Business / Economy

Chengdu plans to become city of global appeal

By Zhu Zhe in Beijing and Li Yu in Chengdu (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-11 09:18

More international routes, foreign capital keys to economic strategy

Chengdu, a city in southwestern China traditionally known for its pandas and cuisine, plans to open more international air routes and attract 20 leading global companies this year to make itself more international.

Backed by the country's drive to develop western China and Premier Li Keqiang's call for a new round of opening-up, Chengdu's aim is to become the growth engine of the western region and a city with global appeal, said Huang Xinchu, Party chief of Chengdu.

"We want to make the city the top destination in western China for foreign companies and talents," said Huang.

Chengdu, capital of inland Sichuan province, now has 71 international air routes, ranking first among cities in western and central China. This year, the city plans to start direct flights to the United States and Russia, and make flights to Europe and the Middle East and other Asian countries more frequent, said Chen Zhongwei, director of the Chengdu Logistics Office.

Chengdu plans to become city of global appeal 

He said United Airlines has made plans to open a direct passenger flight from Los Angeles to Chengdu this June, and flights to Moscow, Paris, Istanbul and Dubai are also being negotiated.

"We plan to open two or three new direct international routes every year. By 2015, the city could have more than 36 such routes, linking major cities in Europe, the United States, Australia and Asia," Chen said.

He said the city is also preparing to hold the World Routes 2016 event, a large gathering of airline representatives and airline planners in the world.

Because of rapidly growing passenger and cargo flow in and out of Sichuan province, the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport has become the fifth busiest airport on the Chinese mainland, following airports in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, according to the Sichuan Airport Group.

The city is working on a second airport to ease air traffic congestion. With an initial budget of 54.5 billion yuan ($8.9 billion), construction will begin in the first half of next year or even at the end of this year if everything progresses smoothly, according to the city's logistics office.

The new airport will make Chengdu the third city on the mainland to have a second airport, following Shanghai and Beijing.

In addition to international air routes, it is also expected that an express rail route linking Chengdu and Lodz in Poland that opened last April will take more goods from China to Europe.

"Transportation comes first. That's our strategy," Huang said. "We want to turn Chengdu from a domestic traffic hub into an international traffic hub."

He said the opening of the rail completely redraws the map of cargo transportation between Asia and Europe.

"It broke with the tradition that an export-oriented economy must rely on sea ports, turning Sichuan's inland geographical disadvantage into an advantage for exporting to Europe."

The new rail, the fastest rail freight route from China to Europe, runs every Saturday with 41 standard containers on each train. The cargo mostly includes made-in-China IT products, auto parts, home appliances, clothes and shoes, as well as daily necessities.

After arriving in Lodz, the goods can be distributed to any place in Europe, such as Germany and France, in one to three days. The express rail is a month faster than ocean shipping and costs only a quarter of air cargo transportation, Chen said.

He said a single trip now takes 12 to 14 days, and it could be reduced to 10 to 12 days in the near future.

With such convenient transportation on hand, Huang is confident that Chengdu will attract more overseas capital.

Chen Fu, deputy director of the city's investment promotion commission, said Chengdu wants to see an actual inflow of foreign direct investment totaling $10 billion this year. The paid-in value of FDI of Beijing was $8.52 billion last year.

"And we want to attract 20 Fortune 500 companies or other leading world enterprises to Chengdu this year," he said.

Huang noted that Chengdu would focus more on the quality of investment, instead of the quantity. Modern manufacturing, such as electronic information, automobiles, IT and high-end machinery, as well as modern service industries such as finance, commerce and creative culture, are all priorities.

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