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Scaling the heights of industrial innovation

By Zhou Mo | HK EDITION | Updated: 2021-05-14 14:33
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Economic resilience

The might of industrial innovation underlines the strong economic resilience of these cities, as shown from their first-quarter economic data issued last month.

"Guangdong's economy did quite well in the first quarter, showing it's gradually ridding itself of the adverse impact from COVID-19. It also reflects the province's well-built economic resilience," said Qu Jian, vice-president of Shenzhen-based think tank China Development Institute.

The province's GDP surged 18.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2020 — 0.3 percentage points higher than the national average.

Zhongshan topped the mainland's nine-city cluster in the Greater Bay Area in terms of year-on-year GDP growth in the first three months, at 25 percent, followed by Huizhou and Jiangmen, at 23.2 percent and 21.4 percent respectively. The much higher annual growth compared to previous years was partly attributed to the low comparison base of 2020, when the pandemic ravaged the mainland economy.

Dongguan and Guangzhou took up the fourth and fifth slots, with 20.4 percent and 19.5 percent growth respectively. Zhuhai's GDP grew by 18.8 percent and Zhaoqing's by 18.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The economies of the seven cities, except Foshan and Shenzhen, had expanded faster than the nation's average in the first quarter, which stood at 18.3 percent. Foshan recorded 17.5 percent year-on-year growth over the period, while Shenzhen grew by 17.1 percent.

Yang Xinhong, head of the Guangdong Bureau of Statistics, said industrial innovation was instrumental in driving the province's economic growth in the first quarter.

In some industries, year-on-year growth had reached 80 percent, or even as high as 100 percent, because of innovation, he said. From the magnitude of the industrial output, it could be seen that the value-added rate spurred by industrial innovation was on the rise, particularly in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan, where the number of enterprises had grown rapidly.

The Greater Bay Area's strong industrial innovation power is due partly to its active private economy. According to the 2020 Hurun China 500 Most Valuable Private Companies list, 108 of them are located in the Greater Bay Area, accounting for 21.6 percent of the total.

Among the top 10 companies on the list, four are based in the 11-city cluster, with three in Shenzhen — internet giant Tencent Holdings, insurance behemoth Ping An Group and leading telecom equipment and smartphone maker Huawei — while home-appliance company Midea Group is based in Foshan.

Mao Yanhua, deputy director of the Institute of Free Trade Zones at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said with a strong real economy, the Greater Bay Area, along with the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River Delta region, have an edge in attracting global high-end resources. They're also in the pole position in building industrial, value and supply chains, he said.

The city clusters could be the engine in upgrading the nation's industrial chains and helping to promote high-quality development of the Chinese economy, said Mao.

Guangdong's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) highlighted cooperation between the nine mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area and the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

Development blueprint

The development blueprint unveiled last month said greater efforts will be made to leverage Guangdong's manufacturing industry and the modern services sector of Hong Kong and Macao for better integration. The mainland and the two SARs will join forces to create safe and effective industrial and supply chains, and generate an internationally competitive modern industry system in the country.

Increased cooperation will also take the Greater Bay Area's technology and innovation capability to new heights.

The Greater Bay Area, distinct from the world's three other bay areas —those of New York, San Francisco and Tokyo — sees each member city having its own development features, said Zhang Guangnan, a professor at the Institute of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Development Studies of Sun Yat-sen University.

He said that the key to boosting technology and innovation capability in the Greater Bay Area lies in giving full play to the potential of each member city and cultivating a climate that suits its development.

Some businesses have stressed the importance of government policies, saying they play a vital part in promoting the swift development of industries and fueling industrial innovation.

"Government policies help regulate market operations," said Liu Xuan, a partner and vice-president of Shenzhen-based self-driving solutions provider DeepRoute.

"In particular, the launch of rules concerning fees for self-driving services and those regarding full self-driving takes the industry's future development into full consideration. This will help us speed up its commercialization," he said, referring to a regulation issued in Shenzhen in March for public consultation.

Last month, DeepRoute became the first company to secure a permit for Shenzhen's robotaxi pilot program, enabling the company to offer self-driving services to the public.

Since the Greater Bay Area's development plan was unveiled in February 2019, more than 230 policy papers concerning the region have been released by the central and local governments.

About 23 percent of the policies are related to employment and entrepreneurship, 13 percent are on finance and taxation, and 11 percent deal with technology and innovation.

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