Guangdong port city to play a key role in developing China's western region
China's new land-sea corridor for its less-developed western region is creating new opportunities for Zhanjiang, a port city in South China's Guangdong province, to serve as an important starting off point.
According to a development plan, unveiled by the National Development and Reform Commission on its website in August, Zhanjiang will build a network of railways, roads and air connections to link the inland northwestern region to major ports in the south.
It aims to speed up the opening-up of the region and deepen its economic and trade ties with the outside world.
Zhanjiang is located in western Guangdong, but geographically neighbors the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and is separated from Hainan province by a strait.
It has been included in the new massive land-sea corridor plan, in which it's required to place much emphasis on leveraging its role as a traditional estuary for the southwestern region, and becoming a better linkage point with the Yangtze River economic belt.
The central government will support the upgrading of the Zhanjiang Port to develop bulk cargo and cold-chain transportation, to build large-scale professional wharves for dry and bulk cargo and to carry out dredging projects at the port's entrance.
Zhanjiang Port is the first modern port the nation developed after the founding of the People's Republic of China, and has played a key role in the city's opening-up and in the national Belt& Road Initiative.
Zhanjiang's participation in the plan is paid-off in the city's development mission, which has been identified as building "a passageway, a free trade port and a pilot zone", meaning that the city will take part in the construction of the international sea-land corridor in the western region, strive to become a part of the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone and build a national pilot zone for marine economy.
Zhanjiang's position at the intersection of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, China (Hainan) Pilot Free Trade Zone (Port) and the city cluster of Beibu Gulf will help fulfill the interactive development of the western region with the three national strategic areas, according to Zhanjiang development and reform bureau.
"China Merchants Group, the largest shareholder of Zhanjiang Port, can provide convenience to the construction of the corridor which has arranged 34 ports in the countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative," a senior official of the bureau was quoted as saying by Zhanjiang Daily.
As one of the five major industries of Zhanjiang, the heavy chemical industry will rapidly develop in the port-centered areas, which will radiate to the cities and nurture the industrial chain along the corridor, he noted.
Zhanjiang Port Group also sees it as a historic opportunity to be a part of the new land-sea corridor plan. It is projected to build additional dry ports, mainly regions along the corridor including Chongqing, Yunnan, Sichuan, Hunan and Guangxi, for a network that covers the central and western region, according to the company.
It has already built and operates a dry port in Guizhou province.
Given Zhanjiang's position linking the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the group will strengthen ties with Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as the overseas ports and industrial parks of China Merchants Group on the one hand, and seek cooperation with rail companies on the other hand. "As a result, we will build a land-sea logistics corridor to facilitate the two-way goods flows that connect the Belt and the Road," said an executive of the group.
"Zhanjiang is facing unprecedented opportunities in being highlighted in several national strategies, I'm sure it will embrace the development," said He Weimin, a researcher at Guangdong Ocean University.