Wenzhou: A living chronicle of China's opening-up triumph

Source:CCTV.com 05-02-24 10:10 Updated BJT
Font size:A+A-

By Abhishek G Bhaya, a Beijing-based journalist, international affairs commentator and a specialist in China-related topics.

A freight train arrives at Wenzhou Port, Zhejiang Province (left); Wenzhou Port in 1984

In east China's Zhejiang Province, Wenzhou stands as a testament to the transformative power of China's reform and opening-up policy initiated by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Once a modest city with a rich cultural heritage, Wenzhou has blossomed into a vibrant economic hub. Over the years, the city has become synonymous with entrepreneurial spirit and economic resilience. Its story encapsulates the broader impact of China's opening-up policy, both domestically and on the global stage.

From humble beginnings to economic dynamo

Wenzhou was a relatively small city known for its agricultural activities and local industries. However, as the opening-up policy took root, Wenzhou was shortlisted among the 14 coastal cities in China that opened to foreign investment in 1984.  

Wenzhou lost no time and quickly embraced the private entrepreneurship. It made a name for itself as a model for economic reform and achieved remarkable economic success in the subsequent decades. Its success was largely driven by grassroots initiatives and local enterprises. From this perspective, the city is also dubbed as the birthplace of China's private economy.

Wenzhou's business community seized the opportunity to engage in private enterprise, setting the stage for a remarkable economic transformation. The city became a hub for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly in industries such as manufacturing, trade, and services. The entrepreneurial spirit fostered a unique economic ecosystem, characterized by innovation, adaptability, and a strong sense of local initiative.

Domestic impact: A model of economic growth

Wenzhou's success became emblematic of the broader impact of China's opening-up policy within the country. The city's GDP soared to an all-time high of 803 billion yuan in 2022 from a paltry 1.32 billion yuan in 1978.

The decentralized and market-driven approach adopted in Wenzhou showcased the potential for economic growth beyond the traditional state-controlled enterprises. The success of the local economy attracted attention and emulation from other regions.

China's opening-up policy, as reflected in the Wenzhou experience, played a pivotal role in lifting millions out of poverty, fostering economic diversity, and creating a vibrant middle class. The increased economic activity and prosperity transformed Wenzhou into a dynamic urban center, highlighting the potential for grassroots entrepreneurship to drive China's economic engine.

Entrepreneurs go global

Wenzhou's entrepreneurial spirit transcends beyond borders, reflecting China's global aspirations under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initiative, a hallmark of China's opening-up policy, involves infrastructure development and economic collaborations that span across continents.

Wenzhou's entrepreneurs, much like their counterparts in other regions, actively participate in global trade, fostering partnerships that contribute to the nation's integration into the global economy. The opening-up policy facilitated this global expansion by providing a conducive environment for trade and investment.

Wenzhou's enterprises became key players in the global supply chain, contributing to China's emergence as a central figure in international trade and commerce. The city's success demonstrated the potential for local enterprises to have a global impact, laying the groundwork for China's integration into the global economy.

A beacon of innovation and resilience

As China looks to the future, Wenzhou remains a beacon of innovation and resilience. The city's success has not been without challenges, including economic fluctuations and issues related to financial risk. However, Wenzhou's experience underscores the adaptability of a market-driven economy and the capacity of local entrepreneurship to navigate challenges.

China's opening-up policy continues to evolve, and Wenzhou remains a crucial player in shaping the nation's economic trajectory. The city's entrepreneurs are at the forefront of technological advancements and innovation, contributing to China's aspirations of becoming a global leader in science and technology. Wenzhou's ability to balance tradition with progress exemplifies the ongoing transformation fuelled by the opening-up policy.

Wenzhou's journey from a modest city to an economic dynamo symbolizes the success of China's opening-up policy. As China continues to navigate the complexities of a changing global landscape, Wenzhou stands as a living example of the transformative power of opening up to the world.

Editor: Zhoufujing
05-02-24 10:10 BJT
Share this: