Powerhouse Common Choice in Terms of History & Reality

Yunnan is located at one of the seven geographical zones of China, Southwest China, covering mainly mountains and plateaus with a rich resource reserve, huge industrial potential and complicated landforms.

Along high mountains and big rivers, Yunnan has a relatively long borderline, with 25 counties and cities bordering on Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Yunnan enjoys a long history of established ports. Currently, there are 25 ports serving as gateways for foreign communication and hubs for international transportation.

A double-digit growth of all the port indicators has been maintained in successive years. A three-dimensional port pattern opening up all-around with complete land, water and air ports has been formed to play an important role in facilitating the process of China’s integration into the world economy.

Yunnan is a gateway of China in the southwest. With the important geographic and strategic position, Yunnan, since ancient times, has always been an important economic and trade passage from China to the countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and along the Indian Ocean. Yunnan is also very active in regional trade and cultural and educational exchange.

As early as in the Pre-Qin Period, Chinese ancestors had already established the Shu-Hindu Road, which started from Chengdu and Chongqing, passed through Dali, Baoshan and Tengchong in Yunnan, and ended in Myanmar and India. In ancient China, silk was exported to Central Asia and western countries through this passage, which was honored as the South Silk Road.

Later, with the effort of Yunnan people and the Chinese imperial court in different dynasties, the administration was set up along the Road and courier routes were built.

In the 12th year of Yongping Period during the reign of Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty (69, A.D.), an Ancient Tea-Horse Route was established, which passed through Simao and Mengla and reached Laos, Thailand and the southeastern area of facts and ironware etc. were exported continuously, while glass, gemstones, jade and prismatic pearls were imported from foreign countries.

After the Song and Ming dynasties, because of the prosperity of the Maritime Silk Road, the South Silk Road trailed off into silence. But immigration of nations, commercial trade and religion dissemination along the ancient route were always ongoing. During the Second World War, a road connecting China and India (Stilwell Road) was built along the ancient route. It became the only international passage of China at the time, and played an extremely important role.

Yunnan, as a province with most resources in China, possesses more than half of the species resources of higher plants and Chinese medicinal herbs in China. Biological resources are the most characteristic and advantageous resources of Yunnan, and also a “rich ore” for the development of biological industry of China.

Yunnan is an important energy base of China. There are six well-known river systems (Jinsha River, Lancang River, Nujiang River, Honghe River, Zhujiang River and Irrawaddy River) and over 600 rivers in the province, which supply more than 100 million kilowatts of water power resources.

In addition, some new types of energy such as wind energy, solar energy and biomass energy etc. also enjoy favorable conditions here for industrial development. Moreover, the unique tourism resources that integrate the natural and humanistic landscapes from the “Kingdom of Plants”, the “Kingdom of Animals”, the “Kingdom of Flowers”, and the 25 ethnic groups … have been supporting the industries with local advantages of Yunnan to move forward continuously.

The Way of Yunnan Lies in its Opening-up

In 2015, President Xi Jinping visited Yunnan and pointed out that Yunnan shall strive to become a demonstration area for promoting national unity and progress in China, a pioneer for the construction of ecological civilization and a radiation center of China toward South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Yunnan has now included the construction of a radiation center of China toward South Asia and Southeast Asia in the 13th Five-Year Plan; has determined on the four tasks of constructing a regional international economic and trade center, a technological innovation center, a financial service center and a cultural exchange center; and has introduced relevant implementation proposals or plans respectively.

Concerning policy opportunities, Yunnan is an important joint of China’s “Belt & Road” Initiative and the Development of Changjiang Economic Belt, with innate conditions for the construction of a radiation center toward South Asia and Southeast Asia. It is also a frontier area in China’s opening-up to South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Under the current stage of economic new normal, the development of Yunnan is accelerating the release of benefits from the policies overlaying national development plans and regional cooperation platforms such as the Great Development in West China, the “Belt & Road Initiative”, the Radiation Center, the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor etc.

It is becoming a forefront in China’s reform and opening-up, and a hot spot for investment and business.

Concerning road transportation, Yunnan, relying on the international cooperation mechanisms such as the “Belt & Road” Initiative and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor etc., is actively facilitating the construction of road channels, railway frameworks and water transportation channels; and is working on the construction of an “interconnected” transport supporting system.

As an important transit base for air transport in southwest China, Yunnan has 13 civil transport airports, which are among the airports of the highest classes and best utilization in China. Particularly, Kunming Changshui International Airport, with an annual passenger throughput of over 32.23 million, is an airline hub connecting China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and countries in Asia and Europe.

From June last year, a 24/7 customs clearance service has been secured at the port of Kunming airport, which became the sixth air port in China with secured round-the-clock custom clearance service.

Concerning interior connections, Yunnan is actively strengthening the development of planning alignment and connectivity to the neighboring provinces, districts and cities, including Guizhou, Sichuan and Chongqing; and is engaged in building Yunnan into a pivot for the construction of the “Belt & Road”.

For this purpose, Yunnan is working actively to improve the alignment to the Chengdu-Chongqing urban agglomeration economic circle and the Pearl River Delta urban agglomeration economic circle; to participate in China’s construction of the Changjiang River Economic Belt; to use and promote the connectivity of comprehensive transportation, the facilitation of customs clearance procedures and the cross-border RMB settlement etc. in the neighboring countries and regions; to take over the industrial transfer from coastal areas in east China; to attract funds, logistic services, talents, information and technology etc. to Kunming and surrounding areas; and to build a bridge and bond between the domestic economy of China and the economy of Southeast Asia and South Asia, so as to give full play of Yunnan’s role as the center of the regional international transportation passage.

Concerning foreign economic and trade cooperation, during the 12th Five-Year Plan, Yunnan had achieved a doubled growth of trade in goods, an annual growth of trade in services by 23.2 %, and a harmonious development of general trade, processing trade and border small-volume trade.

Direct foreign investments had been expanded gradually from traditional fields to new manufacturing industry, modern service industry, construction of public service facilities, and advantageous industries with plateau characteristics, with an annual growth in actual investment by 23.2% and an annual growth in revenue from foreign contracting projects by 19%.

Last year, the province has realized a total import and export volume of RMB 157.866 billion yuan (USD 23.394 billion) in goods, and an import and export volume of USD 18.79 billion at ports with a year-on-year growth by 36.1%. The added value for logistics industry is expected to be about RMB 141.66 billion yuan, with a year-on-year growth by 14.1%.

Concerning the participation in international economic and trade cooperation and services and the integration into the “Belt & Road”, Yunnan is speeding up to promote the investment invitation, operation and cultivation of core industries in neighboring countries/regions and to actively follow up the construction of projects. By giving full play of the role of ORO, Yunnan works actively to align to the market conditions and policies of the host countries (regions) and to further expand economic and trade cooperation and exchange among multiple parties.

Concerning the innovation of platform mechanism, China-South Asia Exposition and a series of supporting economic and trade, think-tank and technology forums and activities have already become a platform for comprehensive international exhibitions, exchange and cooperation at the highest level between China and countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia. The 24-year-old Greater Mekong Sub-Regional cooperation (GMS) has become a model of international regional cooperation.

In addition, Yunnan has actively promoted and established platforms such as the China-South Asia Business Forum, the China-South Asia Think-Tank Forum, the Bangladesh-China- India-Myanmar Regional Cooperation Forum, the Yunnan-Myanmar Cooperation Forum, the Yunnan-Israel Innovation Forum, the Forum of Economic Cooperation between Yunnan and West Bengal of India, and the Yunnan-Bangladesh Cooperation Forum etc.

Moreover, the bilateral cooperation mechanisms of the Yunnan-North Thailand Cooperation Working Team, the Yunnan-North Laos Cooperation Working Team, the Meeting of China and Vietnam on Cooperation of Economic Corridors in Five Provinces and Cities, and the Meeting on Cooperation among Five Provinces along Yunnan-Vietnam Border etc. are running well.

Meanwhile, the construction of open economic platforms in the whole province has been accelerated in full scale. The construction of all kinds of open carriers, such as the Central Yunnan New District, the pilot zones for key development and opening-up, the border (cross-border) economic cooperation zones, and the comprehensive free-trade zones etc., has been accelerated, and the construction of the Pilot Zone for Comprehensive Border Financial Reform has been pushed forward steadily.

Concerning the development of cross-border logistics, the first big data platform for cross-border logistics in Yunnan has been launched for operation. The construction of the comprehensive information public service platform of Yunnan international Modern Logistic Cloud has been officially started.

In addition, five cross-border logistics companies (groups) of Yunnan-Laos, Yunnan-Myanmar, Yunnan-Thailand and Yunnan-Vietnam etc. have been established; and the construction of an aquatic products cold chain logistics and trade network has been accelerated.

Transport supporting system. As an important transit base for air transport in southwest China, Yunnan has 13 civil transport airports, which are among the airports of the highest classes and best utilization in China.

Particularly, Kunming Changshui International Airport, with an annual passenger throughput of over 32.23 million, is an airline hub connecting China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and countries in Asia and Europe. Starting June this year, a 24/7 customs clearance service is secured at the port of Kunming airport, which became the sixth air port in China with secured round-the-clock custom clearance service.

Construction of Four Major Plates in the Powerhouse

In the future, Yunnan will become a “hub area” for important factors such as capital, talent, technology, information and market etc. to aggregate, flow and disperse between China and countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia. Therefore, Yunnan will focus on promoting the construction of a regional international economic and trade center, a technological innovation center, a financial service center and a cultural exchange center; will improve its economic influence, innovative driving force, humanistic affinity and cultural soft power in full scale; and will speed up to build a radiation center of China toward South Asia and Southeast Asia.

  • International Economic & Trade Center

Relying on the unique geographical advantage, the good comprehensive supporting facilities for transportation and logistics and the ports, and the foundation of traditional economic and trade with neighboring countries,Yunnan will work together with markets in developed areas such as the economic zones of Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and Chengdu-Chongqing to improve its regional economic power in full scale.

By making use of the economic gradient between China and neighboring countries, Yunnan will build a regional international economic and trade center with function of allocating both international and domestic resource markets; with highly aggregated factors of regional economy; with open and eased market conditions; and with highly developed service industry.

Relying on the construction of connected hubs and basic logistic facilities, by taking cities with relatively strong comprehensive competitiveness as the carrier and industrial development and capacity cooperation as the point of strength, Yunnan will construct an economic and trade hub that “flows in two directions with two ends open”, connecting Southwest China to the eastern and central areas inside China and to South Asia and Southeast Asia outside China.

In cities and ports along the connected comprehensive transportation lines and at the hubs and important nodes, a group of logistic bases and parks will be planned as a whole to form a group of international freight hubs, to build a modernized international logistic center, and to push Yunnan to be better involved in the global production circulation system.

At the same time, by continuously strengthening the urban comprehensive competitiveness and focusing on improving the urban comprehensive competitiveness and international influence, Yunnan will build the Central Yunnan Urban Economic Circle into a core area for the radiation center of China toward South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Concerning the improvement of industrial aggregated development ability, Yunnan is working to promote the development of eight industries including biological medicine and massive health, tourism culture, information, modern logistics, modern agriculture with plateau characteristics, new material, advanced equipment manufacturing, and food and consumer goods manufacturing; to concentrate on building a group of foreign-oriented industrial international characteristic industrial parks and inter-provincial cooperation parks with internationalized environment and modernized management; and to bring into play functions of open platforms such as the national pilot zones for key development and opening-up, the border (cross-border) economic cooperation zones, and the comprehensive free-trade zones etc.

Meanwhile, Yunnan will improve the openness of markets and facilitation level of trade; will speed up two-way investments; will accelerate to form the synchronous development of trade in goods and trade in service and the development pattern of mutually connected international market and domestic market; and will expand the scale of economic trade with South Asia and Southeast Asia.

  • Technological Innovation Center

Yunnan will take the construction of exchange and cooperation platforms for technological innovation as a support; will focus on the two principal lines of “introducing in” innovation resources and “going out” into South Asia and Southeast Asia; will promote the regional collaborative innovation and the industrial transformation and upgrading in China; will strengthen the exchange and cooperation of technological innovation with South Asia and Southeast Asia; and will build a regional technological innovation center with aggregated innovation factors, active innovation activities and advance innovation cooperation.

Yunnan will establish and improve multi-layered, wide-ranging and diversified technological exchange and cooperation platforms; will give full play of mechanisms such as the China-South Asia Sci-Tech Partnership, the China-ASEAN Sci-Tech Partnership, the China- ASEAN Sci-Tech Forum, the Agricultural Sci-Tech Exchange and Cooperation Team in Greater Mekong Sub-Region, and the China-South Asia Agricultural Sci-Tech Exchange and Cooperation Team etc.; and will promote the organization and implementation of key sci-tech cooperation programs such as the joint laboratories and the innovation of agricultural and planting industry etc.

In addition, Yunnan will select and send more international sci-tech special commissioners to countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia to provide technological services; will actively demonstrate and present new species to neighboring countries and carry out joint breeding and research and development etc.; will co-establish a group of sci-tech innovation and cooperation platforms such as joint research and development institutions, sci-tech cooperation institutions, demonstration bases, incubators, and sci-tech industrial parks etc.; and will speed up the exchange and cooperation of sci-tech information service, technology transfer and talent exchange etc. with countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia.

  • Financial Service Center

During the construction of a financial service center of Yunnan toward South Asia and Southeast Asia, the convenience and characteristics of border and cross-border financial services in Yunnan will be highlighted. By promoting all-around financial reform and opening-up, Yunnan will strive to achieve financial connectivity, currency circulation and accommodation of funds with neighboring countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia.

While qualified domestic and foreign financial institutions such as banks, security companies and insurance companies etc. are supported to establish regional management headquarters, branches or functional institutions in Yunnan, qualified local corporate financial institutions are also supported to implement the “going out” strategy and qualified enterprises are supported to seek access to financing by going public in China or abroad.

Meanwhile, Yunnan will clear the channel for cross-border payment and settlement; and will push market participants to use RMB for pricing and settlement in cross-border trade and investment, so as to promote trade and investment facilitation. Concerning the construction of connectivity, multiple financing patterns such as “fund + loan”, BOT, issuance of bonds and asset securitization etc. will be explored.

  • Cultural Exchange Center

Concerning the promotion of cultural and art exchange and cooperation, Yunnan will strengthen the cultural and art exchange and cooperation with neighboring countries; will organize featured cultural activities such as cultural weeks, art festivals, movie shows, sports events, painting and calligraphy exhibitions, and photography exhibitions etc.; will strengthen the communication between news media of countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia, by carrying out multi-layered cooperation in gathering and editing news, exchanging manuscripts, and sharing information resources and technologies etc.; and will expand the cooperation and exchange with South Asian and Southeast Asian countries in the field of new media.

Concerning the promotion of educational exchange and cooperation, high-level consultations and dialogues between education departments and practical cooperation between schools of Yunnan and countries from

South Asia and Southeast Asia will be established; colleges and universities from Yunnan and foreign countries are supported to cooperate in founding joint educational institutions, and talents of non-general languages will be trained.

Concerning health exchange and cooperation, while exploring international markets for Chinese medicinal herbs and products, Yunnan will invite students from countries along the “Belt & Road” to study in Yunnan and further establish a platform for exchange and cooperation in traditional Chinese medicine between Yunnan and South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Concerning the promotion of sports exchange and cooperation, Yunnan will strengthen the exchange and cooperation with countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia in sports talent training, sport-cultural learning from each other, sports training, and plateau sports research etc.

Concerning tourism exchange, a cooperation and coordination system for domestic and overseas tourism will be established; cross-border tourism and characteristic tourism will be developed, and international tourist and cultural festivals and activities will be cultivated and planned.

Meanwhile, cultural exchange among overseas Chinese people will be promoted; and the contact with overseas Chinese in neighboring countries will be intensified. Exchange between think-tanks will be promoted; colleges, universities, and research institutions of social science are encouraged to strengthen their communication and cooperation with foreign countries; excellent young and middle-aged scholars are encouraged and will be selected and sent to South Asian and Southeast Asian countries for academic exchange; and scholars from South Asian and Southeast Asian countries are supported to visit Yunnan for academic exchange.

As a border province, Yunnan is naturally responsible for the opening-up to the south. Since ancient times, Yunnan has been playing an important role of gateway in southwest China.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Yunnan, as a geographically advantageous border province and a frontier area in China’s opening-up, has been playing a very important role in China’s friendly communication with countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia.

In recent years, as the “Belt & Road” became a national initiative, Yunnan started to play an even more important role as an engine.

While China is gathering strength from provinces, cities and districts (Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Chongqing, and Guangxi) in southwest China to build a larger engine for regional development, more human resources, financial resources, goods and information etc. will be invested in the construction of the “radiation center” and the “Belt & Road”; and the concept of surrounding communities with a common future will also be planted, rooted, and grown into prosperity.

Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.