China Daily (Hong Kong)
Blockbuster movie location lures tourists
Qiu Jinwei, a tourist from Wuhan, Hubei province, drove to Xiangyang, a city about 300 kilometers away, after watching the bittersweet timetravel comedy Hi, Mom on Feb 12. He and his family took photos at the chemical products factory where the movie was shot — where all the buildings and decorations were preserved in the style of 1980s China.
“I grew up in a factory like this, and all the scenes looked so familiar,” Qin wrote on WeChat.
Those scenes included red brick houses hung with old-fashioned signboards depicting workers, alongside stores where customers had to shop with ration coupons because supplies were limited. On display was a staff canteen, public baths, a basketball court and the spot where a young woman and man sheltered from the rain and fell for one another.
Qiu is one of the thousands of tourists who made a nostalgic visit to Xiangyang after being inspired by the Spring Festival blockbuster, which raked in more than 3 billion yuan ($464 million) and led the film’s director Jia Ling to becoming the female director with the biggest box office success in Chinese film history.
In the movie, the protagonist, high school student Jia Xiaoling, and her mother, Li Huanying, are hit by a truck and the mother is critically injured. While in the hospital, Jia mysteriously travels to 1981 when Li was in her 20s. They quickly became close friends.
Jia wants to make Li happy by making her the first worker in the factory to be able to buy a television and also wants to help her mom win a big volleyball match. The filial daughter’s own fate is endangered as she encourages her mother to marry the son of the factory’s manager instead of Jia’s father. But her plans repeatedly go awry. While drunk, Jia says she feels useless for not being able to make big money and make her mother proud. But Li said her greatest desire was that her future daughter would be “healthy and happy”.
The film is also a tribute to the mother of the director, who died in an accident. Netizens said that the family drama has the ability to “have your tears soak your face mask”.
Its critical rating as a film is as high as 9.5 out of 10 on ticketing services platform Maoyan, 9.3 on Alibaba’s mobile ticketing app Taopiaopiao and 8.2 from review platform Douban.
A netizen said on Sina Weibo that audiences can easily relate to the story, which tells of maternal love and regrets in life. The netizen added that many of her friends had visited the old, obscure factory where some of the movie scenes were shot.
A manager of a grocery store within the factory complex told The Paper that few people had visited before, but after the film went viral, the number of tourists surged and the store received about 1,000 visits a day.
The crowd was so large on Tuesday and Wednesday that a traffic jam prompted police to maintain order, local authorities said. A middle-aged woman told Pear Video that her late uncle had once worked at the factory. She decided to visit after watching the movie revived childhood memories within her.
During the Spring Festival holiday from Feb 11 to Wednesday, Xiangyang welcomed 837,600 tourist visits and related revenue stacked up to over 154 million yuan, according to the city’s publicity department.
Hubei Weidong Holding Group and 603 Cultural and Creative Park, two of the shooting locations for the movie, have received more than 30,000 tourist visits so far since the film opened over the long holiday.
As an old industrial base, Xiangyang has many factories producing pharmaceuticals, machinery and aerospace equipment. The city will further promote industrial tourism by developing industrial heritage and factory tours with more participation from local companies, the department said.
Zhu Yunhai, a tourism expert from Hubei University of Arts and Science, told Xiangyang Daily that the rising popularity of the film is helping the city become better known and said there is potential for the integrated development of the culture and tourism industries.
Ji Gang, a global partner at consultancy Roland Berger, said the success of movies and soap operas sometimes transforms shooting locations into hot spots and drives local tourism for some time. How long their fame can last depends on the power of the story, Ji said.
January 2021 marked the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the People’s Republic of China. It is gratifying to note that in recent years multifaceted cooperation has deepened in virtually all areas including trade, investment, energy and transportation.
Along with this trend, the fact that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two countries have not only further strengthened their comprehensive strategic partnership but also identified new areas of interaction allows us to look at the future of Uzbek-Chinese relations with optimism and confidence.
Continuing active political dialogue
Among the key factors for the dynamic development of bilateral cooperation is political dialogue at the highest level.
In May 2017, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid his first state visit to China and held fruitful talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which the two leaders identified priority areas of cooperation.
The talks between them under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization framework in Qingdao in 2018 gave new impetus to bilateral ties. And the two leaders identified “new points” of further strengthening multifaceted cooperation at their meeting on the sidelines of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in 2019.
During their conversation on the phone on May 7 last year, the two leaders, among other things, agreed to cooperate in the fight against the pandemic. Also, a number of intergovernmental-level talks have been held to implement the agreements reached at the highest level, and a favorable environment has been created for the promotion of interparliamentary relations between the two sides.
Economic basis of cooperation
The implementation of the agreements reached between the two leaders has further deepened cooperation in trade and investment. Thanks to the joint efforts of the two sides, the impact of the pandemic on Uzbek-Chinese cooperation has been minimal, as a number of positive trends show.
First, for the past three years, China has been Uzbekistan’s largest trading partner. Before the pandemic, the annual increase in bilateral trade was 30-40 percent — the growth declined slightly last year due to the pandemic. China is also the largest export market for Uzbekistan; it accounts for 12.8 percent of the country’s total foreign trade in 2020. Plus, there has been a qualitative change in bilateral trade, with Uzbekistan exporting more finished products and agricultural goods to China.
Second, bilateral cooperation in investment and modern technologies is deepening, and Chinese investment in Uzbekistan — mainly in sectors such as oil and gas, chemicals, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and light industry — is growing at the rate of about 40 percent a year over the past few years.
Uzbekistan and China still have huge potential for expanding cooperation in investment and advanced technologies, especially because President Mirziyoyev has set a foreign investment target of $23 billion for 2021. As a result, Uzbekistan plans to put into operation 226 large industrial and infrastructure projects, build modern facilities for textiles, leather and footwear, food and pharmaceutical industries, and establish power plants.
Connectivity and communications
Uzbekistan and China still have huge potential for expanding cooperation in investment and advanced technologies, especially because President Mirziyoyev has set a foreign investment target of $23 billion for 2021.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on the global economy, disrupting regional and global production chains and trade links. Addressing the participants via video link at the opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November, Mirziyoyev said Uzbekistan welcomes the new strategic course taken by Xi to stabilize trade, eliminate trade barriers, and strengthen interconnectivity among economies.
In this context, it is important to combine different countries’ efforts to strengthen regional and interregional connectivity by forming a network of “dry ports”, logistics and wholesale distribution centers under the Belt and Road Initiative framework. An apt example of this is the opening of a new China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan multimodal transport corridor designed to accelerate the building of a railway.
And in line with Mirziyoyev’s call to create new transport corridors connecting the railways of Central and South Asia, Uzbekistan will hold a multinational conference titled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity — Challenges and Opportunities” in May 2021.
The deepening of Uzbek-Chinese cooperation has in turn strengthened the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership, which is reflected in the visits by the leaders of all 14 regions of Uzbekistan to China from 2017 until the outbreak of the pandemic last year. The result of these visits was the inking of agreements to implement more than 150 joint projects, including on export-oriented finished products.
At the same time, agreements were reached with a number of Chinese provinces on cooperation in the fields of education and training, and “smart” agriculture, “smart” technologies, seed production and water management.
New challenges require new solutions. China has succeeded not only in largely containing the pandemic, but also in becoming the only major economy to achieve positive GDP growth in 2020.
As President Mirziyoyev said in his speech in parliament recently, Uzbekistan will pay special attention to healthcare, and continuing the fight against the pandemic will remain one of its most important tasks in 2021.
Uzbekistan also plans to further digitalize medical care including improving communication among specialized centers and their local branches through telemedicine. In fact, Mirziyoyev gave a call in November to boost cooperation with China in telemedicine.
Cooperation in fighting poverty
Another area of cooperation is poverty reduction, especially given
China’s successful campaign to eliminate absolute poverty by the end of last year.
Accordingly, Mirziyoyev told the Uzbek parliament in December that the main goal of economic reform in 2021 will be reducing poverty and improving the well-being of the people.
A comprehensive approach and new methods will be introduced to strengthen the poverty alleviation program including providing people with better social protection, education, affordable healthcare, vocational training, access to clean drinking water, energy and road connectivity.
The two countries’ ministries and departments have already established working contacts, and recent years have seen the dynamic development of Uzbek-Chinese cooperation, creating the right condition for further strengthening of the comprehensive strategic partnership.
Next year will be a landmark, for the two countries will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. And thanks to our joint efforts, the historic occasion will add new vitality to our cooperation and bring more benefits to our countries and peoples.