This year, the 18-th summit of the Council of the SCO member states heads will take place in Qingdao. A picturesque seaside city located on the East coast of China is in the focus of attention of the global community.
Why was this very location selected for the summit? Qingdao and the SCO have a lot in common – that is openness, development, inclusivity – thanks to these features the city develops very dynamically and successfully.
Qingdao is located in the south of Shandong peninsula on the Yellow Sea coastline. The city is famous for simultaneously being a sea resort, "tourists' paradise", large international port, pilot region of all-China importance for development of the sea economy, etc.
Initially, Qingdao was established as a seacoast city. Further development and growth of the city are connected to the foreign trade. Openness and connections to the outside world became a source of continuous progress for the city.
Qingdao is famous in China as a cultural and historical center. 6,000 years ago, the first inhabitants appeared in the neighborhood, but then, for a long time from historical point of view, Qingdao was a hardly known settlement. During the XIX century, Qingdao, strengthening and expanding contacts with the outside world, gradually was becoming a place that connected The Celestial Empire with other countries. As a result of this more and more foreigners started visiting the city. Up to now, there is a number of European architecture examples – mainly mansions built in English, French, Russian and German styles.
In the 80's of the last century, when the reforms and openness had started in China, Qingdao became one of the first 14 open sea coast cities. Since then, the city steadily and with fast pace follows the openness and development road. According to the data, by the end of 2017, Qingdao established trade contacts with 215 countries and regions of the world, the city is connected to 69 sister-cities and partner-cities all over the world. Qingdao constantly expands and strengthen international co-operation. Total foreign capital actually used in the city exceeded USD 60 billion. 126 out of 500 largest companies and foreign entities in the world invested their funds into 248 projects. 1,542 projects were implemented with the foreign investments involving 99 countries and regions of the world. Currently, the total volume of the foreign investments is as high as USD 29.55 billion. Port of Qingdao maintains trade relations with over 700 ports of 180 countries and regions of the world, the city is connected to the outside world by 186 regular flights.
"Reforms and openness are the assets allowing our city to keep up with the times and steadily move forward. The reforms and openness are the endless process, we need to firmly and rigorously, on all fronts deepen the reforms, extend openness, stimulate resiliency and form new advantages", – said Zhang Jianting, the Secretary of the City Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The reform and openness policy permits Qingdao to find new development directions, and building the Belt and Road presents unprecedented opportunities.
In 2013, the Chinese Government officially launched an initiative to build the Belt and Road. Qingdao was positioned as a main junction of the economic corridor of a new continental bridge, as well as a pivot city in the framework of the maritime interaction strategy. As Li Guanghui, Deputy Director of the Research Institution of the Ministry of Commerce of China noted, all this mainly was determined by the geographical location and historical development of the city. "In the ancient times, Qingdao was a starting point of the Northern part of the Maritime Silk Road. Thanks to the geographical advantages, Qingdao was first to start expanding foreign trade, this also allowed it to fast and successfully find the place in the framework of the Belt and Road." According to the data, within four years after the Chinese party initiated building of the Belt and Road, Qingdao was able to start practical implementation of 696 project in 47 countries and regions of the world that were adjacent to the Belt and Road, total volume of investments amounted to USD 7.315 billion.
Thanks to the Belt and Road initiative, an industrial park was built on the territory of Qingdao in the framework of Eurasian trade and economic partnership. The park scales up cross-border and multi-lateral co-operation with Eurasia continent, Japan and South Korea markets, paying special attention to international logistics and trade in terms of production location both in China and abroad. By now, the center of the industrial park performs 21 Eurasian projects with total volume of investment amounting to CNY 18 billion.
At the same time, basing on the advantages of openness to the outside world, Qingdao created a range of the processing and assembly bases, logistics and production parks and platforms of e-trade on the territory of Russia, Central Asia, Central and East Europe, as well as ASEAN countries, South Asia and Far East. Thanks to active participation in the local production parks in the framework of the Eurasian trade and economic co-operation, the bordering countries and regions have good chances to participate in building of the Belt and Road, which further will allow them to mutually use the fruits of development.
"I live in this city for about four years and already love it," – admits Nikolay, a 22 years old Russian. He is a fourth-year student of the International Education Institute of the Qingdao University. Nikolay keeps repeating that he sees with his own eyes the significant changes happening in the city. A process of the growing internationalization of the city is really impressive.
Every year more and more foreigners study, live and work in Qingdao. Preferential policy of attracting skilled labor, favorable business climate, free atmosphere, very comfortable and gentle environment attract many foreigners, especially young ones. To a large extent this is a result of an objective of "building a happy, modern international city, pleasant for working and living". This objective was set by the administration as early as 2012. In order to achieve the set objective, 8 special groups were formed, a working mechanism to promote development strategy of Qingdao as an international city was created and practical implementation of the city development strategy was started. It is indicative that creation of inclusive atmosphere in the city and construction of an international city, maintaining tight connection to the outside world are the main content of this strategy.
On April 14-15, the 16th International Fair for Skilled Labor Exchange took place in Shenzhen (province of Guangdong). This event is called a barometer of the "city internationalization". A ranking list of the Chinese cities that enjoy the highest attractiveness for foreign skilled labor was published at the Fair. According to the monitoring results, Qingdao was included into the top list giving way only to Shanghai, Beijing and Hefei.
Such a high rank is supported by many known international representatives and high-level officials, including ex-prime minister of Egypt, Essam Saraf, the Chairman of the Council of the Organization for Sustainable Development. As Essam Saraf, who visited Qingdao in 2016 and participated the event within the framework of C20 (Civil society 20), noted, Qingdao is a city possessing a spirit of openness, full of innovative energy, and local infrastructure facilities and local service industry is characterized by high international level.
In April 2018, the city government initiated the Program of Activities Concerning Promotion of the "Internalization+" Strategy. There are 200 activities, which are aimed at improving "international competitiveness, international influence and international attractiveness of the city". All this will certainly help the city to further promote reforms and openness, and steadily move towards intended objective.