Rich district shifts its focus to quality of life

ByXuXiao (ChinaDaily)

Rising govt revenues make social initiatives possible

Relying on the wealth accumulated during six decades of economic growth, authorities in the Siming district are now focused on improving public living standards.

The district was established in 1950 in Xiamen, Fujian province. It is now the economic, political and cultural center of the renowned coastal city.

The district government said “fortune” and “happiness” are the key words for today’s Siming.

The local officials pointed out that increasing government revenues are an important indicator of public fortune and a major financial resource that the government uses to improve the local quality of life and for other social undertakings.

In 2012, the district reported government revenue of 13.3 billion yuan, an increase of 20.3 percent year-on-year, signaling record growth in the past five years.

In the first half of 2013, government revenue approached 9.1 billion yuan, the largest of all the cities in Fujian.

The officials said the fortune comes from the city’s abundant business opportunities brought by its born geographic advantages as a close neighbor of Taiwan, as well as its preferential policy environment as a part of a city that is listed as one of the four special economic zones in China and a pilot in cross-Straits business cooperation.

Tourist attractions

The unique natural environment there also makes the district appealing to both residents and tourists.

Embraced by mountains and sea, Siming district has a pleasant climate.

There are several renowned tourist resorts along the 10-kilometer beaches. Fifteen of Xiamen’s top 20 resorts are located in Siming.

The most attractive among all the resorts is the 1.77-square-kilometer Gulangyu Island, which is about 500 meters away from the city proper across the Lujiang River.

Featuring blue sea, green trees and colonial-style houses, the serene island is also known as “the garden on the sea”.

According to the district government, Siming’s tourism revenue reached 39.2 billion yuan in 2012, accounting for 70 percent of Xiamen’s total.

In recent years, the government has highlighted the service industry and several emerging industries.

It has a booming high-end consumer goods market, making it a trend leader in Xiamen as well as Fujian province.

The Paragon Center is Fujian’s first and largest high-end shopping mall, gathering some 80 globally renowned brands, including such luxury names as Gucci, Burberry and Montblanc.

Another luxury shopping mall called China City has a 200-meter-long corridor for showcasing renowned watches. Here consumers can find luxury watch brands, including Piaget, Jaeger-Le Coultre, Omega, and IWC.

China City also has the first Ferrari and Maserati showrooms in Fujian province.

In addition to these luxury shopping malls, high-end hospitality business is another propeller of Siming’s development.

In Siming, there are 48 star-rated hotels, accounting for 61 percent of Xiamen’s total.

Many hotels combine first-rate facilities with Siming’s regional characteristics.

For instance, the Hotel Nikko Xiamen gives guests a sea view through French windows in the rooms.

The district is also on its way toward becoming a luxury yachting hub of Xiamen, with the Shangshan International Yacht Club now under construction. Local government officials said “the club is expected to introduce a new lifestyle to local people” when becoming operational.

Pivotal role

Siming district is playing a pivotal role in Xiamen’s initiative to build a cross-Straits financial hub.

According to the district government, in the first half of 2013, the district’s financial and insurance enterprises generated revenue totaling more than 6.6 billion yuan, an increase of 9.3 percent year-on-year.

Government officials said these companies have offered strong financial support for local growth and cross-Straits business cooperation.

Another driver of growth is Siming’s advantages in terms of high-quality human resources. The district is home to several renowned higher learning and research institutes, including the prestigious Xiamen University.

The district government has also implemented a talent plan, with a 100-million-yuan fund to support talent development.

The district also regularly hosts academic activities, inviting famous experts and scholars to give lectures to local researchers and students.

Amid rapid economic and social transformation, the local government wants to make sure that all the residents, especially those lower-income families, can enjoy a better life.

One of the efforts is the “warm-heart supermarket”, an invention by the district in May 2004. In these supermarkets, donated goods are displayed on shelves and needy people can choose what they want for free.

The goal of the supermarket is to let people get help while keeping their dignity, government officials said.

So far, 1,200 families have received continuous help from the service.

Now the “warm-heart” initiative has evolved into a public welfare brand, including 11 supermarkets, 26 online schools, six classrooms, 12 canteens and 40 community funds under the same name.


Business Shanghai gaining favor with wealthy as financial center

Shanghai gaining favor with wealthy as financial center

Shanghai has overtaken Hong Kong and Singapore to become the world’s fifth most important financial center, and Beijing is considered the second most influential political city, in a survey that gauges the importance of global cities.

The joint study, by leading international property consultancy Knight Frank LLP and Bank of China International Ltd, said Shanghai – which is striving to become Asia’s top financial center – had passed its two most traditional Asian rivals, who have slipped to 7th and 8th respectively.

New York, London, Tokyo and Paris take the top four spots as financial centers, said the report, while the Chinese capital Beijing is second only to the US capital Washington DC in terms of political importance.

The Wealth Report 2013 gathered the views of 15,000 people with at least $30 million in net assets – which it called “high net worth individuals” – gauging attitudes in four areas: economic activity, political power, quality of life, and knowledge and influence.

Other top-tier mainland cities featured in the survey include Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which Liam Bailey, the head of residential research with Knight Frank, said he expected to see grow strongly in global importance over the next few years.

The study ranked Beijing at 15th overall this year, with Shanghai at 24th, according to the report.

“By 2023, our survey of high net worth individuals will show Shanghai and Beijing joining the top 10 at the expense of Geneva and Paris,” said Bailey.

Commenting on the results, Qi Xiaozhai, director of the Shanghai Commercial Economic Research Center, said he thought the two Chinese cities should have higher positions, given their rising lifestyles.

Beijing is still 40th in terms of life quality, and Shanghai is 39th, said the report.

“This reminds us that as we develop the economy we also have to consider lifestyle issues, such as protecting our living environment,” said Qi.

Knight Frank’s accompanying luxury investment index showed that collectable assets such as art, fine wine, classic cars, coins and watches have accrued cumulative gains of 175 percent over the past 10 years, and 6 percent last year alone.

It said that wealthy Chinese were leading that trend, reshaping the global markets for art as well as antiques, jewelry and other luxury items.

Additionally, the report showed an evolution of the map of the world’s wealthy, with a new concentration of wealth in Asia.

Globally, the number of billionaires will increase by 85 percent over the next 10 years, with the biggest increase being in Asia, or 119 percent, it predicted.

The top country for billionaires is still the US with 543 and that will grow by 103 percent by 2022, but China in that time will increase from 154 to 483, an increase of 214 percent.

Knight Frank also predicted further gains in prime property values in Shanghai and Guangzhou, particularly, as both remain targets for investment from other areas in China, benefiting from growing national wealth, especially in lower-tier cities.