Multi-faceted Xi­a­men

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Zhang Xue Pho­to­graphs by Dong Fang

On the sea and in­sep­a­ra­ble from it, the city of Xi­a­men, Fu­jian Prov­ince, is lo­cated on the south­east­ern tip of China, fac­ing Tai­wan Is­land across the Tai­wan Straits and the South China Sea to the south. The city’s iconic cul­ture is fla­vored not only by the vast ocean sur­round­ing the city, but also by un­par­al­leled open­ness and in­clu­sive­ness.

Van­guard of Re­form

Xi­a­men fea­tures a 234-kilo­me­ter-long coast­line dot­ted with deep-wa­ter, ice-free ports, mak­ing the city an im­por­tant hub for for­eign trade along China’s south­east­ern coast.

As early as the Song Dy­nasty (960-1279), Xi­a­men Har­bor’s po­si­tion as an outer aux­il­iary port for Quanzhou made it an im­por­tant lo­ca­tion on the Mar­itime Silk Road. To­day, the city’s con­tainer han­dling ca­pac­ity ranks 15th in the world, mak­ing Xi­a­men one of China’s four ma­jor in­ter­na­tional ship­ping cen­ters.

From a fish­ing port to a mod­ern metropo­lis, from one of the first four spe­cial eco­nomic zones to one of the ear­li­est free trade ar­eas (FTAS), Xi­a­men has re­mained a fore­run­ner since China’s re­form and open­ing up, serv­ing as a win­dow to the out­side world.

Lo­cated in Haicang Port Zone of Xi­a­men’s free trade area, Xi­a­men Ocean Au­to­matic Wharf is one of the first of its kind glob­ally. Rather than count­less work­ers mov­ing past each other, gi­ant cranes and au­to­mated fer­ries smoothly sway back and forth, load­ing and un­load­ing con­tain­ers in a pre­cise and or­derly man­ner.

Xi­a­men wharf is the first au­to­matic ter­mi­nal, of which China holds its in­de­pen­dent in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights. Since it be­gan oper­a­tion, the wharf has not had a sin­gle ac­ci­dent.

Less than two kilo­me­ters away is the start of the Xi­a­men rail line to cen­tral Europe, which con­nects to other mar­itime and land trans­port routes. Trains run far north through Manzhouli, In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion and across the Eurasian con­ti­nent to Moscow, Rus­sia to de­liver prod­ucts such as load­ers, pre­ci­sion in­stru­ments, min­er­als, and shoes.

By link­ing the sea to the land, Xi­a­men is a hub of the Mar­itime Silk Road that has cre­ated new lo­gis­tics chan­nels to serve coun­tries along the ter­res­trial route, keep­ing the an­cient Silk Road and the Mar­itime Silk Road close to­gether.

On March 1, 2015, the Xi­a­men Area of China (Fu­jian) Pilot Free Trade Zone of­fi­cially opened, mark­ing the dawn of a new de­vel­op­men­tal mis­sion for the city and its res­i­dents. Vice Mayor Huang Qiang de­clared that the pilot free trade zone had set a new bar for re­form and in­no­va­tion in Xi­a­men and served as an im­por­tant en­gine to pro­mote in­dus­trial trans­for­ma­tion and up­grade.

New In­dus­tries Ac­cel­er­ate Growth

The sec­ond-phase Xi­a­men Soft­ware Park sits at the eastern end of Xi­a­men Is­land. Built like a gar­den fea­tur­ing boom­ing flow­ers and lush lawns, avant-garde of­fice build­ings are laid out sim­i­larly to Sil­i­con Val­ley in the United States.

A hand­ful of big-name tech play­ers such as Meitu were born in the soft­ware park. A lo­cal startup founded in 2008, Meitu has at­tracted more than 500 mil­lion users glob­ally, and its prod­ucts are used around the world in over a bil­lion mo­bile de­vices.

With the rise of smart­phones and the mo­bile in­ter­net, pho­tog­ra­phy and im­age shar­ing have be­come cen­tral ac­tiv­i­ties in daily life, mak­ing con­ve­nient pic­ture pro­cess­ing soft­ware in high de­mand. Meitu founder Wu Xin­hong seized the op­por­tu­nity and launched the PC ver­sion of the soft­ware in Oc­to­ber 2008.

To­day, Meitu and Gi­ga­bit—to­gether known as the Xi­a­men In­ter­net Le­gion—are ma­jor play­ers in the global in­ter­net mar­ket. In 2016, Xi­a­men Soft­ware Park achieved op­er­a­tional rev­enue of over 70 bil­lion yuan, an in­crease of more than 20 per­cent year-on-year, and hosted 2,671 reg­is­tered in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial en­ter­prises that em­ployed 92,000 peo­ple.

Eight com­pa­nies now re­sid­ing in the soft­ware park have been pub­licly traded, and 42 en­ter­prises have been listed on the “new third board.” The third phase of the soft­ware park, lo­cated in Jimei New Town, is be­ing uti­lized to adapt to the rapid de­vel­op­ment of soft­ware and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy.

The con­glom­er­a­tion of high-tech in­dus­tries has played an im­por­tant role in the in­no­va­tive de­vel­op­ment and ur­ban eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion of Xi­a­men.

“The phoenix will only be at­tracted when sy­camore trees are planted,” re­marked Vice Mayor Huang Qiang, cit­ing an old Chi­nese proverb in an in­ter­view. “The thriv­ing high-tech en­ter­prises will surely at­tract more tal­ent, which in turn will op­ti­mize the tal­ent struc­ture of Xi­a­men’s in­dus­try.”

Cof­fee and Tea: A Slow Rhythm of Life

Xi­a­men takes pride in its mild and rainy sub­trop­i­cal mon­soon cli­mate. Flow­ers blos­som year-round, mak­ing the city a “gar­den on the sea” that has been hon­ored as one of China’s Top 10 Liv­able Cities, with the UN Habi­tat Award, and as an In­ter­na­tional Gar­den City, just to name a few. Many hon­ors can be at­trib­uted to Xi­a­men’s im­pres­sive ur­ban con­struc­tion and public hap­pi­ness in­dex.

The city’s rep­u­ta­tion has at­tracted tourists from all cor­ners of the coun­try as well as the world, who come to ex­pe­ri­ence the slow, beau­ti­ful rhythm of life.

Early each morn­ing, peo­ple flock to the shore of the is­land to en­joy the cool sea breeze, bathe in the morn­ing sun­light, jog while watch­ing the sun­rise, and em­brace the new day.

Af­ter lunch, vis­i­tors of­ten ride bi­cy­cles down Yund­ing (Top of the Cloud) Road, ad­mire the city view from atop a hill or hide away in a café to en­joy a tran­quil af­ter­noon, sip­ping cof­fee while read­ing a book.

As night falls, they choose a small time-hon­ored restau­rant along Zhong­shan Pedes­trian Street to try lo­cal snacks such as a bowl of noo­dles with sa­tay sauce or peanut soup. Bars along North Hu­bin Road boast the sounds of youth via heavy metal mu­sic.

Xi­a­men res­i­dents love drink­ing tea, but strangely, it is dif­fi­cult to find a tea­house be­cause the bev­er­age is so in­te­grated into daily life. A stan­dard ap­pli­ance for lo­cal res­i­dents is a well-equipped tea set fea­tur­ing a tray, a bowl and sev­eral lit­tle tea cups. Such sets can be found in ev­ery cor­ner of the city, from small shops to mod­ern of­fice build­ings and from old red-brick build­ings to new condominiums.

“Sit and have a cup of tea” is a stan­dard lo­cal greet­ing of the hos­pitable res­i­dents, who al­ways find time to lead out­siders into the sim­ple life of Xi­a­men and its tea cul­ture. The most pop­u­lar brand is Tieguanyin Oo­long Tea from Anxi, Quanzhou, which is made us­ing a tureen and in­tended for small cups.

Peo­ple in Xi­a­men love cof­fee too. Vis­i­tors will of­ten see some­one sit­ting by a French win­dow with a cup of cof­fee and per­haps a cou­ple of friends. Chat­ting around drinks is one of the most com­mon ac­tiv­i­ties in Xi­a­men.

Statis­tics show that the count of cafés in Xi­a­men now ex­ceeds 2,000, giv­ing it the dens­est con­cen­tra­tion in the coun­try. Most are found along North Hu­bin Road.

“Open,” “in­no­va­tive” and “liv­able” are the ad­jec­tives most fre­quently em­ployed to de­scribe mod­ern Xi­a­men. To­day, Xi­a­men has shoul­dered a new mis­sion: In Septem­ber this year, it hosted the BRICS lead­ers’ meet­ing, which would un­doubt­edly en­hance its in­ter­na­tional vis­i­bil­ity and ac­cel­er­ate its in­te­gra­tion into global de­vel­op­ment. A new Xi­a­men is thriv­ing.

Lo­cated just off the coast of Xi­a­men, Fu­jian Prov­ince, Gu­langyu Is­land was added to UNESCO’S World Cul­tural Her­itage List on Au­gust 8, 2017.

Prod­ucts made by Meitu, one of Xi­a­men’s na­tive star­tups. The con­cen­tra­tion of hi-tech in­dus­tries has greatly ac­cel­er­ated the in­no­va­tive de­vel­op­ment and ur­ban eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion of the city.

Try­ing Gi­ga­bit’s lat­est VR games.

En­joy­ing the sea breeze and swim­ming have al­ways been pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties with lo­cals.

One-way bi­cy­cle traf­fic makes en­joy­ing the view along the way safe and easy.

One of the best ways to learn about Gu­langyu Is­land is vis­it­ing the cul­tural and his­tory mu­seum.

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