Bohai rim shapes up as focus of the future
In the 1980s, the late leader Deng Xiaoping had made the Pearl River Delta a manufacturing centre. The 1990s leadership under former president Jiang Zemin focused development in the Yangtze River Delta, turning Shanghai's Pudong into the country's leading financial and trade centre.
Now the new generation leadership under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao want to make northern China's Bohai rim another engine of the world's fastest-growing economy, turning the Binhai New Development Area into the focus for the 21st century. And one of the plan's main targets is to turn the area, within the jurisdiction of the port city of Tianjin, into a national logistics hub.
'The Bohai rim will become China's largest and most vibrant logistics centre following the central government's recent approval for its development zone,' said Professor Zhuang Jianzhong, of the Centre of PacRim Studies at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
At a State Council meeting in April on the development of the Bohai rim, Mr Wen said efforts should be devoted to transforming the Binhai New Area into a modern international shipping and logistics centre for northern China.
'Development of the logistics industry and manufacturing industry is two sides of a coin. And that is why Beijing hopes to transform the area into an international shipping and logistics centre in order to accommodate the industrialisation in the Bohai rim region, and the whole northern part of the country, as both regions were traditionally industrial bases of the nation last century,' said Professor Zhuang, a regional development specialist.
He said Beijing hoped an international shipping and logistics base in Tianjin would boost other cities around the Bohai Sea, which borders the provinces of Hebei, Liaoning and Shandong.
John Chen, general manager of Tianjin Zhihong International Consulting Service, which advises foreign investors in Tianjin, said he expected the northern port city to outpace counterparts in the east and south in logistics services in the next 10 years, due largely to its geographic advantages.
'Geographically, Tianjin is better positioned than Shanghai or Shenzhen and Guangzhou in developing the transport and logistics industry as the city is a transport link with the northeast, north and northwest of China,' said Mr Chen. He said the city had the only deep-water port in the north, making it the regions' gateway to the world. It also has links to Europe and central Asia through the Silk Road and the Asian-Europe continental railway bridge.
Tianjin's strategic location, the whole region's huge market and a strong industrial base were three key factors that would make it the country's largest integrated logistics hub, Mr Chen said.
Professor Zhuang said the development of the Binhai New Area also was part of a national drive by Beijing to ensure more equal development among regions.
Tianjin is 120 kilometres southeast of Beijing, and the Binhai New Area 50km from central Tianjin.
For the past couple of years, the Binhai plan has been promoted by Tianjin officials as of key importance for the city's development.
But Beijing believed its significance to be far greater than the potential benefit for just one city, said Professor Zhuang.
He said the development of Binhai New Area would naturally promote the growth of the Beijing and Tianjin municipalities, and other cities and areas around the Bohai Sea, allowing the area to become a national hub for land transport, ocean shipping and logistics services.This will enable the country to better tap the growth of the economies in northeast Asia, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
'The development plan was to achieve balanced development among the three major regions of the country as the northern part has lagged behind the east and south in the past two decades,' Professor Zhuang said.
He concluded that the northern region would outperform the east and south in growth in the coming decades, and the development of a thriving and efficient logistics industry was at the heart of the national plan to develop the lagging areas.