For about two weeks, 25 African journalists from 23 countries were on inspection tour of five cities of China to observe the spate of growth and development of the Asian nation. Omololu Ogunmade, who was part of the delegation, narrates the experience
Smarting from its recent rise from the sixth largest economy to the second largest economy of the world, China's sense of aggression towards economic and tourist development has only been rekindled.
Thus a visit to five economic zones of the country revealed an immeasurable sense of development. The streets of the zones visited were laid out with silver, sophisticated skyscrapers and enduring infrastructural development.
Beginning from Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, aptly described as the centre of politics, economy, science and technology, education and culture, the city, also known as South Gateway to China, is located on the Northern edge of the Pearl River Delta, adjacent to Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
With the population of 9.75 million, the city of Guangzhou covers an area of 7,434 square kilometers and harbours a seaport recognised in the world spanning over 1,000 years. The Guangzhou's spate of development is as alarming as the city seems deliberately planned to house only highly sophisticated skyscrapers, most of which are either laid with gold, silver or diamond.
Roads in Guangzhou were built with the capacity to last forever as the quality and texture of the roads make potholes complete alien despite millions of cars plying such roads everyday. The city of Guangzhou which houses the tallest television tower in the world is made up of 105 floors. It is also plays host to China's import and export fair commonly known as Canton Fair held twice a year. Described as the largest trade fair in the world, the Guangzhou exhibition and trade fair complex houses 101 buildings with the turn over of N38 billion each session and attended by 210,000 buyers from 210 countries across the globe. The annual turnover of the fair is over 70 billion Dollars.
Since its inauguration in 1957, the fair comprises both the export and export pavilions. While the export pavilion consists of 48 trade delegations with over 24,000 large export companies, manufacturing enterprises, scientific and research institutions, foreign-invested/owned enterprises and private companies of sound business records, the import pavilion with the total exhibition area of 20,000 square metres and 873 booths. The fair has been described as the China's forefront to fight financial crisis.
China's modern rail system consists of modern trains with the capacity to move at the speed of 305 kilometres per hour. Thus a trip between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, another economic hub within the Guangdong province, which ordinarily should be about two and half hours drive was covered by the train within 45 minutes. The train is equipped with modern facilities with large space, which offers the passenger enough opportunity to relax without being stressed. As the train moves, the speed at which it moves boldly reflects at the front of each coach. When it attains 305 kilometres per hour, it either stays there or begins to descend.
The railway station in Shenzhen is a first class monument with unique characteristics. It comprises runway through which taxi drivers can drop or pick passengers. The station is constructed in a way that long buses also have their own spaces within the station. The buses drop passengers upstairs, while they descend through the Escravos to the lobby to either pay for tickets or board the train to their various destinations. The buses terminal also comprises lobbies through which passengers waiting to board can relax and enjoy leisure.
The story of Shenzhen is a true reflection of the aggressive infrastructural and economic development currently sweeping through various spheres of China. Prior to 1980, it was a backward, rural and fishing community with the population of just 30,000. But the economic reform spearheaded by China's revered leader, Deng Xiaoping, transformed the hitherto backward rural setting into a first class tourist and economic destination. Now dotted with monumental infrastructural development, Shenzhen's development outgrows that of Guangzhou as it has now turned out to harbours big businesses across the globe.
Thus from the hitherto population of 30,000, Shenzhen now has the population of 10.35 million. Its amazing rapid development has witnessed the city spreading across the overall land area of 1,952 square kilometer. Thus this development as well as its output saw Shenzhen being listed by Brookings Institutions and London School of Economics and Political Science as the number one city in China and number two in the entire world in terms of economic vitality. While its Gross Domestic Product peaked at 951 billion Yuan in 2010,which is over 900 US Dollars it moved up to 5.3 trillion Yuan in 2011 with foreign trade output put at 414 billion dollars and export at 445 billion dollars per annum.
It is ranked to possess the highest per capital income in the entire China. Also, 188 of the top 500 companies across the globe have invested in the city, adorned with quality infrastructure. With innovation described as Shenzhen's driving force for development, the city has been described as the home of modern technology, it is also positioned to promote social development, while the government concentrates on projects aimed at enhancing the wellbeing of residents of the city. Roads in Shenzhen are exclusive as they were built with the tendency to draw a sense of admiration from residents and visitors. To avoid congestion on the roads, flying overs dot the entire city with bridges flown across each other.
Shenzhen hosts Linhua Mountain through, which a visitor can behold the beauty of the city. The mountain is decked with the statue of Xiaoping, regarded as the author and builder of modern China. The statue built with gold is six metres high. The story of Shenzhen's transformation was sealed between 1978 and 1992 when there was general debate on standard. Thus at the state of initiation, a large capital construction which centred on urban infrastructure was carried out with intensive hard work. Thus during the period, an 11-man committee of CPC convened at the time officially resolved to put China on the path of development. In 1979, Xiaoping opted to designate Guandong Province to which Shenzhen belongs as special economic zone.
Consequently, in 1980, the CPC committee passed a resolution to name Guangdong special economic zone. It was this decision, which witnessed the transformation of Shenzhen from a rural fishing village to a world class economic and tourist centre today.
On September 4, 1984, the 53-storey international trade building was completed within 10 months. And in 1987, the city carried out a system of land transfers on land use right which provided that henceforth, anyone who wished to make use of land in the zone must pay for it. In 1987, Security Company of Shenzhen was set up and on July 4, 1988 Shenzhen Development Bank was listed on Security Exchange of the zone and has since continued to attract investors and many more people. Whereas no fewer than 61 African companies have invested in Shenzhen, its own total investment in Africa so far is put at160 million US Dollars. The United Nations Development Programme has listed it among the top 500 cities of the world and number one tourist destination in China. The city hosts Huawei, described as the second largest mobile telecoms company in the world after Sony Ericson and with 150,000 employees across the globe.
The Shenzhen Museum is another beautiful sight. The museum documents various events and activities as well as items that characterised the transformation of the city. Thus, the statue of Xiaoping, vehicle, he entered, the ceremony heralding the transformation, among others are documented in the modern Museum. The entire Guangdong Province, according to Director General of the province's foreign Affairs Office, Mr. Fu Lang, made N32.2 billion Dollars in Africa in the last quarter.
Although Beijing is the capital of China, it is trailing Guanzhou, Dongguyan and Shenzhen in terms of development. This does not imply that Beijing is not developed. It is an advanced serene city, structurally planned and where law and order and discipline prevail. The environment is neat with crimes as unusual occurrence. Countless, well-built and highly sophisticated roads and bridges as well as modern buildings dot the city. But unlike the case in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where all buildings including residential houses are sky crappers, buildings containing fewer floors and some few bungalows exist in the city. And the reason for this is not far fetched. Beijing has been built to capacity as the capital for many centuries, where Guangzhou, Dugguyan and Shenzhen are recently developed cities with opportunities to inculcate modern technological developments into their planning.
But as it is the case in Guangzhou, Dugguyan and Shenzhen, all in Guangdong Province, road signs guide motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Just as the traffic light passes or stops motorists, it also stops cyclists and pedestrians. At every junction where traffic light is installed, another light featuring the image of a pedestrian gives direction on when a pedestrian or cyclist should cross the road or stop. When the light passes pedestrians and cyclists, motorists are automatically stopped and vice versa. The transport system in Beijing is a delight. Both men and women are either taxi drivers or long bus drivers. Among the transit buses are double-deckers containing passengers sitting up and down and very many of such vehicles are on the road to the extent that not many had to trek.
Mutianyu Great Walls
The delegation visited a place known as Mutianyu Great Wall, which 20 states of China had built to serve as a hide out during frequent wars, which the country witnessed at the time. Built like a staircase from the ground to 1,000 metres high through a long and wide mountain, the building was started in the seventh century, by Emperor Qin and continued by Emperor Han before Emperor Ming later completed it. Ming, it was who united China after conquering all emperors of powerful states of China.
The building, which lasted for 2,000 years, saw Qin spending 64 years of his active reign to carry on with the construction. His intention was to build the walls for defence against enemies from the North. But in the days of Han, further continuation of the walls was meant for economic purpose and in the days of Ming Dynasty, the walls had been converted to tourist destinations.
Today, thousands of tourists from different parts of the world visit the place to behold the wonders of ancient China. Building the walls through hills and valley would leave every tourist wondering the builders conceived the idea and ending up achieving it with the difficulties in landscape as well as the lofty heights involved. Today, the government of China has modernised the Great Walls with modern day infrastructure provided. Being a tourist attraction, traders who surround the basement of the walls make huge sums of money through the permanent market available at the centre, which receives no fewer than a million tourists every year.
To make the centre more rewarding, the government has provided a fleet of cable cars built with the capacity to carry six passengers through the rough terrain and across and above trees in the forest up to 700 metres high. The cable cars are powered by electricity and usually taking to the height through strong unbreakable cables hung on strong poles. Riding in the cable car is a pleasure as it takes the car the maximum of five minutes to move through the long and wide forest and mountains.
Another place, which has daily become a beehive of activities as a result of thousands of tourists visiting it is the Forbidden City located in Beijing. A sight of the Forbidden City built thousands of years ago on a seeming large and endless expanse of land with buildings at both edges and middle of the fenced city would leave anyone with countless rhetorical questions. The Forbidden City is so-called because it was the place occupied by rulers of China in the days of emperors, which an ordinary person cannot enter.
In the city are places built for children as well as events such as wedding within the city. Only ministers, kings and recognised personalities by the emperor could enter into the city. However, having the permission to enter into the city also has its own limitation. There are designated places, which the visitors must not exceed during visitation. There are respective sections where kings and ministers must stay when they visit the Forbidden City. Going beyond such places was tantamount to invoking the wrath of the emperor.
Even the empress did not possess the right to move anywhere within the city as there are designated places she could go just as certain events such as wedding could permit her to visit certain parts of the city. The Emperor's house is located at the centre of the city while other buildings located at the centre to be occupied by the emperor during specific events and meetings. The buildings were built with structures, facilities and elements of heavy weight, which despite their existence for thousands of years, have never lost shape.
The size and strength of the iron sheets and poles are overwhelming while both the buildings and their elements have continued to shine without signs of rust even in millions of years to come. This implied that it is not only the modern day Chinese who are innovative. Rather, it shows that from the time immemorial, the Chinese had been strong, creative and aggressive about development. Another amazing thing about the Forbidden City is the large river flowing round about it. To the shock of a visitor, the river is not natural, but rather artificial and yet will remain till eternity. The builder of the city to serve as protection for against any external invasion created the river. Before the city can be invaded, the invaders would have to swim across the river, which is more or less a herculean task as it was created with the intention to trap the invaders.
Nevertheless, as glorious as the Forbidden City may be, it is now open to all who wish to visit it or catch a glimpse of it, underscoring the belief that human power is ephemeral while only God's power is eternal. But for tourists who daily throng the city to catch a glimpse of it, the large and sophisticated city with all its allures is now empty, uninhabited by none.
Tianjin and Binhai
Another fast growing economic zone in China attracting attention from different parts of the world is known as Tianjin Binhai Area. Both cities, which exist side-by-side, are located at the cross point of Beijing metropolis corridor and the East of Northern plain of China as well as the West Coast of Pacific Ocean with a planning area of 2,270 square kilometers and coastline of 153 kilometres. It has the permanent residential population of 2.48 million.
Tianjin which is a two and half-hour drive from Beijing, is accessible within 40 minutes through a high-speed rail. The Tianjin Binhai International Airport is the biggest Cargo Airport in Northern China while the Tianjin Port is the world's fifth largest seaport in the country. While Binhai enjoys rich natural resources, it is also made up of over 1,000 square kilometres to be developed as well as over 10 billion tons of oil and more than 10 cubic metre natural gas in Bohai Sea.
With over 10 years of development, Binhai has established eight industries such as aviation and aerospace, electronic information, oil and chemicals, automobile and equipment manufacturing, modern metallurgy, bio-pharmaceuticals, new energy, new materials, light industries and textile.