Upcoming industry investment event highlights new momentum for Central China’s rise

A panoramic view of the Binjiang New City in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province File photo: VCG

A panoramic view of the Binjiang New City in Changsha, Central China’s Hunan Province File photo: VCG

Chinese officials announced on Tuesday that the six provinces in Central China will each host a targeted industry supply chain investment promotion event during the 13th Expo Central China, which will be held in Changsha, the capital of Central China’s Hunan Province, from May 31 to June 2. Experts anticipate the event will inject new momentum for the region’s rise.

The move marks the first innovative endeavor since the critical investment event’s inception in 2006, adding to China’s robust drive to build the region into favorable destinations for industrial transfers from coastal areas amid economic restructuring.

Vice Minister of Commerce Ling Ji introduced the key highlights of the upcoming event during a press conference on Tuesday, which include industrial chain investment promotion sessions led by central provinces, focusing on advanced manufacturing sectors such as modern petrochemicals, new materials, electronic information and new-energy vehicles, aiming to attract foreign investment.

The six localities are Hunan, Hubei and Henan in Central China, Anhui and Jiangxi in East China, and Shanxi in North China.

Experts believe that the innovative sessions will highlight collaborative endeavors across regions aimed at fostering integrated economic development and attracting external investors to strengthen ties with the global economy amid the country’s pursuit of high-quality development and high-level opening-up.

The six central provinces so far have hosted a total of 55 state-level economic and technological development zones, serving as vital platforms for industrial transfer. In 2023, these zones achieved a regional GDP of nearly 3 trillion yuan ($414.65 billion), with total trade exceeding 1 trillion yuan and actual foreign investment reaching $2.4 billion, according to official data that Ling cited.

Ling also unveiled the ministry’s forthcoming measures to accelerate the rise of Central China. Focus areas include strengthening foreign investment and trade, enhancing domestic trade circulation, and expediting the establishment of trade cooperation pilot zones and free trade zones, in a bid to elevate regional integration that is in line with the plan of high-quality development.

The plan aligns with China’s ongoing push for the rise of the central region. China’s leadership at a top-level symposium in March called for solid efforts to further energize the central region at a higher starting point, due to its pivotal role as important bases for grain production, energy and raw materials, modern equipment manufacturing and high-tech industries, and as a comprehensive transportation hub.

The central region holds strategic importance and is an ideal destination for industrial relocation from coastal areas due to its geographical, labor and infrastructure advantages. The phased industrial transfer plan will aid the country’s high-quality development and help avoid industrial relocation to other countries, Tian Yun, a veteran economist based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Central provinces such as Hunan and Hubei have unveiled plans to transition toward middle-to-high-end industries, positioning themselves as leaders in industrial upgrades,” Tian added, noting that with the ramping-up of policy support from the central government, the region’s economy will gain new development momentum.

During an investigation and research tour in Anhui on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang called for greater efforts to foster emerging industries and future industries, make breakthroughs in core technologies in key areas, and create new engines for sustained economic growth, which experts said showed the central government’s firm stance in promoting the rise of the region.

The region’s industrial relocation and growth are pivotal for China’s industrial chain security. The central provinces, with their solid manufacturing base and research capabilities, can serve as key nodes in China’s industrial chain development, further promoting the country’s industrial chain security and long-term sustainable development, Bian Yongzu, a senior industry research fellow and visiting scholar at Yale University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Bian stressed that amid the global green economy trend, China has made remarkable accomplishments in a series of high-tech sectors by cultivating leading enterprises and industrial zones, which “offer favorable conditions and set models for the central region’s development in related fields.”

The region is vigorously advancing its high-quality development driven by the new quality productive forces – a key focus of this year’s expo. 

In 2023, the central region’s combined GDP reached nearly 27 trillion yuan, more than one-fifth of the national total, highlighting its crucial role in the economy, according to official data.

Hunan’s high-tech industry investment rose by 7.9 percent, with high-tech manufacturing’s value added up by 14.7 percent and information services up 13.1 percent.

The initiative to promote the rise of the central region was initially introduced two decades ago. Over the past decades, the momentum of the central region’s advance has been robust. Official data indicates that during China’s 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), the economy of the region grew at an average annual rate of 8.6 percent.