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Zhengzhou National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone is attracting the attention of the world as a leader in economic development – but why?

Zhengzhou National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone is the capital of Henan and one of China’s nine national central cities. As the 16th largest city in China in terms of GDP, it ranks among the top 50 most competitive cities in Asia (and top 100 in the world), and it is playing an increasingly important role in industry in the region, in China and worldwide.

Henan has been the birthplace of many Chinese success stories, and some of China’s earliest silk was found there. Today, as a key part of the government’s ‘Rise of Central China’ strategy, Henan is playing an important role in future successes, leveraging a host of academic, industrial and manufacturing resources to foster innovation at huge scale.

A driver for development

Henan is China’s fifth largest provincial economy, with a GDP higher than Argentina. Established in 1988, the Zhengzhou National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone is the powerhouse for the province, and hosts some of the region’s most innovative tech companies, especially in intelligent industries such as sensors, robotics and information security. 

The zone is responsible for the filing of new patents at a current rate of more than 18,000 each year, drawing from the expertise of five national laboratories, 11 national engineering research centers, two research universities and hundreds of high tech businesses located there. Universities actually account for more than a third of the zone’s population.

Nobel laureates Dan Shechtman and Erwin Neher are among the talent drawn in to work in the zone, while thousands of delegates from around the world convene each year for the World Sensor Summit, the International Internet Security Conference and the China BDS Application Forum. 

Zhengzhou Hi-tech prides itself on its ease of doing business and it has been named a demonstration zone for IP protection by the State Intellectual Property Office.

Moreover, the zone also provides a range of funding schemes for innovators and entrepreneurs, assigning tens of millions of dollars in 2018 to incubation services, development resources and business support for SMEs.

The private sector plays a significant role in the zone, with funds investing in innovative technologies managing more than $1.5 billion in funds and dozens of incubators and accelerators targeting fast-growth startups. 

A population with purpose

Henan is an economic powerhouse for the obvious reason that it is huge. More than 96 million call the province home, and its annual grain output can feed four times its population. Continued rapid growth is building its industrial potential on a similarly grand scale – while the region ranks a solid fifth in terms of national industrial output, it hopes for even higher.

A major factor to help in this ambition is connectivity, especially in Zhengzhou itself. An important node city in the Belt and Road Initiative, Zhengzhou forms the connection for two transcontinental railroads that see people and freight from one side of China to the other; and in 2018, 752 shifts of trains travelled from the zone all the way to Europe.

Zhengzhou’s star-shaped high-speed railway network and world-class cargo airport contribute to making the zone the biggest logistics center in central China. Zhengzhou’s international trade volume reached $61.5 billion in 2018, and the zone also accounted for a third of China’s cross-border e-commerce volume.

Despite China’s vast scale, Zhengzhou is incredibly well connected. You can reach almost any major domestic city in about two hours, and international cities like Seoul and Osaka in just three hours. More than 150 million people travel in and out of Zhengzhou each year, making it one of the busiest hubs in the world. As its industrial and high-tech might increases, we can expect that number to only go up. 

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