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Foreign firms upbeat on high-tech zone prospects

By Zheng Yiran in Beijing and Wu Yong in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-13 10:11
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A subway train approaches the Ruanjianyuan Road Station in Wuhan's East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, also known as the Optics Valley of China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

At 2 pm on May 1, two planes from Seoul landed at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Disembarking were 136 South Korean technicians and supply representatives-the first batch of foreigners to return to Wuhan, Hubei province, to resume work since the novel coronavirus outbreak began late last year.

After completing screening procedures at the airport, including temperature checks, blood sample and throat swab tests, the foreign experts were sent to specified quarantine zones. When their quarantine periods are over, those in healthy physical conditions will then be able to get back to work.

The South Koreans were from three Chinese high-tech companies-TCL China Star Optoelectronics Technology Co Ltd, Tianma Microelectronics Co Ltd and Yangtze Memory Technologies Co Ltd-in the Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, also known as the Optics Valley of China.

As the contagion situation in Wuhan has significantly improved, the three enterprises plan to send several chartered planes overseas to fly more than 500 foreign employees back to Hubei province's capital.

"I am happy to be back. During Spring Festival that started at the end of January, I went back to Seoul. The unprecedented pandemic disrupted my plans to come back," said a South Korean technician from Tianma who preferred to remain anonymous.

"In mid-April, Hubei's COVID-19 prevention and control command center released the latest city and county risk assessment, and classified Wuhan as a low-risk area. Later on, I received emails from the company that said I was able to get back to work. Other enterprises in Optics Valley, including foreign enterprises, private enterprises and joint-ventures, also resumed work," he said.

On April 8, when Wuhan reopened its transportation links to areas outside the city, an Optics Valley business promotion conference was held online. Sixteen high-tech project deals were signed with total investment of 40 billion yuan ($5.6 billion), and $1.1 billion among them were foreign investments.

The projects involve biopharmaceuticals, smart transportation, smart logistics, communications, internet-based education, online medical services and finance, according to the investment promotion bureau of the Optics Valley management committee.

On April 20, United States-based manufacturer Honeywell registered wholly owned subsidiary Huosheng Industrial Technology Co in Optics Valley, the first Fortune Global 500 enterprise to establish a subsidiary in Wuhan this year.

Zhang Yufeng, president of Honeywell China, said the company is always upbeat on Wuhan, and strongly supports the city's epidemic prevention and control efforts as well as its economic and social development plans.

The company will further increase its investment in Wuhan, deepen cooperation with the city, assist Wuhan in recovering from the novel coronavirus epidemic and realize a new round of development, Zhang said.

Many other foreign enterprises have also expressed their confidence in Wuhan as well as the whole of China.

"China's sound and sustainable economic development in the long run will remain unchanged, and China's economy has shown strong resilience even amid the outbreak's short-lived impact. We will continue to invest and expand our footprint in this country," said Mauro De Felip, general manager of confectioner Ferrero China.

Zhu Xiaohan, director of the investment promotion bureau of the management committee of Optics Valley, said as the major high-tech zone in Wuhan, Optics Valley has been leading the city in resuming work and production, while employing strict contagion prevention and control measures.

"The zone has more than 1,000 foreign enterprises and all major foreign industrial enterprises and service enterprises have resumed work and production," Zhu added.

Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan's Party secretary, said: "Currently, Wuhan is at the crucial stage of recovery from the contagion."

The city boasts significant advantages in location, industrial strength, science and education. It is hoped that foreign enterprises maintain confidence in Wuhan as always. Specifically, areas including high-end equipment manufacturing, environmental protection and intelligent buildings contain great business opportunities and investment is welcomed in these sectors, Wang said.

He added that a special city government work group is being formed to enhance policy support, increase work efficiency and build a better environment for foreign investment.

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