Shopping area to be reborn as tech base
Once infamous electronics market Dinghao gets facelift
The operators of the renowned Dinghao electronic market in Zhongguancun are looking to shed its reputation for vicious competition, large crowds, dishonest vendors and untidy stores.
Dinghao is one of the three iconic electronic product shopping malls in western area of Beijing’s Zhongguancun, the nation’s leading innovation area.
Opened in 2003, Dinghao Plaza grew steadily over the ensuing decade and by 2012, it was home to more 800 businesses and shops.
The lack of high- quality working staff caused an increasing number of complaints from customers about service and the large passenger flow also put pressure on nearby transportation and infrastructures. But, the situation is changing. With financial aid and policy support from the Haidian district government, the Dinghao management team cleared some 180 electronic product stores that cover an area of nearly 32,000 square meters, 58 percent of the total area.
Instead, they introduced 162 high-tech companies and startups such as Innovation Works, Tsinghua Science Park and China International Technology Transformation Center.
The number of employees has been reduced by 61 percent, but the quality is improving, with more professionals and well-educated people joining in the team.
The growing trend is part of an effort by the Haidian district government to move some small electronic product stores out of the western part of Zhongguancun to change the area’s reputation as a major electronic market and transform it into a hub for high technology and financial services.
The government started the initiative in 2009.
A difficult beginning
The change was very difficult and even “heartbreaking” at the beginning, said Na Shuyuan, deputy general manager of the Dinghao Plaza, who recalled that some store owners cried and begged her to stay when they were negotiating the relocation of the shops.
“They have deep feelings for this building,” Na said. “Many store owners had run their businesses since the establishment of Dinghao and did not quite understand the necessity of the industrial transformation, so they were very sad, even though we had found another place for them.”
The Dinghao management team also suffered from economic losses and increased management costs, but “such pains are what we must handle because we know that it is time to change,” Na said.
The advantages are also obvious, she added.
“We now have a better working environment, and the social status of Dinghao is also improved,” she said.
Dinghao is an epitome of the western area of Zhongguancun, the local officials say.
More buildings in the western area are provided to innovative corporations and scientific research institutes.
Now, the area accommodates more than 100 large technological research and development companies as well as 120 technical service agencies and 243 financial institutes.
Out of nearly 3,000 companies added in the area in the past three years, 93 percent are involved in high-tech and cultural and creative industries.
As of September, the area had nearly 980 Chinese professionals who had returned from overseas, up 24 percent from 2010, and more than 64,000 staff with bachelor’s degree or above, up 27 percent from 2010.
An entrepreneur told China Daily that when you ran into a young man here 10 years ago, he was in all likelihood to buy a computer. But now, he may come here to start a business.
Zhang Qi, deputy general manager of Zhongguancun Dream Laboratory, also said more and more young people are pursuing their dreams in the western area.
“They always bring an entire new perspective and approaches when creating the future,” he said.
“I have seen the rise and splendor of electronic product shopping malls, and their chaos and decline,” said Tian Yichuan, deputy director of the administrative committee of Zhongguancun western area.
“Now, I am seeing the great vitality brought by the industrial transformation to the area.”
The transformation is not over and the Zhongguancun western area will have a better future, Tian said.
The western area of Zhongguancun is home to more than 100 large R&D companies,120 technical service agencies and 243 financial institutions.