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Qingdao vows to become major marine hub

By XIE CHUANJIAO in Qingdao, Shandong, and LI YANG | (China Daily) | 2021-05-27

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Qingdao, Shandong province, is known for its fine examples of colonial architecture. CHINA DAILY

Thanks to its natural advantages as a harbor for North China's vast hinterland, Qingdao became a strategic stronghold in Asia that was coveted by different colonial powers for a long time.

The city, located in the south of the Shandong Peninsula, was occupied by Germany and Japan from the late 19th century until the early 20th century.

In 1919, the warlord-led Beiyang government (1912-28) recognized Japan's inheritance of previously German-run interests in the city at the Paris Peace Conference. That triggered the May 4th Movement, an anti-imperialist campaign that swept the country that year.

Since the founding of New China in 1949, Qingdao, now one of the country's top 10 city economies, has won renown as major port, a coastal economic, transportation and cultural hub, and a tourist destination.

With its 711-kilometer coastline and 49 natural bays, the handling capacity of the Port of Qingdao is ranked fifth in the world, while the city occupies a leading position in China in marine sciences and technological and industrial development.

Since the 1980s, the marine economy has gained the attention of the central authorities, and its development, along with that of related industry, science and technology, has become a national strategy.

The ocean has also endowed Qingdao with unique cultural elements and shaped its character as an open, inclusive city. Local people have a strong awareness of the sea, so Qingdao has a solid foundation to develop its ocean-based economy and become a modern international marine city.

Several events marked some of the key steps in the city's development in that direction.

For example, in 2011, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved the Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone Development Plan, which guarantees Qingdao the status of a leading city when the zone is built.

Meanwhile, in December 2013, the Ministry of Science and Technology approved a proposal to establish the Pilot National Lab for Marine Science and Technology (Qingdao).

The facility came into operation on Oct 30, 2015. As China's first national marine laboratory it represents an important part of the national system of innovation for marine science and technology.

In June 2014, the State Council approved the founding of the Qingdao West Coast New Area. Located on the west coast of Jiaozhou Bay, it includes the entire administrative area of Qingdao's Huangdao district, covering an area of about 2,096 square kilometers on land and about 5,000 sq km in the ocean.

In December that year, the Qingdao Blue Silicon Valley Development Plan was officially approved by the central authorities.

Along with the Hongdao Economic Zone, established in Qingdao in 2012, the "one valley and two zones" will provide key support for the development of the marine economy.

On June 12, 2018, President Xi Jinping visited the pilot lab. He stressed that to become a maritime power, the country must pay more attention to understanding the ocean and accelerate the pace of innovation in marine science and technology.

On July 11 that year, the CPC Qingdao Committee and the Qingdao government issued action plans in line with Xi's instructions. They were designed to develop Qingdao's marine economy and accelerate the construction of an international ocean city.

Meanwhile in December last year, the central authorities approved the establishment of the China-Shanghai Cooperation Organization Economic and Trade Cooperation Demonstration Zone in Qingdao.

It is expected to grow into a platform for international cooperation in logistics, trade, investment and business and cultural exchanges.

It will make Qingdao an important player in economic and trade cooperation between Asia and Europe and strengthen connectivity between China and SCO members.

The demonstration zone covers all of Qingdao, while the core is located in Jiaozhou, covering 61.1 sq km.

The zone's long-term goal is to become a pilot platform for local governments and SCO members to promote two-way investment and trade, strengthen economic and trade cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, and create a new window for opening-up in the new era.

Last year, amid the challenges brought by the COVID-19 outbreak, Qingdao worked hard to keep its socioeconomic development on the right track by sticking to the principle of putting people and lives first to win the battle for epidemic prevention and control.

Authorities estimate that last year the added value of the city's industrial sector rose by about 5.5 percent from 2019. Also, the added value of the service sector is expected to account for about 62 percent of the city's GDP, and annual grain output will top 3 million metric tons.

The transformation of old and new growth drivers has been accelerated, and the driving force of development continues to grow stronger. The number of unicorns-startups worth more than $1 billion-in the city has reached 10, while the number of listed companies has risen by 17 to 67.

The city has also hosted the 2020 East Asia Maritime Cooperation Platform Qingdao Forum, Qingdao International Ocean Week and other international activities.

Last year, it signed contracts for 24 key projects with a total investment of 45 billion yuan ($7 billion). The construction of the maritime cooperation center in the SCO demonstration zone has been accelerated, and 17 of the 18 key tasks related to the marine economy in the Qingdao Pilot Free Trade Zone have been implemented and achieved early results.

Last year, the city attracted investment of nearly 300 billion yuan, up 49.6 percent from 2019, and its GDP rose by 3.7 percent, hitting 1.24 trillion yuan. This year's GDP growth target has been set at 8 percent.