North China province outperforms its neighbors by helping jobless families, updating agriculture and traditional manufacturing industries
Shanxi has maintained steady economic growth over the first three quarters of this year, thanks to the government's efforts to stabilize growth amid the pandemic and its strategy to promote high-quality development.
According to data released at a provincial conference on economic affairs, held on Dec 16-17, Shanxi reported year-on-year GDP growth of 5.8 percent in the third quarter. That growth was achieved after it grew at 5.2 percent year-on-year in the first half. Both results rank the province as one of the best in North China.
The growth has led to a steady increase in employment. By the end of November, a total of 475,200 urban residents in Shanxi were offered new jobs. The figure is 5.6 percent higher than the target set for the whole year.
The growth is also a result of Shanxi's measures in assisting employment, according to Hu Huiqiang, an official at the Shanxi Bureau of Employment Promotion.
"We have been creating jobs at the community level, targeting residents from low-employment families," Hu said. "A total of 155,300 people have benefited from this move."
Hu added that the move led to the delisting of all "zero-employment families" in Shanxi this year.
Gao Jianfeng, a researcher at the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences, said the resilience of Shanxi's economy is due to fast growth in investment, foreign trade, industrial transformation, growing local market demand and the service industry's development.
Shanxi's growth is related to the province's recent transformation strategy, which involves the modernization of agriculture, upgrade of traditional manufacturing industries and cultivation of emerging industries, according to local officials.
In Shanxi, agricultural modernization mainly involves cultivating higher-quality crop varieties, improving farmlands and enhancing farming efficiency through the use of machines, as well as promoting water-conserving irrigation.
Over several years, Shanxi has established 15 county-level agricultural demonstration zones for organic and water-conserving farming to benefit local crops.
In the past three years, such zones have seen an increase of more than 100,000 metric tons in their output of millet. This meant a 3,000-yuan ($470) rise in average annual income for the 80,000 households involved, according to local officials.
The Shanxi Agricultural Valley, a development zone in Jinzhong city, is among those pioneering rural modernization in the province.
The zone is demonstrating the modernization of the whole process of operations, including the use of automatic equipment like drones and driverless farming machines and the application of e-commerce for product marketing.
In the manufacturing sector, the upgrade is phasing out outdated capacities, implementing stricter emission standards and using intelligent technologies. This is pushing Shanxi's traditional industries toward a more advanced level, local officials said.
Huafeng Explosion-Proof Motors in the county of Pingyao, for instance, is climbing onto the upper level of the industrial chain by using the latest technologies and highlighting product quality control. Its 10 product varieties have been sold to more than 20 countries.
The service sector is another powerhouse driving Shanxi's economic growth. Local statistics show that the sector has contributed to more than half of Shanxi's GDP and accounted for more than half of the province's employment for a number of years.
Officials said the service sector's rapid growth is driven by such digital technologies as cloud computing and big data and new operational models like e-commerce and shared economy.
The volume of Shanxi's imports and exports grew 69.2 percent year-on-year to 187.63 billion yuan during the first 10 months. The growth rate ranked it second nationally, according to Li Guorong, deputy chief and spokesman of the Shanxi Department of Commerce.
He said the province's fixed asset investment increased 10.7 percent year-on-year during January to October, which was 4.6 percentage points higher than the nation's average.
Li noted that investment from foreign investors also increased steadily. During the first 10 months, a total of 103 foreign-funded enterprises were newly registered in Shanxi. Their paid-in investment amounted to 240 million yuan during the period, increasing 16.9 percent year-on-year.
"The brilliant performance in investment and trade is related to the provincial authorities' plan to build Shanxi into a highland for opening-up in inland China," Li said. "The plan's implementation, which features a number of assistance measures, has led to the rapid and high-quality growth in investment and trade."
One such assistance measure is the 12th Expo Central China, which was held in the provincial capital of Taiyuan on May 21-23. A total of 883 enterprises from 15 countries attended.
The China-Europe freight train service, which opened in 2017, has played an important role in promoting Shanxi's foreign trade. Over the years, the freight trains from Shanxi have reached 27 cities across 12 Central Asian and European countries.