In the northeast corner of Guangzhou, a vision of the city’s future has been rising for nearly a decade. Thanks to some major investments announced recently, and as the project nears the halfway mark of its original 20-year development plan, an opportune moment has arisen to review its progress. Local media have been gushing about its potential.
As the masterplan of turning the nine cities in Guangdong as well as Hong Kong and Macau into an integrated technology hub unfolds, incubators and accelerators have been springing up around the region, all rushing to gain a foothold in the rise of China’s Silicon Valley.
Incubators, in the Western script, are companies staffed by experienced investors and executives that help startups by providing them with professional training, working space and venture capital. Accelerators are basically doing the same job, but focused on scaling up existing business models.
The landscape is rather different in China, where the central and local governments are dominant. Here, startup support services are established largely to facilitate the country’s economic development agenda laid down by the Party, and lines are always blurred in terms of the functions of incubators, accelerators and scientific laboratories.
The Greater Bay Area’s masterplan is not yet a year old – it began on the auspicious date of 02/18/2018 – and yet it has become economic scripture, cited by officials and entrepreneurs throughout the region’s nine cities and two Special Administrative regions. This is not only because of the top-down way China is governed. It is also because the GBA plan is a well-researched and concisely written 60-page document. The vision it lays out for the region’s integration is clear, and the priorities it lays down for the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau are coherent. As the GBA leaves behind a difficult 2019 and moves into an uncertain 2020, it would be fair to say that a good start has been made along the road to 2035, thanks to a clearly marked roadmap.
In the middle of the Pearl River flowing through Guangzhou’s Panyu district lies the Xiaoguwei Island, a 43.2 sqkm parcel of land along with its south bank that is home to 12 universities. Known as “University Town”, the collection of campuses was designed and built in the early 2000s to spur research and innovation throughout the entire province. Today it is one of the “ten cores” of the Science and Technology Innovation Corridor (STIC), the blueprint for “China’s Silicon Valley” within the overall masterplan of the Greater Bay Area.
The tertiary-institution district owes its creation to the far-sighted planning ability of provincial leaders. By the end of the 1990s, they had realized that 20 years of breakneck growth under the Reform and Opening era were running out of steam. A mismatch had developed between the needs of Guangdong’s booming manufacturing industry and the skills of its labor force. The higher-education sector had lagged the pace of change: by 1998, only 81 out of every 1,000 candidates for College Entrance Examination were able to secure places in higher education, according to southcn.com. More university places needed to be created.
The mission to solve this quandary was unveiled in 2001, with a masterplan to build a dedicated area for a cluster of universities. Construction began a year later, with an audacious goal set by the Party Secretary at the time, Zhang Dejiang, to “build the nation’s first university town”.
A glance at the financial scorecard of Shenzhen’s publicly listed companies in the most recent quarter shows an impressive performance: Across 393 companies, listed on six stock exchanges at home and abroad, revenues rose by 13.05%, profits by a whopping 33.08%, YoY.
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The Greater Bay Area’s response to the need for high-quality basic research is to build it, with four clusters of scientific institutions coming out of the ground in Guangzhou’s Nansha, Shenzhen’s Guangming, Dongguan’s Songshan Lake, and Zhongshan’s Cuiheng.
When it comes to technology, Guangdong has no worries about designing, building, and selling stuff. But there is a step before all of that in the tech industry’s value chain, and it is a step in which the province has traditionally been lagging. Basic scientific research is where Beijing and Shanghai have long had an edge, given the prevalence of their leading universities focused on scientific research.
It’s not as if the province lacks in academic spirit or ambition. There are some well-established innovation hubs in Guangdong, such as Guangzhou’s “Science City”, which has some of the world’s biggest R&D-focused corporate names established in its Huangpu district, or Shenzhen’s Nanshan Science and Technology Park, home to some of the country’s biggest tech brands. And the GBA masterplan has at its core the ambitious “10 hubs” plan to build China’s answer to Silicon Valley, known as the Science and Technology Innovation Corridor (STIC).
Shenzhen’s never-ending quest for modernity produces regular bouts of soul-searching, which are often reflected in commentaries published in official media. One of these, by an experienced writer, Fu Jingyi, which appeared recently in the Southern Metropolis Daily, focused on the city’s talent policy. It determined that the challenge of “optimizing” Shenzhen’s human resources was perhaps greater than many realized, and that creative solutions were called for.Continue reading Shenzhen Considers its Talents
On a corner of the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen, a new building was recently opened. But this building is unlike any other of the gleaming high-rise office towers going up in the district. It is filled with judges, lawyers, and legal assistants from all over the world, and its mission is nothing less than to boldly push forward reform of China’s justice system – with Hong Kong as a partner.
The Qianhai Justice Center, the first permanent public building in Qianhai, is a part of a “national pilot demonstration area of law-based governance”. Begun in 2014, it was completed in August and opened for business on November 6. Its mission is to provide “one-stop legal services” to members of the public from anywhere within the Greater Bay Area: notarization, mediation, intellectual property rights registration and enforcement, accounting services, and in-house legal advisory services.
This is what being a Pioneering Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is all about.
Shenzhen’s housing policies have been the focus of intense online discussion in recent months, with many commentators and analysts comparing them to Hong Kong’s. The city’s plans to build 1.7 million new homes by 2035, at a rate of more than 80,000 per year, are unthinkable for Hong Kong, where the government has said it hopes to build 10,000 new social-housing units in the next three years. Moreover, Shenzhen has made it clear that 40% of its housing supply will be earmarked for subsidized housing – in comparison with its neighbor, where 29.1% of households live in public rental housing and another 15.5% in subsidized home ownership housing.
However, Shenzhen is not without challenges of its own in achieving these goals. And sometimes, examples come to light showing the complexity of the city’s housing market. One such case is the redevelopment of the Baishizhou neighborhood.
Guangzhou and Foshan are planning to jointly develop a new Greater Bay Area “hub” centered on the Guangzhou South Railway Station. The aim of the project is to create a cluster of new strategic industries, with input from Hong Kong and Macau, which will be valued at more than RMB 1 trillion.
The announcement of the project, which is grandly titled “South Station Area”, was made late last week but took a few days to be picked up by local media. Here are the basic facts:Continue reading Guangzhou, Foshan to build ‘trillion-plus’ zone