Fuzhou Sustains the Glory of the Maritime Silk Road

Building a Strategic Hub

To build the city into a strategic hub along the Maritime Silk Road, Fuzhou will focus on three fields – transport, trade and people-to-people exchanges, Yang said.

"Now Fuzhou is improving its transportation network of seaports, airports, railways and highways," said Yang, adding that the city is also developing two deepwater ports – Jiangyin and Luoyuan Bay, aiming to shape Fuzhou into an international shipping hub. In 2013, 100 million tons of cargo passed through Fuzhou. All these constitute a solid foundation for the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road.

Fuzhou Airport is the closest of that of any mainland provincial capital to Taiwan, an important portal for cross-straits exchanges. Now the airport operates over 70 domestic and international airlines, serving nearly nine million passengers per year, reaching such international destinations as Djakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Siem Reap.

Yang indicated that Fuzhou would become an important land and sea hub. Now, the city is ratcheting up efforts to develop land ports by improving expressway and railway networks. By the end of 2013, Fuzhou had 10,787 kilometers of highways, of which 488 kilometers were expressways. The planned Beijing-Taipei Expressway will also pass through Fuzhou.

All these bolster local confidence in the city's future. Yang added, "Fuzhou is emerging as a transit center for tourism, logistics, capital flow, information, and cultural exchanges."


New Opportunities Brought by the FTZ Drive

On December 12, 2014, China's central government decided to set up three new free trade zones (FTZ) in Guangdong, Tianjin, and Fujian. Fujian's FTZ straddles four areas in the province: Pingtan, Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Quanzhou. The planned area in Fuzhou occupies 51.36 square kilometers.

Yang said that Fuzhou is improving its financial system. The Straits Financial District is already underway in Fuzhou with a planned area of over 150 hectares. Currently 12 financial institutions have settled in the district. Moreover, Taiwan-based banks like Tanwan Cooperative Bank, Chang Hwa Bank, and Hua Nan Bank have obtained approval for setting up branches in Fuzhou. Meanwhile, the city is also applying to set up the nation's first private maritime bank.

During the 2014 Cross-Strait Fair for Economy and Trade (CFET), Fuzhou's municipal government signed agreements with China Development Bank and China-Africa Development Fund, planning to raise RMB 10 billion for the Maritime Silk Road Fund. The fund has so far received RMB 2 billion, and related projects have been started.

"We're making efforts to improve cross-border trade and investment. For example, we are trying to realize Renminbi capital account convertibility, marketization of interest rates and cross-border use of Renminbi. Meanwhile, we encourage local enterprises to go public when the conditions are ripe, or to be listed at the Haixia Equity Exchange to get financing and issue multiple financing tools. We also throw open the doors for strategic investors," Yang told China Today.

"Fuzhou hopes that overseas companies not only establish offices here, but also bring their advanced managerial concepts and operational models. Then Fuzhou's competitiveness can further improve," he added.

As a pilot of China's reform and opening-up, Fuzhou has close economic and trade contacts with countries along the Maritime Silk Road. In 2013, the total value of Fuzhou's trade with ASEAN, the Middle East, and Africa exceeded US $6.445 billion, taking up 20.5 percent of its total foreign trade. ASEAN invested in 339 projects in the city, with a total contracted value at US $895 million.

Fuzhou's fishing industry has shown its vitality in trade and economic cooperation. Fuzhou's deep-sea fishing industry is leading the country, with six deep-sea fishing bases already operating in neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, and Mauritania. Fuzhou has also set up aquatic farms in Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia.


Improving Cultural Connectivity

Fuzhou is renowned as the ancestral home of millions of overseas Chinese. Around three million overseas Chinese, and 800,000 Taiwanese, come from Fuzhou or are descended from Fuzhou emigrants. This is Fuzhou's human advantage in building a cultural exchange hub.

"In the early years of China's reform and opening-up, Fuzhou's development owed much to its connections with overseas Chinese, and the capital they brought," Yang observed, adding, "These overseas Chinese have not only fueled Fuzhou's economic development, but introduced other countries' cultures and concepts to the city. In addition, apart from seeking individual investment opportunities, they acted as intermediaries to attract new investment."

The older generation of overseas Chinese from Fuzhou mostly live in Southeast Asia. Yang hopes that they will participate in the Belt and Road Initiatives. While welcoming them back to Fuzhou to set up businesses, Fuzhou also intends to take advantage of their connections abroad to launch cooperative projects in other countries.

According to Yang, Fuzhou has sponsored a variety of activities including summer and winter camps for children of overseas Chinese and cultural events in countries with Fuzhou descendant communities. These are intended to tighten bonds between Fuzhou and its diaspora population. Now, Fuzhou is planning to build a historical museum for overseas Chinese to trace their ancestry.

The 21st-century Maritime Silk Road Initiative will surely bring the city new opportunities and challenges. Now, Fuzhou is poised to build itself into a strategic hub guided by the idea of win-win cooperation, mutual benefit and interconnectivity.

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