is looking at an opportunity in the Qianhai special economic zone.

However, Shenzhen is nothing if not a city of pragmatists, and its leaders recognize that a practice-makes-perfect approach to development has proven strengths. While education officials pursue the world’s leading academic minds, they are also pouring resources into vocational education institutes. And they have no qualms experimenting with “dual-track” approaches to learning – research and application-based – to see what works best.

Their latest experiment is Shenzhen Technology University, which welcomed its first batch of 807 freshmen on September 15. This university, which was only approved by the Ministry of Education last December, is seeking to establish a new model for vocational education at the undergraduate level and above. What this means, in practical terms, is it wants to attract the brightest minds in technology, and put them to work here in the most effective way.

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MICE industry braces for Shenzhen World

In the days before Alibaba, the MICE business was a major driver of development in the Greater Bay Area. Right from the start of Reform and Opening, face-to-face contacts were necessary to grease the wheels of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Buyers would fly in from around the world to meet local suppliers, spending precious foreign exchange at hotels, restaurants, and karaoke lounges, before ordering vast quantities of goods from Chinese factories. The rise of e-commerce has curbed the industry’s growth, but Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions still generate sales worth billions of dollars every year for the 11 GBA cities, each of which has a Convention and Exhibition Center (or two) sitting proudly in a prominent location.

Shenzhen, the newly anointed Pioneering Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, is about to open such a center that, its leaders hope, will redefine the industry. It’s called the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center. 

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Hong Kong gets reform agenda rolling

American scholar Andrew Nathan has an interesting piece in Foreign Affairs summarizing what “insiders” say is Beijing’s approach to the crisis in Hong Kong. Though the presentation of this analysis fits too neatly into a US-centric worldview, it helps explain why the Hong Kong government is moving quickly to address the city’s dire shortage of housing: Because the central government believes the protests are being driven primarily by intolerable socio-economic conditions. Fix those, and the rest will take care of itself.

The logic has appeal. While Nathan’s sources are almost certainly wrong to suggest that the country’s senior leadership isn’t worried about addressing the political dimension of the protests, it makes sense to train attention and resources on fixing first what can be fixed easiest. Any capable government would be taking this approach.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Beijing misunderstands where the protesters’ rage is coming from. The country’s leadership probably knows all too well that the crisis is not going to be fixed with bread alone. But it also likely understands that without a commitment to deep socio-economic reform, no other grievances can be addressed in a sustainable way. Fixing the land issue is about much more than bringing down the cost of living. It’s about changing the way people live.

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Exploring Dongguan – Top 10 Spots

Dongguan is noted for its manufacturing prowess, not its scenery. However, that is misleading. The city has been given a “National Excellence in Tourism” award, largely as a result of its historical relics and charming natural attractions. There is much to see and do here, and it’s a big place, so you need to plan your outings carefully. Here! (the magazine) is a good resource for events and listings of restaurants and bars. Following are our recommendations for the Top 10 must-go spots in Dongguan.
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Exploring Guangzhou – Top 10 Spots

The provincial capital of Guangzhou is a megalopolis that combines old and new in fascinating ways. No matter if you are a history buff, or simply looking for place to spend a leisurely weekend, there are many fun and interesting options available. Here is a list of our top 10 must-go places. Please note that this is a big city, so planning your trip to each of these spots requires attention to transport details. is our favorite, and they have affordable chauffeured tour options. You can do day-trips, now that high-speed train links make it easier, but we wouldn’t suggest it: better to take your time with hotel bookings and stay at least one night – or more.

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Jiangmen: Mission to restore faded glory

The municipality of Jiangmen has a fascinating history, and to say it has “been through the wars” would be an understatement. Like most of the Greater Bay Area, it has had its ups and downs. Yet its history is unique as a once-proud node on the Maritime Silk Road, a home to many overseas Chinese who traded throughout Southeast Asia in the days before Hong Kong and Canton became the powerhouses they are today. Once one of the region’s richest areas, today the GBA’s westernmost city is, like the easternmost city of Huizhou, finding itself playing catch-up to the rest in economic development.

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