Zhuhai: An Emerging Force in South China

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Panorama of Guangzhou in daytime, Zhujiang New Town.By Rainy Yao

Located in the center of the Pearl River Delta (PRD), Zhuhai is one of China’s four original Special Economic Zones (SEZs) established in 1980. The city borders Macau to the south and is about one hour away from Guangzhou and Shenzhen by car. In the past three decades, Zhuhai has experienced strong economic growth due to its geographical proximity to Hong Kong and Macau, and is the only deep-water port on the western side of the Pearl River. In this article, we take a closer look at this emerging force in South China.

Economic overview

In 2013, Zhuhai’s GDP reached RMB 166.2 billion, up 10.5 percent from the year previous. Zhuhai was originally planned as a high-tech research area, and was prohibited for the establishment of heavy industry. Nonetheless, Zhuhai’s economy is largely based on light industries, such as textiles and electronics. In 2013, the city’s primary industry contributed RMB 4.3 billion of its total GDP, and its secondary industry RMB 84.9 billion, accounting for more than 51 per cent of the economy. The remaining RMB 77 billion came from the service sector, among which, the modern service sector brought in RMB 44.2 billion (10.3 per cent growth).

Now a major manufacturing base for electronics, Zhuhai is making an effort to promote the growth of a wide range of hi-tech and high value-added industries, such as its software, petrochemical and ocean-based industries. The six major industries of the city include electronic information, bio-pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, electrical appliances, precision machinery manufacturing and energy.

Transportation network

Zhuhai’s transport network has greatly improved in recent years. In particular, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, currently under construction, is expected to be completed in 2015. Improved connectivity between the three cities will undoubtedly give a boost to Zhuhai’s economic presence in the region. The bridge will connect the west of Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai. The city is already connected to major metropolitan centers in the Pearl River Delta through the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Zhuhai superhighway. Zhuhai Airport services more than 30 flights a day to major cities in China.

Related Link Icon RELATED: China Announces Location of New Free Trade Zones, Expands Shanghai FTZ 

Development zones

Zhuhai’s main development zones include:

Zhuhai Economic and Technological Development Zone (Gaolan Port EDZ)

The Zhuhai ETDZ, previously known as the Gaolan Port Economic Development Zone, was promoted to become the first national economic and technology development zone west of the Pearl River Delta in 2012. It is one of the most important large-scale comprehensive harbor industry zones of South China, with a focus on equipment manufacturing, petrochemicals and energy.

Hengqin New Area

Hengqin New Area, located in the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone, is only a stone’s throw away from Macau. As part of the One Country, Two Systems policy, the central government is trying to integrate the economies of Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China. Hengqin is directly across the water from Macau, and as such is a pilot zone for integration. It has already attracted over RMB 226.3 billion (US$36.4 billion) in total investment. With professional zone management, as well as the most preferential investment policies in South China, Hengqin New Area offers appealing incentives to investors.

Zhuhai National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone

Established in 1992, the zone mainly features industrial clusters such as food processing, pharmaceutics and electronics. It is home to several R&D centers and focuses on the commercialization of newly developed technology. The zone houses branch offices of major government bureaus to facilitate administrative processes. It has been rapidly expanding and now encompasses the industry parks of Nanping, Sanzao, Xinqing and Baijiao.

Zhuhai-Macau Cross-border Industrial Park

The Zhuhai-Macau Cross-border Zone spans the jurisdictions of Macau and Zhuhai, with each government managing its own section. It is a bonded zone, with reduced export duties and 24-hour port clearance. 

Investment opportunities

In 2014, the Zhuhai government released a slew of administrative measures to promote the development of its bio-pharmaceutical, “ocean-related” and high-tech industries. For example, enterprises regarded as national high-tech enterprises can benefit from a reduced corporate income tax (CIT) rate of 15 per cent. Companies investing in research and development are eligible for financial support and subsidies of up to RMB 2 million per company. The city is home to over 50 financial institutions including Morgan Stanley, Bank of East Asia and Standard Chartered. Compared with other coastal cities, labor costs are lower in Zhuhai with a monthly minimum wage of RMB 1,380.

Tax incentives

In March 2014, China issued a “Preferential Corporate Income Tax Catalog” for Hengqin New Area, which identified five industries and 72 business categories, such as ocean-sourced pharmaceuticals and health care, for preferential tax treatment. While China’s standard rate of corporate income tax is 25 percent, eligible enterprises listed in the Catalog will be taxed at a reduced 15 percent rate closer to corporate income tax levels in Hong Kong and Macau.

Future FTZ

The Chinese government has recently announced plans to soon establish a free trade zone (FTZ) in Guangdong province, following the model of the Shanghai FTZ. The new FTZ will cover three development zones in Guangdong province including the Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai, making it one of the city’s most attractive destinations for foreign investment.


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