Shop­ping area to be re­born as tech base

Once in­fa­mous elec­tron­ics mar­ket Ding­hao gets facelift

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - ZHONGGUANCUN SPECIAL - By HAO NAN hao­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

High-tech hub

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The western area of Zhong­guan­cun is home to more than 100 large R&D com­pa­nies,120 tech­ni­cal ser­vice agen­cies and 243 fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

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