Since the Express Rail Link came into operation in September last year, Foshan in Guangdong province is now a manageable 90-minute journey from Hong Kong. Previously, it would have taken several hours to travel to this city in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), located to the southeast of Guangzhou.
A Chamber delegation took advantage of the new high-speed line to visit the city on January 17-18, travelling via Guangzhou South Railway Station.
The mission was led by China Committee Chairman Petrina Tam and Young Executives Club (YEC) Chairman Eric Fok, accompanied by the Chamber’s LegCo Representative Jeffrey Lam.
Located in the hinterland of the Pearl River, the city forms part of the Guangzhou-Foshan Metropolis Circle. Foshan is now emerging from the shadow of its better-known neighbour, and is making its mark as a rapidly developing city and a key part of the GBA initiative.
According to the 2017 Report on China’s Urban Competitiveness from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Foshan ranked third in Guangdong province in terms of urban competitiveness, after Guangzhou and Shenzhen. In the whole of the Mainland, Foshan ranked 11th. The growth potential of the city cannot be overlooked.
First stop on the delegation’s schedule was the GBA International Sports and Cultural Centre. This major arena opened in November and acts as an excellent showcase for the plan to develop the leisure industry across the GBA.
The arena is an NBA-level (the U.S.-based National Basketball Association) sports and cultural centre, and was built by the privately-owned enterprise Nenking Group. Covering an area of 38,900 square metres, it has 15,000 seats and will host entertainment performances, e-sports tournaments and exhibitions as well as basketball and other sporting events.
The arena is one of the host venues for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will take place in China for the first time this year.
Alex Shum, General Manager of Swiss Fortune, the operator of the arena, explained some of its key attractions. It is not only situated in the heart of Foshan’s business district, but is also geographically at the centre of the whole GBA, and is easily accessible by public transport from across the region.
The transportation upgrades across the GBA to create a “quality living circle” also benefit venues like Foshan’s arena, as they greatly increase the potential audience for major sporting and cultural events. The arena also has shopping malls and other attractions for visitors to enjoy.
“We can provide one-stop services for business and entertainment events, which also helps foster the development of surrounding areas,” Shum said.
In the afternoon, delegates visited Xin Zhong Yuan Ceramics. The company was established in 1984 and its products have been used in landmark projects around the world including Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Porsche Design Tower in Miami and Tiananmen Gate in Beijing.
Guo Hao, Brand Director at Xin Zhong Yuan Ceramics, said the company hopes to leverage its success to help promote Chinese design and expertise around the world. For example, it has cooperated with the celebrated designer Steve Leung to create a series of ceramics – Xuan – inspired by traditional Chinese rice paper.
“We were all very impressed at the high level of technology we saw in the ceramics factory, and the innovative products that they are creating,” Tam said.
Xin Zhong Yuan Ceramics is also supporting professionals in the sector while promoting its brand. It organizes the Chinese Design Elites event, and established the Design Business School to provide a stage for young designers to shine.
“These two visits showed that Foshan is a vibrant and innovative city,” Tam said. “We also saw that Foshan is a hub of private enterprises, which creates lots of cooperation opportunities for Hong Kong businesses in the future.”
Zhu Wei, Mayor of Foshan Municipal Government, hosted a dinner to welcome the Chamber delegation.
“Foshan is taking forward the development of the GBA, especially in seizing opportunities to further enhance cooperation between Hong Kong and Foshan,” Zhu said.
“Hong Kong enjoys advantages in the high-end services industry while Foshan is strong in manufacturing. If the two cities work together, their complementary advantages will help propel the manufacturing sector in Foshan up the value chain.”
During the dinner, members exchanged views with Foshan officials on practical ways to develop this cooperation. The dinner was followed by a visit to Foshan Lingnan World, an older area of the city that has been rejuvenated as a cultural, shopping and dining district, to give members the opportunity to experience the more relaxed side of Foshan.
The following day, members had lunch with Huang Zhihao, Standing Committee Member of Foshan Municipal Party and Party Secretary of Nanhai District Committee. Huang said Foshan had long been famous for its manufacturing industry. But as the GBA moves away from heavy industry, he said he hopes that Foshan can cooperate with Hong Kong’s service industries and develop into a forest where private enterprises and start-ups can flourish.
Lam, the Chamber’s LegCo representative, agreed that there was plenty of potential for the two cities to cooperate. “Foshan and Hong Kong can work hand-in-hand in professional and technological areas,” he said. “Hong Kong businesses should capitalize the opportunities now, so that we will not miss the boat.”
During the two-day trip, members also visited Foshan High-tech Industrial Development Zone, FAW-Volkswagen Automotive Co Ltd, HKUST LED-FPD Technology R&D Center at Foshan, Nanhai Sanshan New City, and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Technology Exhibition and Exchange Centre.
YEC Chairman Fok said that the visit had been interesting from the point of view of younger professionals.
“With YEC as the platform, I hope we can strengthen exchanges between the two cities,” he said. “We can encourage more young people in Hong Kong to reach out to the GBA and consider starting their own businesses in places like Foshan.”