Huizhou beckons as industrialization revs up
Updated: 2017-03-31 07:12
By Zhou Mo in Huizhou(HK Edition)
As transportation networks are upgraded, fueled by industrial diversification, the potential for cooperation between Hong Kong and Huizhou in southeastern Guangdong province has never been greater, especially with the blueprint being rolled out for the ambitious Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, say business experts.
According to the Huizhou Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment, there are currently more than 3,700 foreign-funded companies in Huizhou, of which Hong Kong enterprises account for more than 60 percent. The key industries range from electronic information to the manufacturing of home appliances, garments, toys and bags.
Last year, 112 new Hong Kong projects were approved by the Huizhou authorities, with total contractual investments reaching 1.1 billion yuan ($0.16 billion).
A number of Hong Kong enterprises have made their presence felt in Huizhou, including Glorious Sun Group, which owns popular casual apparel brand Jeanswest, property developer New World Development Co Ltd and the world's largest mobile-phone screen manufacturer Biel Crystal Manufactory Ltd.
Zhong Xiangyang, deputy investigator of the Huizhou municipal bureau of commerce, said Huizhou, which is adjacent to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, has the natural geographical advantage in luring Hong Kong investors.
Many Hong Kong companies had, in the past, set up factories in Shenzhen. But with the city's rapid development, land is fast running out.
"Huizhou, in this respect, has a role to play. While research and development work can be conducted in Shenzhen, manufacturing can be done in Huizhou," said Zhong.
At the same time, local enterprises in Huizhou are also making big strides in "going out", with Hong Kong as their key platform.
Last year, 19 overseas investment projects were launched by Huizhou enterprises, of which 13 went to Hong Kong, accounting for 68.42 percent and growing 44 percent year-on-year.
Most of the enterprises are involved in manufacturing, and use Hong Kong as a platform to handle import and export trade.
"Although Huizhou is still in the industrialization stage, it's making great efforts to develop its tertiary industries. The modern services industry, which is developed in Hong Kong, is expected to become a key area for cooperation between the two cities in future," Zhong added.
"We'll also actively explore other areas for bilateral cooperation according to Huizhou's strategic planning, focusing on such fields as electronic information and new energy vehicles. The scope for Huizhou-Hong Kong cooperation is unlimited."
Investor expectations have risen further with the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
In his latest government work report, Premier Li Keqiang said the central government would draw up a plan for the development of a city cluster in the area, give full play to the distinctive strengths of Hong Kong and Macao, and elevate their positions and roles in the country's economic development and opening-up.
Huizhou Mayor Mai Jiaomeng said the city will actively participate in the construction of the greater bay area and seek closer collaboration with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
Huizhou - a key point in both the Belt and Road Initiative and the greater bay area - is expected to play a major role in the national strategies, said Hu Zhenyu, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Shenzhen-based think tank China Development Institute.
Improvements in the transportation network are expected to shorten the traveling time between Huizhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong to just half an hour.
Hu said Huizhou could seek deep integration with Shenzhen and Hong Kong in jointly developing tourism. The three could promote themselves as a regional tourist destination, develop tourism products and jointly set up an overseas promotion office.
With geographical proximity, it could also attract more businesses to Huizhou as an increasing number of enterprises are moving out of Hong Kong and Shenzhen to seek bigger and less costly bases, he said.
To achieve that, Huizhou has been trying to create a sound business environment. The local government stepped up efforts last year to push forward reforms to digitalize its work. The aim is to provide more efficient and convenient services to enterprises, said Hu Xueping, director of the Huizhou Municipal Administration Service Center.
"We have seen significant changes in Huizhou since we set up an office there years ago," said Huang Zihong, managing director of Huizhou Toneluck Electro-Mechanics Co Ltd - a Hong Kong-funded enterprise specializing in producing automotive components.
"Power outage used to be a frequent thing in the past. But now, it's no longer a problem. There's no need to worry about personal safety even when I leave office late at night as security is good. Moreover, the local government has introduced automated services, which have greatly enhanced efficiency," Huang said.
He also called for stronger coordination among various government departments to cater to the needs of investors.
(HK Edition 03/31/2017 page8)