Zhang yansheng: Exploring the Path to High-quality Development of Manufacturing
In recent years, Foshan City, Guangdong Province has actively implemented Xi Jinping’s economic thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and has achieved remarkable results in promoting the development of the real economy and solving the problem of the technical bottleneck. How did Foshan use innovation to enhance real economic development and promote the high-quality development of manufacturing? To answer these questions, the reporter of Guangming Daily interviewed Zhang Yansheng, chief researcher of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, who has conducted extensive researches on Foshan for a long time.
Question: High-quality development is inseparable from the high-quality development of the real economy. From the practice in Foshan, we could see that the local government has thoroughly studied and implemented Xi Jinping’s socialist economic thoughts with Chinese characteristics in the new era. Furthermore, we have also experienced the resilience and strength of China’s economic development. What do you think is the most valuable experience of Foshan practice?
Zhang Yansheng: Foshan’s practice of Xi Jinping’s economic thinking on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era is worthy of promotion. Foshan is a large manufacturing city dominated by a private economy. In recent years, it has vigorously promoted the spirit of craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. Foshan’s success in the manufacturing industry set a good example for the transformation and upgrading of China’s manufacturing industry. The total industrial output value created by Foshan ranks among the best in the country and the experience it has gained in industrial transformation can be replicated and promoted.
In 2020, Foshan’s economic growth has turned from negative to positive. The total economic volume has passed one trillion yuan and it continues to make new progress. The achievements can be attributed to its strategic determination and insistence on developing a real economy. Historically, countries that have deviated from the development of manufacturing could hardly go very far. Foshan has always treated the development of a real economy as the most important foundation when promoting industrialization, urbanization, internationalization digitalization and so on. This kind of strategic determination is worth learning.
Foshan has actively implemented Xi Jinping’s socialist economic thoughts with Chinese characteristics in the new era, adhered to the development of the real economy, and gained valuable experience which can be learned by other cities. First, Foshan insists on improving the modernization of the industrial chain, supply chain and industrial capability. In recent years, Foshan has made a tremendous effort to transfer itself from an OEM base to an innovation-driven manufacturing city, move from the low end of the industrial chain to a mid-to-high end. The share of Foshan’s manufacturing industry in GDP is higher than many famous manufacturing cities in China. Secondly, Foshan adheres to the development of industrial and production-related services. Since 2009, it has started to explore new ways of high-quality manufacturing development, promote the deep integration of manufacturing and productive services, manufacturing and information technology and smart green cities, and formed its unique experience in manufacturing transformation and development.
Question: From “Made in Foshan” to “Intelligent Manufacturing in Foshan”, how to understand the significance of innovation from Foshan’s practice?
Zhang Yansheng: During our fact-finding trip to Foshan, we found that the local Party Committee and Government played a very important role in building institutions and environment for the government, market, enterprises and society to work in harmony. Moreover, they created an atmosphere in which the whole society respects innovation, entrepreneurs and craftsmen. I had a conversation with Fang Hongbo, Chairman of Midea Group, he mentioned that Midea’s operating rate in 2011 was less than 40% and they had to implement the supply-side structural reforms and restructuring. Such kind of vision and courage has not only made Midea one of the fortune 500 companies in 2020, but also brought a comprehensive digital and intelligent transformation to the company.
In fact, Foshan still faces many difficulties in making itself a smart-manufacturing city. For example, Foshan has no first-class universities, scientific research institutes, technological innovation platforms and leading enterprise clusters. Thus, it has established cooperation with outstanding Chinese and international universities and research institutes such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tsinghua University, Sun Yat-sen University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. It attaches great importance to high-quality development and manufacturing transformation, learns from the experience of the German Fraunhofer Association to build a technology and public technical service platform. Foshan has the best innovative application scenarios and needs, the spirit of persevering in manufacturing and a large pool of highly skilled professionals, which enables it to solve bottleneck problems. Foshan has created an environment and ecosystem that can attract entrepreneurs and talents, and promote global cooperation to form a cross-border innovation network.
Question: Do you have any suggestions for the development of Foshan in the post-pandemic era?
Zhang Yansheng: Foshan has a large grassroots economy and distinctive economic structure. The pandemic hit Foshan’s economy really hard, especially catering, tourism, hotels, conventions and exhibitions. However, Foshan’s endogenous growth demonstrated strong self-rescue capabilities, such as the collaboration and mutual assistance among enterprises, industry associations and society. The cooperation helped Foshan to turn its economic growth from negative to positives. When the offline trade fails, companies switched to live streaming shopping immediately. Due to its determination in developing the real economy, maintaining market vitality and treating the manufacturing industry as the root of development, Foshan managed to accelerate its high-quality economic development despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foshan has embarked on a new round of transformation in the process of marching towards the second centenary goal and building a modern socialist country. Since 2018, Shunde District has begun to implement a new land management model for the next 30 years. It began to upgrade and restructure village-level industries before July 2021. This signifies that Foshan has begun to promote the reform of the market-oriented allocation of factors, and has prepared land, labor, technical, capital and data resources for the high-quality economic development in the next 30 years. As a manufacturing city with innovative genes, Foshan knows exactly what it did in the past and where does it want to go in the future.