Amid the economic malaise that is still stalking the world's financial markets, one southern region of China is pinning its immediate hopes for recovery on the success of a high-level development forum and trade fair. The event, the 5th Pan-Pearl River Delta Regional Cooperation and Development Forum and Trade Fair (5th PPRD Forum and Fair) opened in Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, yesterday and will run until June 13.
Speaking prior to the official opening, Ma Biao, chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said: "With the support from both central and local governments, and coordinated efforts by PPRD members, together with broad support from all members of the community, the PPRD forum and fair, as well as Guangxi itself, have all enjoyed rapid growth.
"During the economic slowdown, only enhanced cooperation, mutual support and closer communication between all the PPRD members will ensure continued growth."
As an active contributor to the cooperation process, Guangxi has sent governmental and business delegations to each year's PPRD event since 2004. It is convinced that the event has delivered on each occasion.
According to the chairman, the last four forums have seen PPRD members sign more than 14,000 project contracts, amounting to investments worth 1,600 billion yuan. Members have also undertaken 100 special agreements, declarations and memoranda.
Ma said that Guangxi has signed 8,745 trade projects at the forum and trade fair in the past four years, with a contract volume of 408 billion yuan. It also received 6,845 industrial transfer projects, involving sums in the region of 384 billion yuan.
From 2004 to 2008, Guangxi's economy saw a steady growth with annual increases of around 13.3 percent. Ma said: "With ever-closer cooperation, I believe the fair will bring still greater and more substantial benefits to all members of the PPRD."
In order to capitalize on opportunities for expanded cooperation and mutual development throughout the Pan-Pearl River Delta region, Guangxi has made substantial progress in a number of economic sectors. These include transportation infrastructure, tourism, employment, investment promotion and industrial transfer.
To fully exploit the region's tourism potential and establish the industry as a key part of its economy, Guangxi has initiated a series of joint projects with a number of neighboring provinces, including Yunnan, Hunan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Hainan and Guangdong. These initiatives are aimed at highlighting new tourism destinations and showcasing minority cultures throughout the region.
The region has also signed a contract with the tourism bureau of Guangdong province for the establishment of "barrier-free" tourism zone for private cars, allowing them to travel unimpeded within the zone. The local government has also signed an agreement to develop a so-called "Red tourism" program. This would see tourists given access to former revolutionary bases and sites.
In the field of transportation infrastructure, Guangxi has prioritized the completion of highways linking seaports and border areas. The region has already completed work on three expressways, connecting Vietnam, Guangdong province and Yunnan province.
Work on construction of the seaports and inland river navigation infrastructure is also well advanced. By the end of 2008, the region had 40 10,000-ton berths, capable of handling up to 131 million tons of cargo a year.
Workforce and investment
In a bid to boost employment opportunities for the region's laborers, the Guangxi labor and social security department has accelerated the progress of its cross-province labor cooperation platforms. According to local government statistics, Guangxi provided 3.7 million workers throughout the PPRD provinces. This includes 3.4 million people who went to work in Guangdong province and 937,000 who went to Hainan.
Acknowledging the importance of attracting new investment into the region, the local government has started a new round of investment promotion largely targeted at the neighboring Guangdong province, one of the nation's major economic engines.
The capital city of Nanning, for instance, has signed up to 116 cooperation projects with Guangdong since 2007, representing an investment of 19 billion yuan. The cities of Wuzhou and Yulin have attracted 13 billion yuan and 14 billion yuan respectively.
With the on-going development of the Beibu Gulf economic zone and increased levels of PPRD cooperation, Guangxi has opted to develop its industrial transfer base through the construction of a number of industrial parks.
Government statistics shows that the region has also signed 6,845 cooperation projects with enterprises from eastern China, involving sums of up to 384 billion yuan. Among these are 4,813 projects underway between Guangdong and Guangxi, accounting for some 70.3 percent of the total number.
Since the early days of the Pan-Pearl River Delta regional cooperation program, back in 2004, a number of local companies have emerged as pivotal players in the promotion of industrial development within the region. These include the Hengdali Group, the Huayun Aluminium Industry Co Ltd, the Wens Group and China Resources.
Following on from the initial successes of the PPRD initatives, Guangxi is now looking to broaden and deepen its cooperation program throughout the region. This is directly in line with the central government policy of encouraging the migration of the processing trade from the eastern areas of China to the central and western areas. This has seen 80 percent of the processing trade now emerging from the PPRD region, following an investment of 2.6 billion yuan.
During 2007 and 2008, Guangxi implemented 3,587 cooperation projects with various partners in the PPRD region, attracting investments of 250 billion yuan. This cooperation covered the fields of mechanical manufacturing, agricultural products processing, construction materials, real estate, mineral resources exploitation, electric power, commercial logistics and the hotel industry.
During the same period, Guangxi launched 10 businesses in Hong Kong and Macao, with an investment of some $19.8 million, another striking example of the successes of PPRD cooperation.
In a bid to stave off the worst effects of the current financial crisis, this year Guangxi has also launched campaigns aimed at promoting project construction and the strengthening of companies' service ethos.
(China Daily 06/10/2009 page7)