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.