‘Ori­en­tal Paris’ set to be China’s global business cen­tre

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION - Melanie Pe­ters

SHANG­HAI, China’s eco­nomic pow­er­house, is do­ing boom­ing trade with African coun­tries and is look­ing to ex­pand its business.

This week, of­fi­cials from the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity met jour­nal­ists from 27 African coun­tries to elab­o­rate on in­vest­ments and trade.

The jour­nal­ists are on a 10-month fel­low­ship, which is end­ing soon, with the China Africa Press Cen­tre.

They are from Mau­ri­ta­nia to Mau­ri­tius and South Africa to Su­dan and have trav­elled the length and breath of China tak­ing in many sites, mu­se­ums, cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, at­tend­ing press con­fer­ences with top com­pa­nies and cov­er­ing ma­jor events on the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal and business cal­en­dar.

This in­cludes the Com­mu­nist Party of China’s re­cent congress, the Belt and Road Fo­rum and Brics meet­ing.

The pro­gramme, which has been run­ning for four years, aims to pro­mote ex­change and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween Chi­nese and African me­dia. Its goal is to help jour­nal­ists bet­ter un­der­stand China by learn­ing first-hand.

Shang­hai is the last city the jour­nal­ists are vis­it­ing as a group. Sav­ing the best for last.

China’s biggest city is home to the world’s fastest train, the Fux­ing, which trav­els at 350km per hour but can clock 400km/h. Tow­er­ing build­ings dot its im­pres­sive sky­line with Shang­hai Tow­ers, at 632m, the sec­ond high­est in the world.

China is Africa’s lead­ing trade part­ner as it seeks to tap the con­ti­nent’s vast min­eral wealth to meet the resource needs of its grow­ing econ­omy.

Head of de­vel­op­ment and in­vest­ment at the Com­mis­sion of Com­merce, Chen Shi, said bi­lat­eral trade be­tween China and Africa stood at $149.1 bil­lion last year. Shang­hai has claimed its niche, do­ing ro­bust trade with var­i­ous coun­tries on the con­ti­nent which grew by 3.5% in the past 10 months to $46.97bn. Im­ports grew more rapidly than ex­ports. It im­ports mainly nat­u­ral re­sources such as cop­per, gold, ore and di­a­monds and ex­ports tex­tiles, ships, con­struc­tion equip­ment and steel.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies are ratch­et­ing up in­vest­ment from nat­u­ral min­er­als to con­sumer goods.

Head of for­eign econ­omy at the com­mis­sion, Fang Meng, said the city has in­vested $350 mil­lion in 79 projects in the 27 coun­tries rep­re­sented at the press con­fer­ence. The city had plans for a free trade zone in the port to op­ti­mise its business cli­mate.

Shang­hai hopes to lever­age its strength through China’s much vaunted One Belt and One Road Ini­tia­tive, a plan to re­vi­talise the old Silk Road.

Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket in­tel­li­gence re­port China Trade Re­search the govern is ac­cel­er­at­ing the con­struc­tion the Shang­hai Free Trade Port Area and speed­ing up its re­forms in many in­ter-re­lated ar­eas.

This in­cludes in­ter­na­tional trade, ship­ping lo­gis­tics and fi­nan­cial ser­vices, as a means of op­ti­mis­ing fut business ven­tures. It was also con­struct­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre for items im­ported from coun­tries along the Belt and Road routes,with a fo­cus on cer­tain goods, in­clud­ing wines, cars, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, cos­met­ics, di­a­monds and jew­ellery.

Next month, the city will the

Belt & Road Brand Expo 2017 at Shang­hai Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre. Nearly 200 com­pa­nies from 28 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Cuba, Mau­ri­tius, Rus­sia, South Africa, South Korea, and Tur­key will dis­play prod­ucts, tech­nol­ogy and cul­ture.

The 12th se­nior of­fi­cials meet­ing of the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co-op­er­a­tion was held in Bei­jing on Fri­day. At the open­ing cer­e­mony the director of African Af­fairs at China’s for­eign min­istry Dai Bing said Shang­hai would host the first China In­ter­na­tional Im­port Expo next Novem­ber. The event was to fur­ther open China’s mar­ket to the world, and in­crease im­ports. It would be ideal for African coun­tries to take ad­van­tage of trade and business op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The “Ori­en­tal Paris”, as Shang­hai is of­ten called, is po­si­tioned to be­come the in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic, trade and ship­ping cen­tre of China in the next three years.

African lead­ers and busi­nesses are en­cour­aged to take the op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate lu­cra­tive deals and reap the ben­e­fits of deeper in­vest­ment and trade.

Pe­ters is live editor for Week­end Ar­gus. She is on a 10-month schol­ar­ship with the China Africa Press Cen­tre. This is her last col­umn. In­sta­gram: mel­s_chi­ne­se_­take­out.

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