Shi Yanping was previously the mayor of Chengxiang town in Taicang, a coastal city in Jiangsu province, from 2006 to 2009. She now works as the managing director of Taicang Science & Education New Town, a special development zone in the city, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maryland. Shi spoke with China Economic Review about the zone’s new Haiyundi development.
Q: How have your commercial facilities developed since Taicang Science & Education New Town was opened in January 2010? What new major projects are underway?
A: Taicang Science & Education New Town has been equipped with full-fledged facilities and property management services and is ready for companies to move in. We now have shopping malls, entertainment centers and fitness centers, including Wal-Mart, RT-Mart, Nanyang Plaza, Taicang Stadium and the Taicang New East Golf Club. The second phase of our water street, Haiyundi, is coming soon. As for education, we have set up the Jianxiong Vocational and Technical College and Taicang High School, a key provincial senior high school. The best primary school and kindergarten in Taicang are expected to be completed within two years. The town enjoys the best location in Taicang, only a ten-minute drive from the city’s No. 1 People’s Hospital and other downtown locations, and other health services are closer by. Also, Inner Mongolia Daxing Touzi Group is currently investing RMB400 million to set up Chengxing Huatai Technology, a company that aims to build a large laser park.
Q: What advantages does Taicang New Town have over other industrial parks in the Yangtze River Delta?
A: Taicang is close to Shanghai, receives preferential policies from Jiangsu province, and offers developing industries lower operating costs and adequate facilities. Furthermore, the city has tailored its policies to the needs of various sectors, like the need to attract talent. As a relatively new industrial town, we’ve been lucky to learn from the experience of older parks – that’s helped us have better positioning and planning.
Q: You mentioned the Haiyundi water street. Why is it named Haiyundi?
A: Taicang is an ancient cultural city in the southern bank of the Yangtze River. In the past, Taicang’s Liujagang port was an important point that connected China with the outside world – which is why the Chinese named it “the dock of six countries,” or “Haiyuncang.” Haiyuncang was established in the Yuan Dynasty and mainly used for storing grain collected from south of the Yangtze River that would later be transported to Beijing and the area east of the Liao River in northeastern China. Haiyundi gets its name from this ancient site, which is near today’s Taicang Science & Education New Town.
Q: How would you describe the street and its positioning?
A: Haiyundi has three phases. The first phase includes sixteen buildings, built in an antique style, that mainly offer mid- to high-end food and beverages. The second phase is a cultural street with both modern and classic offerings that targets middle-class customers. Germany village pubs will be introduced to that area, because Taicang is well-known as the “‘the town of German-funded enterprises,’ a nickname it got towards the end of the 1990s due to the large number of German companies and employees in the area. The area will also include a French wine shop, a cigar bar and boutiques, as well as the Taicang Art Gallery. We aim to finish planning and promoting the site to investors by late 2011, then start construction in early 2012 and open the area in 2013. Since the second phase is the Haiyuncang heritage site, it will be used to showcase Taicang Caoyun history and feature unique cultural tourism projects. The third phase, meanwhile, is located on the southern bank of the Xinliu river, opposite the Xindong Golf Club, and focuses on sports and leisure.
Q: You’ve talked a bit about Haiyundi’s unique architecture. Tell us more about its designer and style.
A: The project is designed by Zhejiang Urban and Rural Planning Design Institute. Haiyundi has a unique Jiangnan garden and simple Chinese architectural style – a combination of nature and fashion, history and modernity. Haiyundi is Taicang’s first world-class style landmark offering food, culture and entertainment.
Q: How have your efforts at promoting investment been since the launch of Haiyundi’s first phase? What are you planning next?
A: All the phase-one investment was completed in early 2011. Suzhou’s Songhelou Restaurant, famous Jiangsu seafood restaurants like Jincheng Yugang, Xiaodifang, Wendefu, Shengshi Longting and Haiyundi Club, Yuantai South East Asian cuisine, the hotpot restaurant Dolar Shop and various cafes have moved in. Our next step is promoting investment in Haiyundi’s second phase.
Q: Tell us more about Haiyundi’s second phase and its development.
A: Haiyundi’s second phase is designed to showcase Taicang Caoyun culture, and will be a unique cultural tourism site. The street’s entrance will feature a culture and arts walk, followed by a pedestrian street with shops selling Taicang tourism souvenirs, restaurants and places for entertainment. Next, there will be a Caoyun culture-themed plaza where tourists can relax and be entertained. That will connect with the Haiyuncang Culture Museum, where tourists can learn about the origins and heritage of the Taicang Caoyun culture.
Q: Does Haiyundi aim to be a Taicang tourist destination?
A: In 2010, the national bulletin for economic and social development designated the Haiyundi water street as a special platform for the city’s tourist industry. Yes, Haiyundi’s establishment and operation will help promote tourism in Taicang, and provide some of the infrastructure that supports tourism, like mid- to high-end dining, cultural activities and entertainment. Because of its unique heritage and great location, we think Haiyundi will become a must-see destination within five years – especially as tourists experience the upcoming second phase.
Q: What other benefits will Haiyundi bring to Taicang?
A: The expansion of the Haiyundi project has enriched the life of local residents, but it will also attract residents from surrounding areas, especially tourists from Shanghai, who will greatly boost our popularity and vitality. And in return this will help promote Taicang’s image.
Q: How is Haiyundi marketing itself?
A: Haiyundi’s first phase has successfully hosted several events in its entertainment and catering complex. The most prominent one was the launch of the Niu Lang and Zhi Nv love stamps on Chinese Qixi Festival in August 2010. Then we held single’s parties on August 5 and 6, 2011. The second phase will host more cultural events based on Caoyuan history, while the third phase will feature sports activities.
Q: What benefits will Haiyundi bring to local businesses?
A: The development and construction of Haiyundi will broaden the scope of business for many local companies, due to our mid- to high-end positioning. The three phases, each of which with its own unique theme, will create a nice atmosphere and at the same time provide great infrastructure that will benefit businesses. As these three phases are gradually constructed, we have no doubt that they will boost business opportunities.