Chinese Public Official discusses Regional Economic Policy and Growth By Chris Van Nostrand
11/1/2005 - Situated along China's eastern coast in the heart of the Yangtze River, the small of city of Suzhou has become a symbol of China's economic vibrancy and emerging market forces. On Nov. 11, Suzhou Vice Mayor Wang Mayor Wang spoke at the Kellogg School of Management about the policies that have sparked growth in the 2,500 year-old city.
Mayor Wang began his talk expressing his belief that “China 's booming economy offers more opportunities for the whole word.” He then delved more specifically into the recent successes of Suzhou. Calling the city “the miracle of miracles,” he cited Suzhou's contribution to China's overall economic growth as reflected in leading economic indicators. Mayor Wang noted that despite being home to only 6 million people – or about 0.5 percent of the total population of mainland China – the city accounts for 2.5 percent of the country's GDP and 8.3 percent of overall foreign investment.
One key driver of this growth has been the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), which Mayor Wang helps to run in addition to his responsibilities for foreign-oriented economic development. With its well-coordinated modern infrastructure laid out in an area that covers more than 100 miles and a pro-business environment, the SIP has attracted companies with major global brands ranging from Mercedes-Benz to Nokia. The latter firm's involvement with the city is one indication among several of how SIP has become “a high-tech outpost of [the] global economy,” according to Mayor Wang. In addition, pharmaceutical, biochemical and chemical companies also maintain a strong presence in the city.
Mayor Wang touched upon several key initiatives that have brought foreign companies into Suzhou and SIP. Factors such as tax incentives, the cultural and historical vibrancy of the area, and a talented pool of workers have all played a role in attracting ventures. On a larger level, the park has successfully balanced adherence to national regulations even as it experiments with market reforms. Said Mayor Wang: “SIP can first implement those policies and practices in accordance with the direction of the reform,” even if those practices have yet to show proven results. In this way, the SIP acts as a laboratory for new policies even as its stays closely aligned with established regulations for all state-run development zones in China.
After his presentation, attendees asked Mayor Wang about the challenges faced by China, and Suzhou in particular. He answered with a refrain he also offered during his formal speech — that finding talented workers in the region will continue to be a differentiating factor in the city's success.