Ningbo, the lead harbor in Zhejiang Province, is stepping up internationalization with a plan to raise the level of openness. The local government has initiated nine campaigns to redefine its image as an increasingly international city.
The two main components are making Ningbo a key economic player in the Yangtze River Delta region by 2020 and a much internationalized city in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.
“Since Ningbo opened its door to the world in the late ’70s, the city has achieved much economic development. Yet to make Ningbo a true member of the global community, we need more than mere economic internationalization,” said Kong Weiwei, director of the Ningbo Foreign Affairs Office.
In the first period, Ningbo will learn from the experience of Shanghai and Shenzhen in terms of attracting foreign investment. It will push forward the construction of city infrastructures under international standards.
Based on the strong capacities of its ports, Ningbo will strengthen its position as an international harbor to boost international trade. The government also encourages innovation in the financial sector to generate support for new businesses that will arise with increasing trade.
To better serve the economic development, Ningbo has set up several new business zones. The Southern Business District (SBD) and the Hangzhou Bay New Zone are two lead areas.
Differentiated business zones
Ningbo has diversified the functions of different business zones. The SBD focuses on international trade, scientific innovations and service outsourcing, while the Hangzhou Bay New Zone positions itself as a high-end industrial base.
“We have strict indexes for the economic development; as for developments in other social sectors, we allow flexible standards of judging. We will work hard, in the next five to 10 years, to narrow the gap between Ningbo and Shanghai,” said Kong.
In the second stage, Ningbo will follow successful harbor examples of Hong Kong and Busan, South Korea, to build up connections with more cities across the globe.
From 2020 to 2030, Ningbo will seek to upgrade its industries by encouraging innovations. In terms of social development and ecological protection, the city also wishes to make key breakthroughs.
Following other big cities in China that have released internationalization plans, Ningbo, based on its unique character, has mapped out nine key campaigns to transform the landscape.
Kong said the key areas of the campaigns will be social management and development, together with the quality of human resources.
Ningbo is home to a great number of private enterprises. The innovation among them is crucial to the plan. The government encourages the private companies to seek global branding and take in foreign investments.
The city also plans to establish headquarters for both Chinese and foreign multinational companies. International cooperation will be a key factor for the local companies, the government emphasizes.
To build a high-level city, the existence of a good natural environment is requisite. Ningbo will make efforts to narrow its gap with the developed countries in terms of environmental protection and ecological construction.
Ningbo will strengthen its health care sector by setting up internationalized medical centers that will learn advanced medical techniques of the world’s best hospitals.
To internationalize the education sector, Ningbo will set up world-class academic institutes and human resources bases. It will try to ensure that 30 percent of its schools have a twin school abroad.
By the end of 2014, the city will try to establish two international schools. Via joint academic institutes, Ningbo will seek global scientific collaboration on a larger scale and to a higher level.
“Linguistic barriers and little knowledge of international courtesies still stand in the way for Ningbo’s internationalization. To some extent, to go global means to cover our disadvantages,” said Kong.
Ningbo will cultivate a multilingual atmosphere by compiling foreign language learning handbooks for citizens and people involved in social services. It will also install bilingual instructions in public places.
“We leave the judging of Ningbo’s internationalization to foreign residents. When they acknowledge the convenience of city life in Ningbo, that truly means we have progressed,” said Kong.