New tech transforms historical Tongxiang
Cradle of civilization that was home to ancient cultures now boasts cutting-edge industry
A bus with a striking “5G” label operated to and from on the highways of Wuzhen township in Tongxiang, Zhejiang province, on Oct 29, testing the technology that will be put into trial operation during the fifth World Internet Conference, which will be held in the historical water town from Nov 7 to 9.
With 5G technology, a user can download a high-definition movie in just seconds.
New digital technologies aren’t just transforming Wuzhen. More than 560 projects related to the digital economy have been introduced into Tongxiang city since the first WIC in 2014, with total planned investment of 37.7 billion yuan ($5.4 billion, 4.7 billion euros, £4.2 billion).
Sheng Yongjun, Party chief of Tongxiang, says the internet conference has a deep, all-around influence on the city.
“It is changing Tongxiang not just economically, but also in terms of the local people’s way of thinking and lifestyle,” he says. “It has become a new trend to learn, to embrace and to share new things.”
For example, a newly built factory of local clothing maker Sam Fashion Co will soon begin operating. At the factory, which cost 300 million yuan, more than 300 units of automated equipment are connected to an operating system, and the manager will use a smartphone to monitor operations and control the machinery.
More than 3,300 local companies were served by an online data management system in the first nine months of the year, allowing them to reduce costs by sharing information technology infrastructure and coordinating information in the industry chain.
“With a smarter ‘brain’, we are more competitive in the market,” says Sam Fashion Chairman Zhong Zhixin.
Literally meaning “the town of phoenix trees”, the city of Tongxiang in Zhejiang province gets its name from the phoenix trees that grew all over the region in ancient times. As a cradle of civilization in the regions south of the Yangtze River, Tongxiang was home to prehistoric cultures, such as the Majiabang Culture of more than 7,000 years ago and the Liangzhu Culture of some 5,000 years ago.
It has also been the hometown of many renowned artists, scholars, writers and educators throughout its history.
Tongxiang has been a rich place by the Grand Canal for a millennium or so, and today boasts a highly developed private economy. Home to 11 listed companies, it is among the nation’s top 100 counties in terms of its economic capacity. A number of local companies, such as Jeamo Motor and Double Arrow Rubber, have become domestic and even world industry leaders. Tongkun Group and Zhenshi Holding Group
were listed as China’s top 500 privately owned companies last year.
Though not a producing region for wool or leather, Tongxiang is a nationally renowned trading center for sweaters and fur clothing. While without rich mineral resources, it is home to China Jushi Co, the world’s largest fiberglass producer, and Huayou Cobalt Co — the world’s top cobalt product maker. Additionally, it is also a production center for women’s shoes and silk quilts.
Tourism is another pillar industry for Tongxiang, with the historical water town Wuzhen taking the lead. Last year, Tongxiang received more than 20.3 million tourist trips, generating revenue of 24.4 billion yuan ($3.5 billion, 3.1 euros, £2.7 billion).
The internet infrastructure in Tongxiang is one of the best in China. It has Wi-Fi access covering nearly all its public areas. The town of Wuzhen, in Tongxiang, became the permanent venue of the World Internet Conference in 2014, and since then, Tongxiang has introduced 481 projects related to the digital economy.
Tongxiang ranks No 5 among China’s top 100 e-commerce counties with annual trading volume on e-commerce platforms exceeding 70 billion yuan. Moreover, Tongxiang is considered by many to be a national model because of its social harmony and as a leader of urbanrural integrated development. Its urban-rural income ratio is 1.63, the lowest in Zhejiang province. Officials say that in the near future, the Tongxiang government will push forward with the development of its real economy, centering on advanced manufacturing, tourism
and internet-related industries. The government is carrying out a series of strategies focusing on the development of its real economy, innovation, its opening-up, environmental protection and improvement of people’s living conditions — as well as attracting international investments to build itself up as a hub of advanced manufacturing, a cultural and tourist attraction and an internet-based smart city.
A bird’s-eye view of the Wuzhen Internet International Conference & Exhibition Center.