Shi Yanping is city management director of Taicang Science & Education New Town. She holds a master of public administration degree from the University of Maryland. She spoke with China Economic Review about Taicang’s business environment and her role in helping to develop the zone, which was established in January 2011.
Q: How would you describe your role as city management director of Taicang New Town?
A: My role involves three aspects: To improve people’s livelihood by building better infrastructure for both individuals and enterprises in our zone; to manage, plan, organize and implement the overall development of Taicang New Town; and finally, to promote and market its economic and cultural development. As such, my role requires great leadership, professional knowledge and practical experience. Passion and perseverance are also important, and I think I bring something different as a female leader.
Q:What were the main aims of developing Taicang New Town?
A: Our vision was to build a town that is not only a happy residential environment with fantastic leisure facilities, but also a place where industries, innovation and start-ups could grow. The main industries in Taicang New Town are from modern service and cultural information sectors. We are home to company headquarters, outsourcing facilities, cultural and creative enterprises, financial services firms, research and development, and education training facilities, among other kinds of companies. Many traditional service companies – in areas like tourism, health and fitness, catering and leisure – are also in Taicang New Town.
Q: Why do you think Taicang is ripe for these sectors?
A: Our education system is well-established and has a long history. For example, there have been more than 360 “presented scholars” in Taicang – graduates of the historically important Imperial Palace examination. In addition, last year the city ranked fourth among the National Top 100 Counties – a widely-recognized annual report conducted by the Zhongjun County Economic Research Institute – and has made it onto this list for several consecutive years. Taicang is a wonderful city where people can lead a peaceful life. The average life expectancy is 82 years old, and the city was even voted as China’s Happiest City by Oriental Outlook magazine in 2010. It is also in a convenient location. Finally, Taicang is inexpensive in terms of living and business operation costs – which are more than 50% cheaper than that of Shanghai.
Q: How well-connected is Taicang New Town in terms of transportation?
A: The area is conveniently connected to Shanghai and Suzhou with two highways. Taicang is a stop on the Shanghai-Nantong railway, and there are plans to build a Shanghai-Taicang intercity line in the near future. Currently, the commute from Taicang to Shanghai by public transport takes only 30 minutes. And a light-rail extension will also be constructed, providing another transport link for the two cities.
Q: How has Taicang New Town contributed to the urban development of Jiangsu province?
A: At present, we are still in the early stages of development. But we aim to build the zone into a community for emerging industries and talents.
Q: What are you doing to promote Taicang New Town?
A: We are working quickly to complete the construction of the town’s landscape – building it into a low-carbon, energy-saving zone. We are also trying to introduce preferential policies and develop a system in which the government can assist people at an optimal level. Moreover, we are working on attracting leading companies to bring their headquarters to Taicang.
Q: What challenges have you faced in this role?
A: There have been two main challenges. The first is to build Taicang New Town into a Yangtze River Delta city with harmoniously developed modern industries and urban life. We also have to attract more capital and large enterprises, as well as more labor and talent. I think this will be overcome as we cultivate our own talent and set up more training organizations here.
Q: What kind of feedback have you received from residents and companies?
A: Taicang New Town residents have praised the area, and have also expressed wishes that it develop faster and continue improving. The area is widely recognized as the best housing in Taicang in Suzhou. Enterprises have shown confidence in their investments here, and are making efforts to build a bright future.
Q: What is Taicang New Town’s biggest achievement so far?
A: Our biggest achievement is that we’ve greatly changed the area’s landscape. Now, we see tremendous potential; but I think it’s important to note that all participants need to work towards achieving this blueprint.