Zhejiang province (formerly known as Chekiang) covers an area of 101,800 sq km (about the size of Iceland) and has a population of 43m. Given its favourable location ? it lies on China's Pacific coast south of Shanghai and the mighty Yangtze river, and north of booming Fujian province ? Zhejiang is surprisingly underdeveloped.
Zhejiang is China's leading agricultural province, with 80 per cent of its population working on the land. The landscape is rugged, with 70 per cent of its area coveredby mountains and 10 per cent accounted for by lakes, rivers and canals. Competition between industry and agriculture for the remaining 20 per cent is intense. Hitherto, the authorities have supported the farmers, but China's accelerating 'opening and reform' policy to encourage greater foreign investment has begun to take its toll. Agriculture is being forced into the less hospitable terrain of the hills and mountains, bringing with it problems of over-cultivation an soil erosion. However Zhejiang's farming sector is nothing if not robust. In spite of a major flood in the summer of 1991, considered to be the worst in over a century, the province's agricultural output still rose over the previous year by 4 per cent.
Hangzhou (previously Hangchow), the province's capital, has a population of 5.5m, and despite worsening pollution can still be regarded as one of China's historic beauty spots, and a popular destination for newly-weds. During the Song dynasty the city was the capital of China, and many of its venerable features, including the picturesque West Lake, Hangzhou Flower Garden and Jinci Temple continue to attract tourists.
Hangzhou is famous for its silk and textile mills, industries which earned the city over US$100m in export revenue in 1992. The other areas in which Hangzhou excels are the food and drink and food processing industries. Emerging sectors include electronics, paper making, printing, chemicals and leather tanning.
Ningbo first came to international attention in the 1840s when it became one of the five treaty ports established in the aftermath of the first Opium War. The city subsequently developed a thriving textile industry. More recently Ningbo has begun developing its deep-water port, which is capable of accommodating ships of 150,000 tons. City planners have been keen to capitalise on the port's role in trans-shipment of cargoes to other Chinese cities by road, rail and sea.
Port development has taken place alongside a general modernisation of Ningbo's industry. Its outdated telephone network has been under increasing strain. International and domestic direct dialling facilities should be available to subscribers in most parts of the city by 1995. Big recent investments include an American ethylene plant and a US$850m catalytic cracking plant. There are two US$200m World Bank projects underway in the city ? the Ningbo-Hangzhou motorway and the Ningbo Water Treatment Project.
Beilun is one of China's 14 'open coastal cities'. Like Ningbo, Beilun also has a major deep-water port. Beilun's is a recent development and operates some of the latest materials-handling equipment. In the industrial sector Beilun will shortly have a new US$8m cement plant built using World Bank funds. Other future large-scale projects include a new PVC plant, using Thai investment, and a large paper mill. In order to help satisfy the growing demand for power, a 600,000kW thermal power plant has recently opened in Ningbo.
Wenzhou lies on a small estuary in southern Zhejiang. The city of lm people has a relatively high per capita income and a GDP in 1992 which grew 35 per cent on the previous year. In 1992 the city exported US$22m-worth of goods, an increase of 60 per cent on 1991. Wenzhou's main trading partners are Hong Kong,
Japan and France.
There are about 2,000 industrial enterprises in Wenzhou, of which only 15 per cent are state-owned. Most employ less than 50 staff, although there has been a growing trend amongst companies to amalgamate. The city's main products are clothes, shoes, buttons, luggage, valves and domestic appliances. Wenzhou has a reputation for having a strong entrepreneurial streak and a tendency towards financial self-sufficiency. Most enterprises are allowed to determine their own investment, marketing, recruitment and wages policies within the guidelines set by the Planning Commission and Labour Bureau.
Zhejiang Daily stated in March that the province's GDP in 1992 rose 17 per cent to about US$21bn. Exports are reported to have risen from US$600-m to US$3.75bn in the same period, while imports rose from US$420m to US$1.42bn. The invisibles sector earned US$97m. In 1992 there was a substantial surge in business for the construction, communications and telecoms sectors, helping to boost industrial output by 33 per cent to US$10bn.
This was achieved despite the problem of power shortages. In order to overcome this, the provincial authorities have resorted to a range of power sources, including thermal, wind, tide and nuclear energy. The Qinshan nuclear plant now generates 300,000kW of electricity. Experimental wind-powered plants on the Zhoushan islands have an estimated capacity of 4,000kW, while elsewhere on the coast the authorities have set up China's first tide-powered electricity plant. Such experiments are small beer at present, but are a potential major source of energy in the future.
In 1992 capital investment rose by 38 per cent, a quarter of which was invested in infrastructural projects. There was also an important increase in the retail sector. The increases in agricultural output, however, were less impressive, largely due to the poor weather and a migrant workforce.
The provincial authorities have recently placed greater emphasis on the need to improve living standards. The official poverty line in China is Yn300 per year and by this standard Zhejiang seems to be doing well. In 1992 the province's rural per capita income increased to Yn1,360 and urban per capita income rose to Yn2,400. But there is a growing disparity in income. Though most coastal areas are booming, about one million people (2.5 per cent of the province's population) are in poverty according to China Daily. A package of measures was recently announced to alleviate the plight of people in the mountainous, poverty-stricken areas.
Overall, the population's wealth and prosperity are set to continue on an upward path. In 1992 savings grew by 30 per cent. Zhejiang's place in the national league table measuring the output of provinces has steadily climbed and is now China's sixth biggest producer up from 12th position in the 1980s. The recent Provincial Congress published plans to further speed up Zhejiang's growth. It is now hoped that the total output in 2000 will be double that of 1993. Future goals include the development of the tertiary sector, opening up Zhejiang's financial markets, establishing a social security system and the continued struggle to rein in population growth.
Foreign investment in Zhejiang has been rising slowly for some time, principally from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the US. Actual foreign investment stands at US$410m, although pledged investment is US$3.2bn. Tourism is a smaller but still important contributor to the province's economy, with foreign visitors spending US$75m in 1922.
Zhejiang's ports and waterways allow good access to overseas markets, but surface transport is indifferent. The province?s principal railway line links Shanghai to the north with Jiangxi province to the west, passing through Hangzhou and Jinhua. There is a spur from Hangzhou to Ningbo, but otherwise the ? rest of coastal and southern Zhejiang are without railway service. There are plans to improve the situation by building a 240-km rail link from Wenzhou to Jinhua by 1995. Apart from the Ningbo-Hangzhou motorway project, there are few signs of and imminent improvement in the province's road network. The province s three major cities are .better served in terms of air links, with 11 domestic carriers operating. *
This feature was compiled by the commercial section of the British Embassy in Beijing.