The City of Tianjin (formerly Tientsin) has a population of 8.52 million (roughly the same as that of London, Delhi or Osaka), and produces 10 per cent of China's gross domestic profit. Tianjin is one of only three municipalities under the direct control of the China's State Council, meaning that it enjoys the status of a province (the other two municipalities are Beijing and Shanghai). Only part of the municipality is built-up. It comprises 13 boroughs and five rural counties. Heibei Province curves around Tianjin, and the adjoining Beijing municipality, like a vast letter 'C'. Although the city of Tianjin itself is 50 kilometres from the sea, the municipality, which covers an area of 11,305 sq km, borders the Bohai Gulf. Tianjin, and much of the rest of Northern China, is served by Tianjin Port (Tanggu Xingang) at Tanggu.
Shipping and international trade have long been important both to Tianjin and to Beijing, which lies only 120 km to the north west. This autumn marks the bicentenary of the arrival in Tianjin of the first British Embassy to China, led by King George III's ambassador, Lord Macartney of Lissanoure, who tried (in vain) to, normalise trade links between Britain and China. Fortunately, China's attitude to foreign commerce has changed beyond recognition, and by 1992, Tianjin Port handled 30 million tonnes of cargo and 580,000 passengers.
Tianjin is one of China's fourteen open coastal cities, a status which accounts for the welcome it accords to overseas investors. The city is also China's oldest industrial centre, a fact which has led some observers to label its outlook as conservative. However, local officials deny this assertion, maintaining that the city's long experience of heavy industry and foreign trade have given it a profound understanding of the needs of the business world. Perhaps evidence of their business acumen is the city's annual income, which last year reached 4.5bn yuan. Current projections envisage that Tianjin will have an annual income of 20bn yuan by the year 2000.
It is hard to find fault with Tianjin's infrastructure. Most expatriates agree that while the authorities appear to be more conservative than those in certain cities in South China, they are nevertheless pragmatic and are willing to look objectively at ideas with which they are unfamiliar. Despite its size and importance to the national economy, Tianjin has yet to receive the degree of central government support from which Shanghai and Guangdong have benefited. However, Tianjin has forged ahead on its own. Eighty per cent of the city's investment budget is sourced locally. This approach appears to have borne fruit. In the last 14 years, the Tianjin authorities have spent over US$5bn on town planning. New industrial and technological developments proliferate. Tianjin has set up the Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA),which, covering 33 sq km, is China's largest.
The city's port, Tanggu Xingang, is China's largest container port, and the largest sea port in Northern China. With 47 berths, the port has the capacity to handle a total of 30 million tonnes of cargo annually. Seven of its berths are able to handle 700,000 twenty-equivalent-unit containers per year. The Tianjin authorities estimate that by 1995, the port will have a cargo-handling capacity of 50 million tonnes.
A major advance in the city's accessibility has been the construction of Jingjin Super-highway (the Beijing-Tianjin- Tanggu motorway), which has reduced the travelling time between Tianjin and the capital from a slow crawl behind horse carts and bicycles lasting several hours, to a brief 90-minute sprint.
Tianjin has a wide range of industries, with particular strengths in textiles, machinery, chemicals, petrochemicals, light industry, electronics and household appliances. The municipality now contains over 6,000 industrial enterprises, with a workforce of 1.4 million. The annual industrial output now exceeds 50bn yuan.
Dagang Oilfield has proven reserves of 447m tonnes of oil, and 14bn cubic metres of natural gas. The offshore Bohai Oilfield has estimated oil reserves of 1bn tonnes. The Jiyu Coalmine, covering an area of 145 sq km, has seams with an average depth of 10.35m. Tianjin municipality has reserves of 35 minerals, including manganese, tungsten, molybdenum, marble, chamberite, barite, limestone and pottery clay. There are also substantial deposits of crude rock salt, yielding 2 million tons per year, with a sodium chloride content of 96-98 per cent. In addition, Tianjin encompasses a 700 sq km-site yielding geothermal water, with a temperature range of 30-90'C.
The major crops of the region are wheat, rice, cotton, and oil seeds. Animal husbandry caters to the needs of the inhabitants of Tianjin and Beijing, as well as some overseas markets. The main areas of specialisation are dairy cattle and goats, pigs, poultry and rabbits. The local fishing industry supplies domestic and export markets with Bohai prawns, crabs and yellow croaker.
The Tianjin authorities claim to be confident that Tianjin will become the site for China's third stock market (after Shanghai and Shenzhen) although the Chinese government has so far declined to open further markets. However, a securities exchange was established in August 1992, and a number of securities houses are now operating in the city. The largest of these is Tianjin Securities, which was set up in 198, with a registered capital of 20m yuan. Standard Chartered Securities, a subsidiary of the British bank, signed a cooperative agreement with Tianjin Securities in January this year. The deal allows both companies to advise foreign and mainland investors on securities, investment and financial issues.