GUANGZHOU — Since the establishment of the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 1980, Zhuhai has developed from a border town dominated by agriculture and fisheries to a central city in the Pearl River Delta, driven by comprehensive economic and social development. After 40 years of glorious development, Zhuhai has become a pioneer of reform and innovation, cooperation with Macao, ecological civilization, and quality living.
“Zhuhai has explored a growth path featuring harmony between humans and nature, as well as coordinated economic and social development,” said Guo Yonghang, Party chief of Zhuhai. “It will make a further contribution to China”s overall development and reform and opening-up.”
Talent, innovation highland
In 2019, Zhuhai saw a gross domestic output of 343.59 billion yuan ($50.4 billion), up from 209 million yuan in 1979.
The great leap in economic growth could not have been achieved without skills. In 1992, Zhuhai, for the first time in the country, gave a 1-million-yuan reward to scientific and technological personnel for outstanding contributions.
Attracted by the policy, many skilled people with higher education backgrounds from all over the country came to Zhuhai and became the pioneers of building the border town into a modern metropolis with a focus on innovation.
He Liangmei, president of the printing supplies company Print-Rite, was among the first entrepreneurs to start a business in Zhuhai. Starting with a 300-square-meter manufacturing plant, the company has grown to be one of the country’s leading companies in the 3D printing industry, with several patents in ribbons, inkjets, lasers, and 3D printing.
“The market is changing rapidly, and so companies need to maintain innovation to follow the shift and survive the fierce market competition,” said He.
He’s opinion was echoed by Shen Xiandong, general manager of Zhuhai Gree Intelligent Equipment Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Gree Electric Appliances, China’s home appliance giant.
“Gree used to depend on imports of numerical control tools, which often imposed multiple access limitations. The company had to wait for foreign experts if there were technical problems,” said Shen.
“We decided to develop our manufacturing tools, regardless of the cost and time,” said Shen. In 2015, Gree’s intelligent equipment company was established, which has so far acquired more than 770 patents.
As more talent and companies settled down in Zhuhai, the city’s permanent resident population increased from 360,000 in 1979 to 2.02 million in 2019, and the per capita GDP also skyrocketed from 579 yuan to 175,500 yuan.
Deeper Zhuhai-Macao cooperation
Instead of around 20 minutes, it now only takes Wang Peilong, a university student in Macao, a couple of minutes to cross Hengqin Port since this new port, between Macao and Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province, was officially put into use in August to facilitate travel.
With a designed daily capacity of 222,000 passengers, Hengqin Port, known as a “super passage,” was designed to ease the pressure on Gongbei Port and increase the daily capacity for passenger flow between Guangdong and Macao.
Zhuhai enjoys a unique geographical position, facing Hong Kong across the sea in the east while connecting Macao in the south. In December 1999, the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) was established, and Zhuhai took on the important mission to connect the Chinese mainland and Macao.
The great connectivity between Macao and Zhuhai can be illustrated by the passenger flow. Gongbei Port, the main passenger channel between the two, saw a total of 145 million passengers in 2019, ranking first in China for eight consecutive years.
With the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge opening to traffic in 2018, Zhuhai also joined the vast development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Fabiola Apango Partida, a Mexican art designer who lives in Zhuhai with her husband, has traveled to Hong Kong via the bridge nine times since 2018.
“It is much easier for us to travel to the Hong Kong airport for a flight to Mexico. The bridge also increases the international exposure of Zhuhai,” she said.
In 2019, China issued a development plan for the Greater Bay Area. Zhuhai will further develop its advanced equipment manufacturing and financial services industries to integrate itself into the overall development of the Greater Bay Area as well as the country, said Guo Yonghang, Party chief of Zhuhai.