By Wang Zhe
The year 2018 marked the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. Yantai, a city in eastern China’s Shandong Province, has been at the forefront of the country’s opening-up since 1978, especially after it was listed in 1984 as one of the first 14 coastal cities in China to open to the world. In the first half of 2018, the city’s industries above a designated size produced revenue of 720.95 billion yuan (US$105.21 billion) with profits of 46.45 billion yuan (US$6.77 billion), ranking first in Shandong. The total output of its strategic emerging industries increased by 8.1 percent compared to the same period last year.
“To promote high-quality development in Yantai, we must replace old growth drivers with new,” declared Zhang Shuping, secretary of the Yantai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China. “We must set a clear direction for the transformation and upgrading of manufacturing, focus on fostering new industries, transform traditional industries and shut down outdated production facilities.” Yantai is striving to develop into a modernized and livable coastal city with robust manufacturing and strong marine economy today and in the years to come.
A Key Engine
On September 19, 2018, the provincial government of Shandong issued Plan for the Implementation of Major Projects to Promote Growth-driver Transition in Yantai, an effort to explore new drivers of economic growth with Yantai as a key engine for the province-wide campaign.
The key to realizing high-quality development is rapid advancement of key projects. To this end, the municipal government of Yantai has successively issued Task List of Yantai’s Key Works in 2018 and Opinions on Further Promoting the Implementation of Yantai’s Key Works and set up working groups for a total of 80 tasks. All of the projects are now steadily progressing as scheduled such as the Changdao Comprehensive Experimental Zone for Marine Ecological Civilization Construction and Weifang-Yantai high-speed railway. The city is focused on the development of eight sectors, namely ocean-related industries, equipment manufacturing, electronics, high-end chemical engineering, health care, tourism, logistics and efficient agriculture. A reserve pool of 300 projects capable of fostering growth-driver transition has been established with a total investment of 887.5 billion yuan (US$129.1 billion).
With hopes of taking the lead in the country to boost green development, Yantai established a new regulatory mechanism to contain energy consumption in manufacturing, including controls on per unit energy consumption, total consumption, increased consumption and excessive consumption. It is the only prefecture-level city in Shandong to achieve its energy saving goals for 12 consecutive years and has invested over 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) in industrial technology upgrades for seven years in a row.
Endowed with a 1,038-kilometer coastline and sea area twice the size of its land, Yantai is engaged in all 12 sectors listed on China’s ocean economic classification. In 2017, the city’s output from the marine economy increased by 10 percent to 200 billion yuan (US$29 billion), accounting for 27 percent of the gross domestic product in the region. Emerging industries from marine development including biomedicine, chemical engineering, comprehensive utilization of seawater, deep-sea mining and electricity generation achieved a production value of 21.31 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion). Yantai is home to nine ocean-related higher education institutions and research institutes such as Naval Aviation University and Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It also has a total of 81 platforms at provincial-level or above focused on marine technology innovation such as the Jereh Institute.
To build a nation-leading marine economy, Yantai has established a “three plus three” industrial system, referring to three traditional industries (fishery, marine tourism and marine transportation) and three new sectors (high-end marine equipment manufacturing, marine biomedicine and seawater desalination and comprehensive utilization).
The city has made great efforts to transform the traditional fishery, rehabilitate the marine environment and improve the integrated marine administration. The transformation from extensive to intensive use of marine resources has helped improve the ecology. Among all cities in Shandong, Yantai has the largest number of marine and fishery protection zones at or above the provincial level. All its functional areas have met seawater quality standards. Development planning covers all of the city’s islands and the entire sea and coastal areas.
“Do you have what it takes for dedication to mountains and seas?” A few months ago, a recruitment ad released by the government of Yantai attracted widespread attention for its poetic and touching words.
From June 2 to 4, 2018, 61 candidates with doctoral degrees attended interviews organized by the government of Yantai, which was seeking 10 technological professionals for the temporary posts of vice county heads. All the candidates were impressed by the city’s sincerity and respect for talent.
So far, Yantai has pooled 1.7 million-strong manpower across various fields, and 80,000 of them are senior professionals including three academicians, 62 guest academicians and 21 experts participating in the National Special Support Program for High-level Talents. The city plans to attract 500 projects with a total investment of 1 billion yuan (US$0.15 billion) in manufacturing and service industries as well as 300 projects funded by Fortune Global 500 companies, China’s top 500 companies or China’s top 500 private companies by 2022. By then, an additional 170,000 talented people will work in Yantai and the number of high-level talent will increase to 120,000.
With the influx of professionals, Yantai has built numerous platforms for technological innovation such as the Shandong Peninsula National Demonstration Area for Independent Innovation, the Jinan-Qingdao-Yantai National Demonstration Area for Industrialization of Scientific and Technological Achievements, the National Technology Innovation Platform for Nuclear Power and the China-Russia International Technology Transfer Center. It has also joined the Silk Road High-tech Park Association. Now the city is home to nine state-level high-tech enterprise incubators, three national bases for international technological cooperation, nine provincial-level engineering technology research centers and 18 provincial-level key laboratories run by enterprises.
Improving the Business Environment
On May 25, 2018, the AEON MALL Yantai Jishatan opened thanks to funding by Fortune Global 500 enterprise AEON Group based in Japan, providing a new shopping choice for locals. “Approval efficiency and the administration service of Yantai greatly exceeded our expectations,” exclaimed Kenwa Oya, general manager of the new shopping mall.
Not long ago, Chen Xinsheng from China Bright Stone Investment Management Group was commissioned to register 10 new companies in Yantai. He was deeply impressed by the efficient service from the local government. “In the past, it took nearly half a month to receive a business license after submitting an application,” recounted Chen. “But now we can get the license the same day we apply as long as we submit all documents without errors.”
On July 24, 2018, a list containing 1,701 items “to be finished once and for all” at the municipal level was issued by the Office of the Leading Group for Transforming Government Functions of Yantai, with the purpose of streamlining administration, facilitating major projects in growth-driver transition and providing better services for companies and individuals. The city is also among the first in Shandong to publish such a list both at municipal and county levels simultaneously.
Yantai’s constant efforts to improve administrative efficiency have led to an optimized business environment. Now 80 percent of formalities at municipal and county levels can be completed online or “once for all.” The quantity of documents necessary for municipal-level administrative license is the lowest in the country, and the length of time needed for approval of investment projects is the shortest in the country. Meanwhile, the government of Yantai offers customized administrative services for key construction projects at or above the district level, key projects included in the annual construction plan at the district level and projects with an investment of over 30 million yuan (US$4.4 million) in fixed assets.
Wang Meiling, who lives in Majiagou Village, Chaoshui Town, Yantai Development Zone, wrote a poem in honor of her hometown which goes, “Our village is where the Eight Immortals gathered; We have a broad road out of town and neat streets throughout the village.” Over the past 15 years, Majiagou has been revitalized and developed into a prosperous village with booming tourism and beautiful environment. In 2017, the village received 300,000 Chinese and foreign tourists who generated tourism revenue of more than 20 million yuan (US$2.9 million).
Guided by conviction that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, the government of Yantai has formulated an action plan for the next three years to promote rural revitalization and poverty alleviation by focusing on building a charming, beautiful and civilized countryside suitable for work, living and travel. From 2018 to 2020, Yantai will build 100 beautiful villages and lift 100 villages out of poverty every year. The city aims to transform 75 percent of villages under its administration into beautiful villages by 2020 and gradually make all of them meet the standards of beautiful villages.
On July 18, 2018, the government of Yantai released the slogan “fresh life in a coastal wonderland” to promote the city image. Over the past five years, the city has invested 96.25 billion yuan (US$14 billion) in 71 projects to boost its tourism industry. According to Zhang Zuling, director of Yantai Tourism Development Committee, over the past 40 years since China’s reform and opening-up, the development of tourism projects in Yantai has shifted from introducing all types of investment to attracting investment with overall planning. Tourism is not only a powerful engine to replace old growth drivers with new ones, but also a concrete tool to improve the living standards of local residents.
According to Zhang, Yantai will continue to take full advantage of its natural beauty, abundant resources and solid development foundation to promote the development of tourism and healthcare industries and create a more open business environment and more pleasant living environment.