Quanzhou's entrepreneurship: from manufacturing to building brands
Yang Jing
Aerial view of Chongwu Ancient Town in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China, August 9, 2022. Chen Bo/CGTN

Aerial view of Chongwu Ancient Town in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China, August 9, 2022. Chen Bo/CGTN

Editor's note: This report focuses on Quanzhou as part of our special series, "Rising Star Cities," about Chinese cities whose annual GDP exceeds 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion). At the end of 2021, there were 24 such cities. Click here for more stories on Quanzhou, an ancient trading hub known for its cultural diversity. You can also explore our earlier coverage of Ningbo, Changsha and Chongqing

A famous saying asserts that "dedication leads to success". Perhaps nowhere is this more accurate than in southeast China's Fujian Province, a region renowned for its sharp business acumen.

Quanzhou's private sector is one of the most important in the province. In 2021, the port city became yet another Chinese city with a GDP exceeding 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion), registering a GDP of 1.016 trillion yuan that year. Meanwhile, its GDP has ranked first in Fujian Province for two decades, while its other major economic indicators, such as GDP growth and industrial output, have consistently been some of the highest in the country.

The thriving private business is rooted in local people's entrepreneurship, Xu Qingliu, President of Hengan International Group, a leading personal hygiene products manufacturer listed in Hong Kong, told CGTN on Wednesday in an interview at the group's headquarters in Quanzhou.

"In Quanzhou, it's expected that people want to start their own businesses. The port city's long history of migration overseas, especially to Southeast Asia, encourages local people to take risks and fight for their own businesses," he said.

Backed by tradition, the first generation of entrepreneurs started their businesses from scratch around the early 1990s, mostly in small-scale manufacturing. Many have since become leading players in their respective industries.

As of October 2021, there are 109 listed companies in Quanzhou, official data showed.

Textiles and garments from Quanzhou account for 10 percent of China's total output. Meanwhile, sports shoes from the city comprise 40 percent of the country's production and 20 percent of global output. Moreover, 65 percent of China's stone materials come from Quanzhou, as does 40 percent of worldwide output, local media reported last September, quoting data from the local authorities.

In the early years, many local businesses started as original equipment manufacturers but later more of them are striving to develop their own brands after gaining enough experience, Wang Shuchuan, Executive Vice President of Federation of Fujian Young Entrepreneurs and also general manager of T&H Novel Materials Co.,Ltd, told CGTN on Friday.

Meanwhile, Xu, who took over Hengan from his father as the founder of the group Xu Lianjie, also said that the next step is to improve brand value and keep an eye on long-term development.

"Hengan will focus on the domestic market and plan to spend 3 billion yuan on fixed assets investment," Xu Qingliu said.

After more than four decades of China's reform and opening-up, many of Quanzhou's family businesses are being handed over to second-generation entrepreneurs, most of whom have overseas study or working experience.

Quanzhou's wider industry is also embracing changes. "In addition to traditional manufacturers working on their brand value, Quanzhou is introducing new industries with advanced technology," Wang said.

As a manufacturing powerhouse, Quanzhou has established nine industrial clusters, each with a production value of 100 billion yuan. These clusters include textiles and garments, footwear, petrochemicals, machinery and equipment, building materials and home furnishings, antiques and decorations, paper and printing, electronic information, and food and beverages, local media reported last September, quoting data from local authorities.

In addition, Quanzhou will work to develop three new sectors: new materials, new energy, and biomedicine. It will also speed up the development of five service businesses – digital services, business logistics, cultural tourism, health services, and financial services, according to the city's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).

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