By Fredrick P. W. Gaye, Beijing, China
Shandong is a province sitting on China’s east coast. As home to a population of 98.472 million, Shandong covers a land area of 157.1 thousand square kilometers, with 17 cities and 137 counties (county-level cities, districts) under its jurisdiction, and its coastline stretching 3345 kilometers long.
With Jinan as its capital, Shandong has a well developed transportation system; the Beijing-Shanghai Railway, Beijing-Kowloon Railway and multiple railway lines all pass through the province. The province is also dotted with eight airports and seven sea ports.
As part of our (28 journalists from 27 African countries) on 2016 fellowship program in China, we visited Shandong Province, on October 16-21, 2016. Our visit was adventurous with the touring of Qufu (the hometown of famous Chinese philosopher and thinker, Confucius); Jinan, the provincial capital; and the port city of Qingdao (Tsingtao), also known as the “World Beer City” for its famous TSINGTAO BEER.
On October 18 in the capital Jinan, Li Yongsen, deputy director for Shandong Provincial Foreign Affairs Office, Xing Xuxin, deputy commissioner of regional development policy, Provincial Development and Reform Commission and Qiu Tianbin, deputy governor of overseas investment, Provincial Department of Commerce, briefed us about the province’s opening to the world, its economic and development activities as well as ongoing relations with other countries.
The local officials described Shandong as one of China’s economic powerhouses. They disclosed that the province’s GDP (gross domestic product) grew by 8% to 6.3 trillion yuan in 2015, thus ranking third in the country.
Shandong, they said, has the largest agricultural output with value in China for decade consecutively, with its major products as grain, vegetables, fruits, oil crops, aquatic products and animal by-products, among others.
The industry of Shandong, boasting solid foundation and complete categories, includes strong traditional sectors, such as food, metallurgy, textile, household appliances, chemicals and construction materials as well as rapidly growing sectors such as automobiles, locomotives, ships, electronic information, bio-pharmaceutical and new materials.
Serving as a juncture of the “Silk Road Economic Bedlt” and the “ 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, Shandong is an important executor of China’s ocean strategy. New patterns of balanced regional development are taking shape across the province by implementing the national development strategies. The plans include: “Shandong Peninsula Economic Zone” and the “Yellow River Delta Eco-efficient Economic Zone” as well as provincial strategies of the “Economic Circle of Provincial Capital City Clusters” and the “Rising Economic Belt in the West of Shandong”.
According to the Foreign Affairs Office of Shandong Provincial People’s Government, the province has cultivated 412 sisterhood relationships and friendly cooperative relationships with over 72 countries across the world, including 63 pairs at the provincial level. The friendly exchanges and cooperation in areas such as politics, economy, culture, education, science, technology and sports are constantly expanding. The local office revealed that Shandong enjoys trade flows with over 180 countries and regions around the world. In 2015, Shandong reported a total foreign trade volume of US$241.75 billion, paid-in foreign investment of US$16.3 billion and outbound investment of US$5.78 billion. At present, more than 200 enterprises out of Fortune Global 500 have made investments in Shandong, and more than 4000 enterprises from Shandong have invested overseas.
Meanwhile, officials of Shandong described the described the African journalists’ visit to the province as welcoming development because they (journalists) play important roles in telling the world about the long standing friendship between China and Africa. They said the economic and development cooperation between the two sides will not be strengthened without attaching importance to exchange programs for Chinese and African journalists.