The development of urban agglomerations is an important way to realize China’s five development concepts of innovation, harmonization, green, openness and sharing, an important carrier for China to compete with other countries at political, economic and cultural levels and a bridge that connects the regional economy with the global economic network system. With the strong support of the Chinese state, the Yangtze River Delta has embarked on a path to leading the high-quality development of the regional economy.
In our series of megacity clusters, today we will introduce the “Pearl of the Asia-Pacific”, the Yangtze River Delta region.
Yangtze River Delta
The Yangtze River Delta region, comprising Shanghai Municipality, southern Jiangsu Province, northern Zhejiang Province, and Anhui Province, is the wealthiest in China on a per capita basis, and one of China’s most economically active, open and innovative regions. The urban build-up in the area has given rise to what may be the largest concentration of adjacent metropolitan areas in the world. With a total area of 99,600 square kilometers the Yangtze River Delta region accounts for 3.7% of China’s land area with a population of 220 million and a GDP of RMB 19.5 trillion (approximately a quarter of China’s GDP) (Source: Enterprise Singapore).
In 1982, the Chinese state leaders proposed to “build a Yangtze River Delta economic circle with Shanghai as the center”. With advantages such as a solid industrial foundation, the huge domestic market and reform, and opening-up policies, the Yangtze River Delta region is now running on the fast track of regional integration (Source: Xinhuanet).
Nanjing Jiangbei New Area
Established in June 2015, Nanjing’s Jiangbei New Area, situated at the intersection of the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the eastern coastal economic zone, is a shining example of the development of the Yangtze River Delta region. The new area covers an area of 788 km2 and boasts a group of state-level and provincial industrial parks such as the Nanjing New and High Technology Industry Development Zone and the Nanjing Cross-Strait Technology Industry Park. In 2018, its GDP was 252.8 billion RMB with a growth rate of 13.1%, ranking first in the whole province (Source: Chinanews). The new area is aimed at pushing forward the development of the Yangtze River Delta region, thus creating a new growth engine in China’s coastal regions. Over the past few years, the new area has been gathering momentum for growth (Source: Chinadaily).
Most of the top 10 integrated circuit design companies in China have branches in this new area. Also based in the area are more than 100 suppliers and manufacturers in the integrated circuit industry. Also, the new area is home to a national healthcare data center. About 700 healthcare companies have clustered there to form Asia’s largest gene-sequencing base.
In the new area, the development of asset management, equity investment, financial technology, and other emerging financial industries is encouraged. As a result, over 20 new financial institutions have established their bases there, according to the data from the local government.
The area’s core zone features a central business district, a healthcare district, and an industrial research and development park. Better resources in education, public services, and medical care will be available to residents in this new area and its neighboring areas.
The first bridge that connects northern and southern Nanjing across the Yangtze River was not built until 1968, but now an abundance of bridges, subways, and tunnels connect the north and the south areas of the Yangtze River. A fast viaduct network, including expressway, railway, inter-city highway, and light rail connect Nanjing with Shanghai, Anhui and Zhejiang.
The Yangtze River Delta boasts a highly developed transport infrastructure. On 15th April 2020, the Integrated Development Plan for Higher Quality Transportation in the Yangtze River Delta was jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Transport. The Plan, with a focus on the “Yangtze River Delta on the Track”, intends to accelerate the effective and organic integration of the rail transit system of Yangtze River Delta at various levels, which include inbound and outbound transportation, intercity transportation, and metropolitan area transportation; increase the coverage of ports and airports, and comprehensively enhance integrated transportation efficiency, service quality and integration level, to build a modern, comprehensive, eco-friendly and safe transportation system featuring clear structure, high synergy and efficiency, and smart interconnection.
The Yangtze River Delta has one of the most densely constructed high-speed rail network in China. In the high-speed-rail era, high-speed rail will improve the accessibility of the Yangtze River Delta urban agglomeration as a whole, making the connections between cities faster, more convenient and closer. It will also guide cities and towns along rail transit lines to form dense development corridors centering on central cities, thereby promoting the development of the spatial structure of the urban agglomeration and the balanced distribution of the urban agglomeration network. Within the one-hour traffic circle of high-speed rail and inter-city rail, it is an important path for the Yangtze River Delta urban agglomeration to rise and achieve overall improvement by entering the global urban network and the world economic system in an integrated manner through resources integration and allocation elements.
Recently, the Chinese is planning to build a world-class airport cluster with international competitiveness in the Yangtze River Delta and Shanghai will lead the development. Shanghai is one of the largest air transportation hubs in Asia. The city has two commercial airports: Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. Pudong International Airport is the primary international airport, while Hongqiao International Airport mainly operates domestic flights with limited short-haul international flights. It is also imperative to optimize and improve Nanjing, Hangzhou and Hefei’s role as regional air hubs, enhance the air service capabilities of Ningbo. And it is also planned to construct a new airport in Nantong as an important part of Shanghai International Air Hub.
The waterways in the Yangtze River Delta are the most important in eastern China. Two of the busiest ports in China are located in this region. They are the Port of Shanghai and Port of Ningbo. The Port of Shanghai has rapidly grown to become the largest port in China and it has become the world’s busiest container port with an annual TEU transportation of 42 million in 2018. The Port of Ningbo is the fourth busiest with 473.4 million tons of container freight handled in 2007. The main ports that operate in the Yangzte River Economic Zone include the Port of Shanghai, Port of Ningbo and Port of Nanjing.
In December 2019, the Chinese government issued an outline of the integrated regional development of the Yangtze River Delta.
Looking at the advancement of China’s national strategy for the Yangtze River Delta’s integration in 2019, we can see this national strategy features a remarkable transition from system construction to exploration and practice, from vertical breakthrough to horizontal planning and coordination. Among them, the approval of the plan for building a demonstration area in the Yangtze River Delta on ecologically friendly development has become a key move to reflect the innovation of the Yangtze River Delta’s institutional mechanisms, and to deepen the cross-regional integrated collaborative development.
After the critical period in 2019, the national strategy for the Yangtze River Delta integration has entered a new stage. The outline, newly released on December 1, 2019, made specific plans and layouts for the future development of the Yangtze River Delta region from the aspects of strategic coordination, positioning, space and path.
The coordinated high-quality development of urban agglomerations and metropolitan areas in the Yangtze River Delta has become one of the key pivots in the process of creating a world-class urban agglomeration. The outline proposes to promote the coordination and linkage among five metropolitan areas including Shanghai, Nanjing, Hefei, Hangzhou and Ningbo, to build a high leveled world-class city cluster in the Yangtze River Delta.
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