Guangzhou talks up Japan ties

By Cai Hong in Tokyo | | Updated: 2017-04-26 13:18

Officials and business people from Guangzhou and their Japanese counterparts have shared their views on having an open perspective and innovative approach at a forum in Tokyo.

Clay Chandler, executive editor international of Time Inc., said China's reform will continue, describing the city in South China as a trailblazer in reform that has taken the lead in development.

Koji Yonetani, executive director of the Guangzhou-based Japan External Trade Organization, said China is no longer a provider of cheap labor which means that China does not have the advantage in terms of cost. Instead, he said Japanese companies should pursue innovation at a higher level in China and try to find new sources of growth.

"We take China as a huge market rather than a production base for cheap products. China's economy is on the transformation from quantity to quality," Hitachi executive officer Kenichi Kokubo said.

While in Tokyo, Guangzhou vice-mayor Cai Chaolin took the opportunity to promote the 2017 Fortune Global Forum, which Guangdong province's capital will host in December.

"We have the theme of ‘openness and innovation' for the 2017 Fortune Global Forum in the hope that entrepreneurs from all over the world will discuss how to put impetus into the global economic growth," Cai said. "The forum will be a platform for investors to explore opportunities. Guangzhou will show the world the city's wisdom and China's proposals."

He said Japan is an important trade partner for the city. Trade volume between Guangzhou and Japan (please check) hit $12.77 billion in 2016, a 12.5 percent increase from the previous year. Guangzhou imported $9.31 billion worth of products from Japan, up 11.8 percent while the city's exports to Japan totaled $3.46 billion, a 14.4 percent increase.

There are 626 Japanese companies that have invested in production bases in Guangzhou, including car manufacturers Honda, Toyota and Nissan. Many corporations such as Panasonics, Denso, Mizuho, Aeon and Hitachi have boomed in Guangdong's capital, while 16 Guangzhou firms have launched businesses in Japan.

Guangzhou is valued by 288 out of Global 500 companies (what does this mean?), becoming an important place for these transnational firms to launch their South China strategies.

Cai said Guangzhou had incomparable advantages. The city has a large market and huge potential. Along with Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing, Guangzhou has been designated by the central government as a national central city, covering 7,434 square kilometers and more than 20 million people under its control. According to the Chinese Cities of Opportunity study report, jointly launched by PwC China and the China Development Research Foundation, Guangzhou topped the ranking.

In the past six years, Guangzhou has been listed as the "Best Commercial City in Chinese Mainland" by Forbes magazine five times. In 2015, the city's gross domestic product reached $262.92 billion, ranking the third in Chinese mainland for 27 consecutive years.

Cai called Guangzhou "a city with a brain for innovation". The city attracted 2800 new hi-tech businesses in 2016, or seven each day. There are more than 120,000 innovation-driven companies in Guangzhou. Wechat, China's version of Facebook, was born in Guangzhou and has more than 80 million active users a month.

It takes only four hours to fly from Guangzhou to Japan. The city has a long history of friendly relationship with Japan. On May 2, 1979 Guangzhou and Fukuoka became sister cities. Now there are around 80,000 foreigners, most of whom are Japanese citizens, living in Guangzhou, according to Cai.

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