Nansha launches new area as centre of Pearl River Delta
By Mark O’Neill
On 19 June, the city of Guangzhou inaugurated its new area of Nansha, which it sees as an engine of growth and a platform for co-operation with Macao and Hong Kong.
The event was marked by a large gathering of people in Pearl Bay, the first phase of the new area, attended by senior officials from the Guangdong and Guangzhou governments, Hong Kong and Macao and the central government. Macao was represented by Francis Tam Pak Yuan, secretary of Economy and Finance.
“We will do everything to attract outside investment,” Nansha district Communist Party secretary Ding Hongdu told the gathering. “We will improve the policy system, promote reform and creativity and make a new national strategic base for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to co-operate in every way and create a modern new city looking to the future.”
He announced that 33 different projects would begin that day, involving a total investment of 58.6 billion yuan, including commercial buildings and infrastructure projects.
Nansha sees the people and companies of Macao as playing an important role in its future. It wants to be a national sales centre for goods from Portuguese-speaking countries and attract tourists from Macao as well as professionals from there to train its people in this industry. It also wants to co-operate with Macao in culture, creativity and logistics.
It wants to attract high-level professionals from Macao and Hong Kong, especially in law, accounting and exhibitions and conventions.
Approval of New Area
It was on 9 September last year that the State Council approved the Nansha New Area, the sixth such zone in China, after Pudong in Shanghai, Binhai in Tianjin and others in Chongqing, Zhejiang and Gansu. It is the first in southern China.
Nansha is the most southerly district of Guangzhou city, lying along the Pearl River; it has a total area of 803 square kilometres, of which 570 are land and 233 are water. It has many advantages as a place of development.
According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 260,000, the lowest of the city’s 10 districts and a density of 493 people per square kilometre; it was the lowest of the 10, compared with 34,239 people per sq km in Yuexiu, the historic centre of the city and the most densely populated.
Consequently, Nansha has a natural environment that is largely un-spoilt, with a wetland of 10,000 mu (670 hectares), a forest mountain range, a forest park of 1,200 hectares and a golf course built on a mountain ridge.
It was created as a separate district only in 2006, when it was separated from neighbouring Panyu. Its development as an industrial area began with the opening of the Guangzhou Nansha Export Processing Zone, with a total planned area of 1.36 sq km.
In 2011, the zone had a GDP of 57.1 billion yuan, up 13.05 percent over 2010. During the period, it had exports of US$4.02 billion, up 13 percent on 2010, and imports of US$6.65 billion, up two percent.
The main industries in the zone are shipbuilding, making it one of the three major construction bases in China, with annual output capacity of over three million tonnes a year; heavy machinery; automobile, parts and components; IT and computer chips; and oceanology.
The zone also has a major port, with 20 deep-water berths for containers, automobiles, petrochemicals and grains. It is China’s largest auto export point and has more than 40 routes to Europe, North America and Africa; 20 of the world’s top shipping companies operate there.
Nansha has an excellent geographic location, in the middle of the Pearl River Delta, 41 nautical miles from Macao and 38 nautical miles from Hong Kong. Within a 70-km radius, there are five international airports – Macao, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.
Links with Macao
Dong Ke, a member of the standing committee of the Nansha District, briefed journalists on its links with Macao. “We have 460 Hong Kong and Macao enterprises in Nansha, including 100 Macao joint ventures.
“We pay great attention to small and medium-size enterprises from Macao and would like to co-operate with them in three areas – logistics, culture and creativity and as a platform with Portuguese-speaking countries.
“We hope Nansha can become a national sales centre for the whole of China for products from these countries.
“We want to bring to Nansha some of the more than 20 million tourists who visit Macao. But our facilities are inadequate. We hope that Macao can provide professional training in tourism. We have set up a task force with this objective. We also hope to set up with Macao an international arbitration centre,” he said.
Another link is a 63-year-old state farm, the Guangzhou Ruiguang Food Company, which started to supply one truck of organic food each day to Macao this year. The farm, with 31,000 mu (2,070), was set up in 1950 to give employment to 200,000 overseas Chinese people from southeast Asia who had returned home after the foundation of the new state. It signed an export produce agreement last year with Macao.
Promoting the new area
After the State Council decision last September, the city government prepared detailed policies for the future of the area. On 13–15 May, Guangzhou Mayor Chen Jianhua went to Hong Kong and Macao to promote the area and explain its future direction.
“The district should enjoy the same preferential policies as its counterparts in Shanghai and Tianjin,” he said.
In Macao, the Guangzhou authorities signed seven contracts worth 17.05 billion yuan with businesses in commercial services, logistics and cultural innovation. In Hong Kong, they signed 17 agreements with state-owned firms and foreign and private companies, as well as higher education and research institutes. The deals, worth 234.8 billion yuan, involved high-end services, finance, energy, culture and film and television.
The Nansha Development Plan places great importance on deepening co-operation with Hong Kong and Macao in all sectors and speeding up institutional innovation, to build a business environment in line with Hong Kong and Macao, in which international practices are adopted.
The plan states that Nansha will strengthen key economic sectors such as commercial services, scientific and technological innovation, education and training, maritime logistics and high-end manufacturing; achieve liberalisation of trade in services with Macao and Hong Kong; and introduce measures to facilitate investment by small and medium enterprises from the two SARs.
Last October, the National Development and Reform Commission issued a circular on the area’s future. It said that Hong Kong and Macao financial institutions should set up operations and develop business in the area. “Qualified Hong Kong and Macao institutions will be allowed to establish joint ventures in securities, securities investment and fund management.”
It also said that Hong Kong and Macao firms should be encouraged to set up ventures in shipping industry funds, financial leasing and insurance in the new area. “Conscientious efforts will be made to study the possibility of Hong Kong and Macao granting one-year multiple entry visas to residents of the Nansha New Area as well as mainland residents investing or working there,” it said.
In addition, the area should research into how to establish joint educational bodies between the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and ‘world-famous colleges’.
On 18 June, the visitors were taken to one of the area’s tourist attractions – the Nansha Yacht Club, the largest of its kind in south China. It is home to 120 yachts and has 352 berths; it involves an investment of 250 million yuan. The Pearl River Delta is the home of a large number of Chinese and foreign yacht builders.
The club aims to promote the culture of sailing and water sports, a new pastime for Chinese people. Each year it organises sailing training courses for young people, to popularise the sport.
In October this year, it will host a four-day Nansha Bay International Boat Show, exhibiting yachts, powerboats and sailboats by domestic and foreign manufacturers. A similar event in 2012 ran for three days and attracted more than 50 exhibitors and over 60 vessels and 15,000 visitors. A total of 17 vessels were sold, worth more than 100 million yuan.
This year’s event will include a lifestyle section showing a wide range of high-end products, including private jets, luxury cars, wine, high-end furniture and garments and other luxury goods.
The new area wants to set up a terminal for international cruise ships at the yacht club: it is currently conducting an environmental assessment of the project.
The yacht club is one of many investments in Nansha of the Fok Ying Tung Group, named after the district’s most famous son, whose English name was Henry Fok and who lived from May 1923 to October 2006. He was vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference from March 1993 and one of the most powerful Hong Kong people in the politics of the PRC.
His group is the biggest outside investor in Nansha, where it has been active since 1986. The projects include highways, bridges, passenger and cargo ferry terminals, an information and technology park, a hi-tech development park, a golf club with two 18-hole courses designed by John Jacobs of Britain, tourist projects, a middle school, an education and training centre, a science museum and Nansha World Trade Centre.
Henry Fok visited the area hundreds of times. His son, Ian Fok, chief executive of the group, attended the ceremony on 19 June.