Hong Kong has been investing in property and building materials mostly, Taiwan largely in food processing, chemicals and IT. But new kinds of companies have been adding to that traditional mix, Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing-linked Tom Group being one. It has been sniffing around looking to buy up media assets or at least the business side of them since outsiders are prohibited from controlling editorial content.
A recent report prepared by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce showed that while "foreign" investments in western China have been scaling up, Taiwan has been the most prominent. Among the investors is chemicals giant Formosa Plastics, which recently decided to build a huge synthetic leather plant in Chongqing.
By May last year, according to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, there were already over 700 Taiwan-funded enterprises in the city accounting for a fifth of all overseas firms. Speaking to a Taiwan business delegation visiting in July last year, Li Bingcai, Chongqing's dearest friends vice-director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, noted that island investment in Chongqing had grown by 25% in 2003 over 2002 despite the SARS outbreak.
Hong Kong usually weighs in as Chongqing's largest source of investment. By end-2002, there were 1,522 Hong Kong-invested projects with contracted and utilized foreign investment of US$2.6 billion and US$0.5 billion. Hong Kong accounted for 46.1% of projects, 49.1% of contracted investment and 17.1% of utilized investment in the municipality. But then, some of that undoubtedly originated in Taiwan too.
Officials say Taiwan investors split largely into three categories: 1) early pioneers in western China that have steadily increased their investments (including food distributor Uni-President, now 45% owner of Carrefour, and instant noodle giant Ting Hsin); 2) investors who first set up on the coast and who are now migrating their operations to achieve better economies of scale and markets (Tai Feng Food); and 3) the later arrivals who, like Formosa Plastics, want to get huge large-scale operations up and running quickly; the instant giants, as it were.
In the giant department, Hong Kong's Shui On Land certainly qualifies. It has come up with a project that promises to transform the whole of Chongqing's central district, now still host to quite a few factories that have long outstayed their welcome.
The site of Shui On's 10-year, RMB 10 billion Hualongqiao redevelopment project is in the city's Yuzhong District and stretches over TWO KILOMETERS of the Jialing River waterfront. On completion, Hualongqiao will be seamlessly integrated with Chongqing's central business district, providing a gross floor area of more than two million square meters.
The project, Shui On's most ambitious by far, will require leveling thousands of housing units and dozens of factories. The masterplan was drawn up by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the US architects firm that acted as consultants for Shanghai Xintiandi. The Chongqing development comprises an exhibition mart, hotels, office towers, entertainment and shopping centers, as well as different housing mixes including apartment blocks and villa housing climbing up the riverbank.
The development will also feature the now mandatory tallest-skyscraper component. At 398 meters, it won't break any world records but will undoubtedly serve as an affirmation that Chongqing in its own way has arrived.