The economist Zhou Qiren said that the essence of urbanization is economic freedom.
In the early 1980s, Guangzhou, which was moving towards urbanization with an unstoppable momentum, was so fascinating to local writer Zhang Yiwu. Accordingly, he wrote the novel “Yamaha Fish Stall”, which was remade into a movie of the same name by Pearl River Film Studio.
In 1984, when movie tickets were only 20 cents, the movie “Yamaha Fish File” was released.
The new trendy Yamaha motorcycle, carrying baskets of fresh and raw grass carp, sped past the screen and in the blink of an eye, the movie grossed 80 million yuan, equivalent to the myth of more than 2 billion box office today.
When the film was screened at Beijing University, the phrase “Guangzhou’s today is our tomorrow” was shouted, telling the vitality and vigor of China’s urban reform.
As the southern gate of China, Guangzhou’s mission seems to have been, from the very beginning, to let a live fish stir up the market and lead the nation. Immediately afterwards, based on a series of market-oriented reforms and with its natural endowment of attraction to capital, Guangzhou’s myth has been much more than a movie and a fish store throughout the 40 years of reform and opening up.
National central city, comprehensive gateway city, international comprehensive transportation hub, international trade center, international metropolis …… Guangzhou’s city status is climbing, and Guangzhou’s national positioning is slowly unfolding.
The national positioning of a city is never on paper, but a scientific decision with comprehensive measurement and overall consideration. The biggest basis for the decision is the comprehensive strength of the city and national strategic considerations, so, in a comprehensive manner, whether the total economic volume, structure and quality, or the total population, consumption level, all aspects of the key urban indicators reveal the hard strength of Guangzhou.
In addition, the positioning of Guangzhou is the most real city positioning in the country.
This is not difficult to understand. In the contours and details of history, we rarely find the ups and downs of Guangzhou, nor the so-called trend-chasing moves. What we see is a positioning that can resist the changes and shocks of time, that can guard the culture, the spiritual structure and the order of life.
If we were to interpret this positioning in a more understandable way, it would have to be the “urban resilience” that we often talk about today.
Guangzhou’s economy, as reflected through this resilience, has always played an extraordinary role in two aspects.
One, in special moments, can be orderly development, easy to repair quickly. The data supports this. In the context of the epidemic shock, the accelerated evolution of the century-old changes, and the headwinds of economic globalization, Guangzhou’s GDP in 2021 was 2.82 trillion yuan, up 8.1% year-on-year, leading the economic rankings of the country’s major provincial capitals by an overwhelming margin.
Second, in terms of GDP alone, if Guangzhou wants to increase its GDP, there are actually many ways to do so. As long as the temptation of short-term “big” opportunities, keep doing addition, without regard to effectiveness, efficiency, quality and real national wealth, GDP will be able to obtain considerable growth.
But Guangzhou firmly says “no”, why?
A city should not be a utopia in the imagination of its planners, but a shelter for the thousands of residents rooted in the city.
Moving from aspiration to practice is not easy. It requires the city to keep two things in mind in its overall ethos and development philosophy: consistency and breakthrough.
I am afraid that only Guangzhou itself knows how difficult it is to achieve these two points.
As we all know, Guangzhou attracts manufacturing capital from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, forming a unique economic model of “front store and back factory”, i.e. Hong Kong and Macau in the front and the Pearl River Delta in the back.
We can get a best perspective by observing the China Import and Export Fair (hereinafter referred to as “Canton Fair”) held in Guangzhou since 1957.
As the “big brother” of the PRD, Guangzhou decided to do the hard and right thing without looking outside, without depriving others of opportunities, and without being swayed by short-term interests, in order to continue to lead the times and to benefit the whole family.
As a rare and continuous mechanism of foreign economic interaction since the founding of New China, the Canton Fair has been held, allowing huge and detailed professional wholesale markets of garments, plastics, metals, etc., to be gradually distributed in various areas of Guangzhou, fundamentally changing the economic geography of Guangzhou.
The take-off of various industrial production bases in the Pearl River Delta followed closely behind, interdependent with Guangzhou. The two constitute a virtuous cycle of commodity production and circulation as well as the circulation of capital, information and talents, forming a large-scale industrial agglomeration in the Pearl River Delta, which also led the rise of China’s manufacturing industry.
Today, this complementary set of play is still an important driver of Guangzhou’s economic development.
Guo Hao, a business manager of a Guangzhou-based trading company, told Southwind that he participated in the 130th Canton Fair for the first time last year. Although many companies were unable to come to the fair due to the epidemic, Guo Hao met many foreign company representatives and found suitable and precise customers during the fair. According to Guo Hao, “I added hundreds of people to my WeChat in a few days.
The problem is that, beyond the Canton Fair, it is still doubtful whether Guangzhou’s future, the future of the Pearl River Delta, can be more proactive in establishing connections with new industrial chains and supply chains, especially with an eye on industrial upgrading and transformation in the entire Greater Bay Area.
It is because Guangzhou’s systematic renewal and industrial upgrading involves not only itself, but also carries the mission of upgrading and transforming the traditional industries in the entire Pearl River Delta region, that the game around Guangzhou’s urban renewal is particularly intense.
Guangzhou obviously cannot decide to transform today and start another stove tomorrow; if it is bent on going its own way, what it will conceal is the decline of business and culture in the private and casual city life.
As the “big brother” of the Pearl River Delta, Guangzhou, in order to continue to lead the times and benefit the whole family, has decided to do the hard and right thing without looking outward, without depriving others of development opportunities, and without being swayed by short-term interests.
Just like the Cantonese saying – eat yourself – rely on yourself. Guangzhou before and after the introduction of a number of policies, the implementation of a number of initiatives, all aimed at providing a buffer space for the development of the traditional economic and ecological transformation, while promoting the traditional manufacturing breakout, so that it embarked on the road of branding or high-end development.
What are the results?
“Small and medium-sized enterprises can do great things.” A light brown boulder engraved with these eight big words stands out in the central zone of the Technology Business Accelerator Park in Guangzhou Development Zone.
In the golden autumn of 2018, General Secretary Xi Jinping made this important assertion during an inspection in Guangzhou, inspiring countless SMEs across the country to embark on the development path of “specialization, specialization and newness”.
For example, the headquartered in the park, the source of the company, the first in the domestic sales of interactive intelligent flat panel segment, has done a major event.
In the face of the onslaught of the epidemic, the company donated its teleconferencing system to Wuhan Vulcan Mountain and Thunder God Mountain Hospital for remote consultation, reducing the number of people in contact with the infection. Later, the system was provided free of charge to nearly 2,000 enterprises and 70,000 people for telecommuting, which helped prevent and control the epidemic.
Among the new economic dynamics, “technology and innovation are the two key factors,” Liu Yang, President of MAXHUB of Vision Source, summarized his enterprise’s development experience to Southwind. Technology is the foundation, which drives the progress of the whole society. Innovation, on the other hand, includes technology and product innovation.
Further to product innovation, Liu Yang said that it cannot be separated from organizational innovation, which can stimulate human motivation and new ideas. Surprisingly, the average age of the employees in this company is less than 29 years old, “our middle and top management are all post-90s”.
Vision Source’s pursuit of innovation is not an isolated case. More than 80% of the industrial enterprises and 80% of the high-tech enterprises in Guangzhou Development Zone are SMEs, and more than 80% of the authorized invention patents and technological innovations come from SMEs.
From the industrial road to the capital of science and innovation, the way Guangzhou enterprises grow has changed greatly from the past. They no longer rely on cost and scale advantages, but instead focus on technological innovation and management model changes.
In such a metamorphosis process, generations of myths have been iterated in Guangzhou, all towards one goal: to make a small and insignificant product into a big global market.
An interesting example is that in 1978, the year when the college entrance examination was resumed, three classmates from the radio class of South China University of Technology in Guangzhou later founded the three giants of the color TV industry, Konka, Skyworth and TCL respectively.
Generations of myths keep iterating in Guangzhou, all moving towards one goal: to make a small, inconspicuous product into a large global market.
Not to mention that Zhang Xiaolong spent 10 years in Guangzhou to develop WeChat, writing the legend of how a programmer can influence the world, and he always likes and insists on staying in Guangzhou.
It is worth mentioning that in the early stages of WeChat’s development, the Guangzhou government side had made it clear that it would closely follow WeChat’s growth but not let the institutional forces interfere too much with the market behavior of the company.
The habit and consciousness of valuing small and medium-sized enterprises is the consistency that the Guangzhou government upholds, as testified in the government work reports of Guangzhou in previous years.
In 2022 alone, “insisting on industry first and manufacturing city” appeared for the first time in the Guangzhou government work report; “building a modern industrial system” and “manufacturing city” occupied the “opening C” position in the report’s objectives and tasks for the next five years as well as in this year’s work arrangements.
Economist Justin Yifu Lin emphasized in “Interpreting China’s Economy” that only through continuous technological innovation will new high value-added industrial sectors emerge, and enterprises, driven by high profit returns, will spontaneously invest in these new high value-added industrial sectors, which will eventually affect the changes of the entire industrial structure.
From this perspective, Guangzhou’s entire supply chain and market spontaneous formation of competitiveness, once the opportunity to be included in the global platform, the power is very huge.
This opportunity is now at hand – integration into the Greater Bay Area of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.
Building the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is a major national development strategy. Guangzhou, as one of the central cities, is also close to Hong Kong and Macao, with natural complementarity, docking and integration with the rules of Hong Kong and Macao is a natural.
Mao Yanhua, professor at the Institute of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Development of Sun Yat-sen University and vice president of the Integrated Research Institute of Free Trade Zone of Sun Yat-sen University, summarized this deep integration as, a process from border opening to internal opening. He told Southwind that the construction of Guangdong FTZ and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has milestone significance when standing in the big picture of China’s deepening reform and expanding opening.
Professor Zheng Yongnian further explained that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council issued the “Overall Plan for the Construction of Hengqin Guangdong-Macao Deep Cooperation Zone” and the “Comprehensive Deepening of the Reform and Opening-up Plan of Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone” on September 5 and 6, 2021, in which “Hengqin is specifically directed to Macao, Qianhai is specifically directed to Hong Kong, and the role played by Guangzhou Nansha should be to integrate both Macao and Hong Kong”.
Professor Zheng Yongnian told Southwind Window, “The next step of Nansha’s development is actually going to lead not only Guangzhou, but also the development of the whole Greater Bay Area.”
There is no time to lose. This year, Nansha was “singled out” in the Guangzhou government’s work report. The report distinctly proposes to build a new engine of high-quality development with Nansha as the main front.
It does not take sensationalism as the primary task, and does not take the pursuit of traffic as the fundamental purpose.
Nansha’s own dynamism and Guangzhou’s continuous investment in it both show Guangzhou’s consistency and breakthrough power. The breakthrough power, in turn, has allowed Guangzhou to surge into more freshness.
Guangzhou Supercomputing Center new generation of domestic supercomputing system, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area National Technology Innovation Center, human cell genealogy, cold spring ecosystem, etc., many key projects and national strategic science and technology power will be settled in Guangzhou in 2022.
The considerable quantity and quality of the landed projects show both the excellent level of public services and the high-end elements favoring Guangzhou.
At the same time, from the point of view of the introduced projects, they basically belong to those emerging fields that represent the direction of industrial change, which will undoubtedly drive the transformation of the old and new dynamics of Guangzhou’s urban economy faster and more efficiently.
The city, an extremely dynamic place, is a fertile place for thousands of people to plan, and those successful regions are more prominent in this regard. Guangzhou is no exception. Old, newer, and newer, these roads are all starting to develop, and Guangzhou’s inclusive pattern and complete ecology is visible, where almost all of them can be embraced with long-lasting affection.
Such historical patience and strategic determination of Guangzhou actually manifests a dimension of China’s development: wide.
Compared to “deep”, which is diligent in experimenting and exploring new territories, Guangzhou’s “breadth” is history, culture, richness and accumulation.
The collection of these “wide” allows Guangzhou to acquire a more understated ability than throwing sensory stimuli and adding commercial elements.
It does not take sensationalism as its first priority, and does not pursue traffic as its fundamental purpose.
The only thing it needs to be responsible for is to tell the characters, purely allowing them to grow in the advancement of the plot, allowing them to resonate with the times in every rise and fall.
Just like the street corner that “Yamaha Fish Stall” focused on back then, in a city with sound urban functions and stable urban spirit, i.e. the daily life of Guangzhou, we bump a full of, a balance of efficiency and warmth, a balance of imagery and reality, and that one big live fish in the sparkling river water.