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Nantong sets sights on growth and innovation

By YUAN SHENGGAO China Daily Updated: 2022-03-07

Development and modernization of industry clusters leading to steady progress in region

Nantong, a coastal city in East China's Jiangsu province, will continue to foster innovation during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) to pursue high-quality development and sustain long-term growth.

According to Wang Hui, Party secretary of Nantong, the city will make innovation the core of government work during the 14th Five-Year Plan. Nantong will be one of the regional innovation centers with strong influence in China and in the Yangtze River Delta region.

"Fostering innovation is key to a bright future," Wang said. "Innovation will support Nantong in achieving higher goals as one of the 1-trillion-yuan GDP club cities."

Nantong reported substantial strides in its economic output during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) with its annual GDP reaching a record 1 trillion yuan ($158.2 billion) in 2020. It is the 17th city in China to join the "1-trillion-yuan GDP club". The 1-trillion-yuan benchmark is often perceived as an indicator of economic prowess. Shanghai was the first city in the country to hit the mark, back in 2006.

In the next few years, Nantong will continue to enhance its composite strength by creating more advanced manufacturing industrial clusters. By the end of 2025, its high-tech manufacturing industry will account for 38.5 percent of annual added value of industrial enterprises. The output value of the emerging industry and marine industry will account for more than 45 percent and 30 percent of the city's GDP. Its research and development spending will account for 3 percent of regional GDP. More than 3,600 high-tech enterprises will settle in Nantong.

Wu Xinming, mayor of Nantong, said that Nantong will advance reform and opening-up on a larger scale, insist on innovation, strengthen ties with Shanghai and better merge into the southern part of Jiangsu province across more fields during the next five years. It will support the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region and work hard to be a growth engine of Jiangsu province.

Success despite setbacks

The strong growth continued in 2021 despite the pandemic. According to Wu, Nantong achieved a GDP of 1.1 trillion yuan in 2021, an increase of 8.9 percent year-on-year. The disposable income of residents in urban areas was 57,289 yuan per capita, which was an increase of 9.2 percent year-on-year. The income of residents in rural areas was 29,134 yuan per capita, up 11.4 percent year-on-year.

According to the officials of the Nantong government, entry into the "1-trillion-yuan GDP club" is just the beginning of the city's journey to a bright future. Developing ways to maintain growth is an issue for the Nantong government to address.

According to the local government, led by changes unseen in a century in the world, and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional industries in the city such as textiles and construction are facing challenges. The marine economy, which reported rapid growth, is too small in terms of scale to support overall development of the city.

The city, which neighbors Shanghai, has been positioned to be an area where businesses are relocated from Shanghai. Nantong's strong government support, sufficient land supply, outstanding geographic location, infrastructures and public services are key elements in attracting companies. However, the city is seeing those advantages weakened because there are stricter criteria in evaluating a project.

The area of land along the Yangtze River, which can be used for industrial production, is also decreased because of changing policies.

The Yangtze River Economic Belt is a national strategy which Nantong and neighboring Nanjing and Suzhou are part of. Over the past few years, Suzhou and Nanjing made huge investment in innovation, which has pushed Nantong to step up its efforts to promote investment.

As an example, Suzhou aims to be a regional scientific center, an industrial innovation hub with strong global influence, a region that encourages original innovation by research institutes and a world-class innovation-oriented city. Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, is set to be a comprehensive national scientific center. Officials are focused on creating new growth engines to boost innovation.

Linjiang New Area in Haimen district of Nantong spent 10 years upgrading a chemical industrial park into a high-tech industrial park. The industrial park has become home to more than 200 biomedicine and electronic information enterprises. It also boasts four programs supported by four academicians.

Haimen is not the only region in Nantong to promote traditional industrial park upgrading. A scientific and technological innovation belt, which will cover 1,440 square kilometers along the Yangtze River in Nantong and include provincial-level or above industrial parks, scientific company incubators and public service facilities for innovators, is under construction.

In April last year, Nantong unveiled 30 policies to encourage innovation covering fields such as talent, education, finance and intellectual property protection.

Nantong also encourages enterprises to establish partnerships with research institutes in Shanghai to boost high-tech development.

Nantong has seen an influx of high-tech companies since last year enter the city. A total of 58 high-tech enterprises set up operations in the city.

Nantong Innovation District, established in 2017, has become a gathering place for innovative enterprises.

TFME, a leading player in integrated circuit packaging and testing, joined hands with 25 enterprises along its industrial chain and 15 research institutes to develop an alliance that will support coordinated innovation of semiconductors. It vows to develop quality chips in China.

With an aim to boost innovation, Nantong initiated an array of programs to encourage R&D, as well as lure more talent to the city. For instance, a 5 billion yuan fund was established in November by the Nantong government to boost innovation.

Nantong said it hopes to be one of the top 20 cities in China in terms of innovation capacity by 2025.

Better city, better life

In 2022, Nantong is expected to achieve an annual GDP growth rate of 6.5 percent. R&D spending will account for 2.75 percent of its GDP. The investment in fixed assets will increase by 6 percent from 2021.

This year, Nantong will continue to enhance its business environment, support rural revitalization, further improve living conditions and maintain social development.

During the 14th Five-Year Plan, Nantong will create more public service facilities and a better social security system to fulfill people's desire for a happier future.

In line with China's efforts to boost green development, Nantong will attach greater importance to conserving the ecological environment. The city's annual average concentration of fine particulate matter in the air, PM2.5, will be lower than 30 micrograms per cubic meter. The number of days to report premium air quality will lead all cities in Jiangsu.

By the end of 2025, the cultural industry will contribute 6 percent of Nantong's GDP.

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Jiangsu Dasheng Group, a leading textile producer in Nantong, embraces digitalization to support long-term growth. CHINA DAILY

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An employee of TFME works on the production line. CHINA DAILY

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Nantong attracts global investors with well-developed infrastructure. CHINA DAILY

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Nantong will further push forward the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region and better support the construction of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. CHINA DAILY

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Container ships dock at a port in Nantong. CHINA DAILY

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A giant 140-meter pile-driving barge is launched in Nantong in September. CHINA DAILY

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Nantong vows to maintain green development during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). CHINA DAILY