Port city acts as Northeast China’s opening-up frontier, Zhang Xiaomin and Hu Yongqi report.

Xia Yan, a 32-year-old software engineer at Yidatec Co, has seen her income increase as the software engineering industry has boomed in Dalian, a coastal city and an industrial hub in the south of Liaoning province.

“Chinese companies have outsourced more of their business to other companies in recent years. My company recruited more than 200 new employees in the first half of this year,” Xia said. “Last year, the company enrolled 600 people for just one big project.”

Dalian-based Yidatec has 3,000 employees in several cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo, and generated 160 million yuan ($25 million) in revenue in the first two quarters of this year, according to the Dalian Economic and Information Technology Committee.

Between January and June, the city’s software industry brought in 81.4 billion yuan in revenue, an increase of 12.7 percent from the same period last year.

Dalian, on the south of Liaodong Peninsula facing South Korea and Japan, has become a frontier for the opening-up of Northeast China.

From the beginning of this year, Dalian has strengthened its efforts to adjust economic operations to boost new local economy drivers while under unprecedented pressure from the nationwide economic slowdown.

“Positive factors of economic development have emerged to cultivate steady growth,” said Tang Jun, Party chief of Dalian.

As an important industrial hub, Dalian’s overall industry is worth 1 trillion yuan, with strengths in equipment manufacturing, chemicals and shipbuilding. The city has achieved some success in upgrading traditional industries and cultivating new strategic industries, including marine engineering equipment, software information and new energy.

During his visit to Liaoning in August 2013, President Xi Jinping said Dalian must underscore its roles as an international shipping center in Northeast Asia, an international logistics hub and a regional financial center, to take further steps to build a pilot area of industrial restructuring optimization and social and economic development.

Key role

In the first half of this year, Dalian Port shipped 4,200 containers in Manzhouli, a border city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, an increase of 46 percent year-on-year.

At the port, ships carry auto parts, machinery and equipment and daily commodities made in other parts of China to Europe via the Liaoning-Manzhouli-Europe international transportation line that starts in Dalian.

As Northeast China’s opening-up frontier, Dalian port deals with more than 90 percent of the region’s foreign trade goods. The port has more than 100 domestic and international shipping lines that connect with more than 300 major ports around the world. The port’s annual cargo throughput in 2014 reached 420 million metric tons.

The port authority said Dalian Port Group is committed to building three international marine-railway channels that connect to Europe, including the Liaoning-Manzhouli-Europe route, which is 10,868 kilometers long and starts in Dalian and runs to Manzhouli, bordering Russia, before continuing to Europe.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives, proposed by the central government, are expected to strengthen port construction in 15 cities including Dalian, which was designated as a pilot and pioneer port on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Party chief Tang said the city will enthusiastically engage in the Belt and Road Initiative to further open up, promote foreign trade and explore new areas of exports to emerging economies.

Since January, exports from Dalian to countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative have risen rapidly.

Yun Yuhang, marketing manager of Dalian Tucheng International Trade Co, said the company shifted its focus from Europe and North America to emerging economies on the Belt and Road route since the beginning of this year. The company managed to get equipment orders from Southeast Asia and Russia and achieved a double-digit increase in export volume.

“Our main products of insulation equipment and power accessories are really popular in these countries,” he said.

Attracted by business opportunities generated by the Belt and Road Initiative, the company reinforces efforts to develop markets along the Belt and Road by participating in overseas exhibitions and founding professional teams to promote foreign trade.

The Belt and Road, with the Asia-Pacific economic ring to the east and the EU to the West, is regarded as one of the longest economic corridors with the greatest potential in the world. Local companies in Dalian have developed core competitiveness in proprietary brands, technology innovation and product quality to expand markets along the corridor.

Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co has sold products in South Asia. Dalian Heavy Machinery won a bid for 10 projects along the corridor and Linde Engineering Co exported sets of large air separation equipment to India.

“The first set has been installed in India and the fifth one will arrive shortly. All these sets are valued at more than $100 million, contributing to the city’s expansion of foreign trade and earning foreign exchange,” said Chen Chun, general manager of Linde.

Statistics showed that exports from Dalian to countries along the Belt and Road corridor increased sharply this year, including annual increases of 34.8 percent to Singapore, 176.5 percent to the United Arab Emirates and 96.5 percent to India.

The majority of the exports are electronics, software and information products, demand for which has helped transfer redundant production capacity and restructure and upgrade Dalian’s industries.

Boosted by large projects

Dalian has ushered in new opportunities for its development. This has been boosted by large investment projects as the central government’s strategy of rejuvenating Northeast China has steadily advanced. After Changxingdao was approved to build a world-class petrochemical industry hub and Jinpu New District was approved as a State-level economic area, development sped up significantly.

Dalian Mayor Xiao Shengfeng said the city started 157 projects, each demanding investment of more than 100 million yuan, during the first half of this year, while total investment reached 109.26 billion yuan.

Large projects also spurred foreign direct investment. Between January and June, Dalian approved the establishment of 116 new foreign companies with total contract value of $1.77 billion, of which $1.75 billion was foreign direct investment.

During the first half of this year, large projects accounted for the majority of FDI. During this period, 14 companies were invested in by foreigners, with more than $10 million each, with total value of $1.59 billion, accounting for 90.9 percent of the city’s total FDI.

In July, Tang and Xiao inspected project implementation in Dalian. The two leaders paid attention to how the projects were being operated and if there was room for improvement to boost development in the future.

Construction on various projects is underway in the Changxingdao Economic and Technological Development Zone. Infrastructure facilities are being built in the comprehensive bonded zone.

The planned Hengli Petrochemical Industrial Park, one of the world’s largest pure terephthalic acid manufacturing facilities, will boast an integrated refining project with production capacity of 20 million tons per year when complete.

In the first half of this year, Hengli Petrochemical’s output hit 3.3 million tons, an increase of 43.5 percent year-on-year.

The environmentally friendly new material technology park, which is under construction, has great potential to combine industry with research and is supported by the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Dalian University of Technology.

The city’s two top leaders decided to establish a professional team to attract investments from all over the country and enhance the catalyst industry based on the powerful research capacity of the park.

Xiao said the Changxingdao economic zone aims to build a world-class hub for petrochemicals, shipbuilding and marine engineering and port logistics.

Changxingdao should further efforts to introduce investments to accelerate major projects and make more contribution to the city’s industrial restructuring, he said.

Xiao said Dalian’s government funds would play a leading role in attracting private capital to large projects, which in return would promote a steady increase in private investments.

“Models such as public-private-partnerships boost major projects, including 200 large projects to be started in the second half,” Xiao said.

Dalian is home to 16 enterprises that are valued at more than 10 billion yuan each, 19 enterprise clusters valued at more than 10 billion yuan each and three clusters worthy more than 100 billion yuan.

Dalian companies have an edge in petrochemicals, shipbuilding, diesel-fueled and electric locomotives, machine tools, bearings, nuclear power equipment, car audio equipment, transformers and new materials.

Tourist destination

As a popular tourist destination, Dalian is rich in tourism resources.

The newly established Sweetland City resort received 10,000 visitors a day on average since it opened in November. More than 30,000 people visited the resort during peak time.

The resort, in Xietun township in Wafangdian, a county-level city under the administration of Dalian, has the biggest indoor water park in Asia and the first water-curtain movie in Northeast China.

The resort also has outlet stores covering more than 50,000 square meters, 18 hotels and a neighborhood for retired people.

The resort ended Northeast China’s history of having no world-class tourism complexes. A number of travel agencies have integrated the resort into tourism itineraries that include rural culture, festivals and springs.

Agencies released new tours for visitors from Northeast China, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei province, the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas, South Korea and Japan, who make up the majority of tourists to Dalian.

Li Jingping, director of the Dalian Tourist Bureau, said the city made substantial progress in building a well known tourist destination in Northern China. Dalian earned 67.63 billion yuan in revenue from the tourism industry from January to July, a 13.1 percent increase year-on-year. Among the 34.98 million visitors to the city, 585,500 who stayed overnight were from overseas.

“In the next step, the Dalian Tourist Bureau will accelerate large tourism projects and attract investments, focusing on streets with different characteristics, cruise tours and other important projects,” Li said.

Contact the writers at zhangxiaomin@chinadaily.com.cn and huyongqi@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 09/09/2015 page25)