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Being the Change
A city in central China exemplifies the national vision for high-quality development
By Li Qing  ·  2019-08-26  ·   Source: NO. 35 AUGUST 29, 2019
The Future City, part of the Optics Valley in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, in December 2016 (XINHUA)

Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province in central China, boasts a large freshwater lake that has become an ecological icon of the city.

Years ago, wastewater was discharged into Donghu Lake, or East Lake, resulting in severe environmental degradation. Then efforts were made to clean up the water and build a greenway. The once stinking lake has been transformed into a popular tourist attraction and a leisure destination for locals.

The over 100-km greenway connects islands, parks and ponds. Trees have been planted by the lake and over 100 species live in the area, including fishes, birds and reptiles. The large-scale ecological restoration program, launched in 2009, highlights the concept of harmony between people and nature.

Opened to the public in 2016, the greenway is car-free, accessible only to walkers and cyclists.

Addressing environmental problems has been a crucial measure to pursue high-quality growth. In addition, hi-tech development and further opening up are also at the top of Wuhan's agenda.

The East Lake Hi-Tech Development Zone, also known as the Optics Valley of China, is one of the first national-level hi-tech zones. Located in southeast Wuhan, it is home to emerging industry projects worth 400 billion yuan ($56.7 billion). The 518-square-km zone has several industrial clusters with high technologies such as biology and geomatics.

The FiberHome Technologies Group, a leading equipment vendor in information technology and telecommunications, is one of the largest enterprises in the Optics Valley. From its first product, a communications fiber meeting international standards, it holds nearly all the first records in the field of optical telecommunication in China. About 10 percent of the annual sales revenue is invested in research and development (R&D) to boost innovation for not only the industry but also the development of Wuhan. Many other enterprises with strong R&D ability such as Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi also have their bases in the zone.

From computer memory to smart cars, and from network security to commercial aerospace, Wuhan is accelerating its pace of innovation, creating new energy for green growth.

Foreign capital is another engine. Against the backdrop of a turbulent global economic situation, paid-in foreign investment in Wuhan increased by 13.3 percent year on year, totaling $10.93 billion in 2018. Representing the rise of central China, it has become a new magnet for foreign investors.

Earlier this year, the city government adopted 12 policies to attract foreign capital. For instance, foreign-invested unicorns—startups valued at $1 billion or more—will enjoy an incentive of 5 million yuan ($708,700) if they set up shop in Wuhan. R&D platforms led by foreign companies are entitled to a grant of up to 2.5 million yuan ($354,400). In addition, foreign-funded companies enjoy equal treatment as domestic enterprises, improved investment protection, and facilitated registration and other documentation processes.

This year, drawing on the experience of Beijing and Shanghai, Wuhan issued a plan for business environment optimization. It simplifies official procedures, reduces the time needed to complete them, and facilitates trade. This has slashed the time for customs clearance by 10 percent while import and export compliance costs have been cut by more than 10 percent.

"Excluding the first-tier cities along the coast, Wuhan will grow into the most promising, largest, and most competitive emerging city in China," Yao Yang, Dean of the National School of Development of Peking University, said at a recent forum, expressing the hope that Wuhan would play a key role in the high-quality development of the entire nation.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

Comments to liqing@bjreview.com

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