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Xi’s old time in Fuzhou: Strong push for opening up and innovation

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : Fuzhou, the provincial capital city of southeast China’s Fujian Province, now sees trade spanning over 200 countries and regions, with an estimated import and export total of over 250 billion yuan ($35.13 billion) in the recent five years.

The city has become one important hub connecting China to the rest of the world, especially in areas including new materials, artificial intelligence(AI), textiles and digital information.

Its internalization all comes down to the strong push of opening up and continuous innovation, as listed in the city’s 20-year economic and social development strategic vision, known as the “3820” strategy. The development framework was initiated by General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Xi Jinping, who was then Party chief of Fuzhou.

Expanding investment from overseas Chinese

Fuzhou is the birthplace for over four million overseas Chinese. To better connect the city with the rest of the world, Xi decided to draw investment from them.

Xi encouraged overseas Chinese to come back and set up industrial zones instead of just giving out money, said Lian Zhixuan, then Party chief of Fuqing, a suburb belongs to Fuzhou city.

“He said donating money is like giving out eggs. But once you eat up all the eggs, you still have nothing left. Yet promoting industrial zones can just boost the city’s development, like raising chicken for your hometown,” Lian recalled.

“Life will only be better if you have eggs every day.”

Workers at a seafood processing production line at Fuqing Zhaohua Aquatic Food Co., Ltd., one company operating in Yuanhong Investment Zone, southeast China's Fujian Province, August 24, 2023. /Xinhua

Workers at a seafood processing production line at Fuqing Zhaohua Aquatic Food Co., Ltd., one company operating in Yuanhong Investment Zone, southeast China’s Fujian Province, August 24, 2023. /Xinhua

Through multiple rounds of negotiations, the deals on the establishment of Yuanhong Investment Zone was set. The zone is later designed to be the Chinese park for “Two Countries, Twin Parks,” a model for the Belt and Road cooperation project between China and Indonesia.

The Chinese park is now working to initiate 45 more ventures with a total investment of around 63.6 billion yuan ($8.84 million), according to Xinhua report last September.

Leveling up the infrastructure

Despite of growing international ties, Fuzhou at the time had no civil airport, poising a major burden for investors to travel in and goods to travel out.

Xi called for building an international-level airport to match up with the opening-up and economic development of the city.

Financing for the building of a new airport was a group effort, with assistance coming from city officials, locals, overseas Chinese, and the government subsidy.

Five years of construction in, the Fuzhou Changle International Airport started operation in 1997.

An airplane waits to take off at the Fuzhou Changle International Airport in Fuzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province, May 22, 2023. /Xinhua

An airplane waits to take off at the Fuzhou Changle International Airport in Fuzhou, southeast China’s Fujian Province, May 22, 2023. /Xinhua

To fit the needs for continuous opening up, Xi also requested the construction for major infrastructure projects in the city including deep water terminals, highways and urban expressways.

The innovation breakthrough spirit dating back decades ago has really gone into Fuzhou’s veins. Zheng Hao, director of Fuzhou Municipal Development and Reform Commission, told China Media Group that the city will continue to carry out the legacy and push for opening up on a higher starting point.