Clean air, robust marine economy to fuel Zhoushan's free trade zone
Huge crowds and busy days were something that the 25-year-old Zhu Meifang had not envisaged when she took up employment at the Starbucks outlet in Zhoushan Islands New Area last year.
But with a steady stream of investors and visitors coming in after the Zhoushan Port Comprehensive Bonded Zone said on January that it had started official operations of its first-phase project, Zhu has her hands full.
Zhu, a native of Zhoushan, says she left her hometown as a teenager to see the outside world, but returned a year ago to take advantage of the government decision to use the island as a pilot zone for revitalizing China's marine economy.
"When I was a child I thought my hometown was boring because it had just fishing boats and shipyards. There was hardly any buzz here. That has changed and we now see people and investors from all over the world flocking to the islands. The industries on the island have also become more diversified, and I think it is the right time for people like me to come back to surf the wave," Zhu says.
When the Zhoushan Port Comprehensive Bonded Zone announced on Jan 8 that it had started official operations of its first-phase project it also marked the region's first steps in its quest to be a free trade zone.
Alongside fine wines from France, premium chocolates from Belgium and extra virgin olive oil from Greece, shipping, information and warehousing services from European countries are expected to set up shop in the proposed free trade zone.
Located in Zhejiang province, the zone covers 2.55 square kilometers on the Zhoushan islands.
Although the bonded zone is the first step in Zhoushan's goal to become a free trade zone, it is also an integral part of the government plan for boosting its marine economy.
Some 110 companies have been registered in the bonded zone and another 20 are undergoing the registration process. The combined investments of projects running in the zone will reach some 31 billion yuan ($5.12 billion), says Bei Luguo, director of the bonded zone authorities.
The bonded zone intends to be a center for maritime equipment manufacturing, biological and electronics industries and warehousing, with a focus on shipping, financial and exhibition services.
It will also position itself as a commodity-based bonded zone for the Asia-Pacific region in line with its plan to be a free trade zone and ultimately a free trade port.
Zhoushan has also sought permission to set up a pilot cross-border e-commerce platform, according to city government officials. Other plans include more investment in shipping route development and port infrastructure and a negative list for marine economy development.
"We are planning to acquire and store the usage rights for coastal areas. It is important to ensure that the coastal resources are effectively used and the environment is protected," says Zhang Yi, director of the financial department under the Development and Reform Commission of Zhoushan city.
"The best thing about Zhoushan is its excellent air quality," says Shen Yingqi, a 22-year-old Zhoushan college student who is majoring in clean energy. The city has the best air quality among all the cities on China's mainland thanks to its low carbon emissions and ocean winds.
Shen says that an important lesson he learnt during his college days was the need to protect the environment. "Most of our resources come from the sea and it is important to protect the marine ecosystem. Protecting the environment is like safeguarding our good fortune," he says.
"Although it may sound cliched, most of the Zhoushan locals, who were born by the seaside and brought up on a seafood diet, know how environmental changes can affect lives," Shen says.
The biggest task for local authorities and residents is how to protect the environment, the clean air, clean seawater and clean coastline, says Hu Haiguang, the official spokesman for the Zhoushan government.
The city also plans to generate power through a garbage combustion electricity generation project.
Located on Tuanjishan island in Dinghai district, about 64 kilometers across the sea from the Shenjiamen fishing port of the main island of Zhoushan, the project aims to convert 600 metric tons of garbage into power.
City officials say the project will help standardize urban household garbage facilities, save land resources, improve livelihood and facilitate sustainable development. It will also alleviate the fiscal burden of the local government and improve Zhoushan's ecological system.
"All the garbage from the city will be shipped to the plant to generate power," says Zhu Zikuan, manager of the power plant.
The project has also helped transform Tuanjishan, which used to be a landfill before 2008, says Zhang Lian, a conservancy worker on the island.
Song Min-ho, an adviser at Yangfan Group Co Ltd, a shipbuilding company, says Zhoushan has become his second home. With a gentle ocean breeze and ample seafood resources, life in Zhoushan is not much different from that in Seoul, Song says. But working in the shipyards at Yangfan Group has been quite a different experience.
"I am here to reform," says Song, adding that his mission is to help the shipbuilder become a world-class enterprise.
Song, a veteran of the shipbuilding industry, is well known for his value engineering system, a management technique that seeks to improve the value of goods or products and services by using an examination of functions. He is one of several experts that the city has managed to rope in under its various talent attraction programs.
Yangfan Group, formerly known as Zhoushan Shipyard, was established in 1952 and specializes in shipbuilding and marine outfitting manufacturing. Spread more than 2.25 million sq m along a 5,239 meter coastline, the group has made a mark as a shipbuilder and marine products manufacturer.
The Zhoushan Port Comprehensive Bonded Zone started operations of its first-phase project on Jan 8. Provided to China Daily
A container truck passes through the barrier of the Zhoushan Port Comprehensive Bonded Zone.