Interview: Success of China’s Pudong unveils a “useful example for the world”, says UK business leader

The achievements of China’s Shanghai are largely attributed to the great success of Pudong, a new area designated in 1990 and has undergone a remarkable transformation since then, Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain’s 48 Group Club, told Xinhua in a recent written interview.

His remarks came as China on Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of development and opening-up of Shanghai’s Pudong, signaling the country’s continuous efforts to deepen reforms and open its doors wider to the world.

When China announced the strategic decision to develop and open up Pudong in 1990, the area consisted of farmland and was considered far less-developed compared with its neighbor across the Yangtze River, Puxi.

“In 1972 the other side of the Yangtze river from the Peace Hotel was dark. Nothing there,” Perry said, recalling his visit to Shanghai that year in his first trip to China.

However, just in three decades, Pudong’s regional gross domestic product (GDP) has surged more than 210 times from 6 billion yuan (about 906 million U.S. dollars) in 1990 to 1.27 trillion yuan (192 billion dollars) in 2019.

Via a remarkable transformation, Pudong has now become a popular destination for investors, innovators and policy pilots.

In 1994 the construction began of the huge circular bridges over the Yangtze started going up. Soon there was construction everywhere. In the following years, tall buildings emerged — sky scrapers in China, including those in Shanghai, Perry noted.

Now Pudong is well known for its iconic skyscrapers, including the 632-meter-high Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China, which receives more than 1 million visitors every year.

Besides visitors, Pudong has also attracted 35,000 foreign-funded enterprises from 168 countries and regions over the past three decades, receiving foreign investment of 95.86 billion dollars.

U.S. electric car firm Tesla in early 2019 built its first Gigafactory outside the United States in Shanghai, with a designed annual production capacity of 500,000 units. One year later, the first batch of made-in-China Model 3 sedans has been delivered and exported to Europe and beyond.

At the beginning of its development, “some foreign media said that they (skyscrapers in Pudong) have no tenants (and) it is a ghost city. But bit by bit the banks moved in from China and from the world,” Perry said.

Within 30 years, Pudong has become one of the country’s most prosperous districts, with its regional GDP surging by more than 210 times since 1990.

The area is now home to more than 1,000 financial institutions, more than 300 regional headquarters of multinationals, and more than 240 foreign-invested research and development centers.

As a pillar industry of Pudong’s economy, the financial sector saw its added value hit 383.5 billion yuan (57.9 billion dollars) in 2019, contributing roughly 30 percent of the area’s total GDP.

“Shanghai has become one of the world’s most important financial centers in just over 20 years, and that is built on the great success of Pudong,” said Perry.

“From Pudong to a metropolis, the story of (Pudong marks) the rise of socialism with Chinese characteristics — the story of China’s socialism producing the most advanced regions in the world,” he said in the interview.

“Behind that (the success of Pudong), the plans were already forming and being tested for the new Yangtze Delta Region, which has now taken a definite form through to Nanjing (capital city of east China’s Jiangsu Province) and (east China’s) Anhui (province) and Jiangsu,” he added.

“The Central area of China is being linked again in a superb financial, manufacturing and service vast metropolis as an example to the world of a modern socialist nation that China is becoming,” he said.

That is “a very interesting and useful example for the world to study. And Pudong was the first step,” he added.