On December 20, 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner, officially added Wuhan to the list of China’s national central cities. It stated that Wuhan is the only city in central China that has a population above 10 million and a GDP volume of over one trillion yuan (US$150 billion).
Wuhan was China’s second-largest city in the early 20th century, but after China implemented its major economic reforms at the end of the 1970s, Wuhan was overtaken by coastal cities. Since 2011, it has introduced a package of stimulus measures to bolster the local economy by upgrading its industry, and the city ranked third among China’s 15 sub-provincial cities in terms of GDP growth in 2014. Nevertheless, the services industry accounted for only 51 percent of its GDP growth in 2015, failing to meet expectations.
In 2016, the GDP of Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, exceeded that of Wuhan for the first time. To catch up, Wuhan’s government has made luring investment its number one aim.
Wuhan’s government staged a series of high-end business events targeting the city’s alumni resources nationwide. On May 29, 2017, investment projects of 100 billion yuan (US$15b) were signed by alumni of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. On August 27, investment projects worth 158 billion yuan (US$24b) were inked by graduates of Wuhan University and several weeks later, investment deals with a value of nearly the same amount were signed by Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.
“Each of these events attracted over 1,000 alumni as well as an investment volume of over 100 billion yuan (US$15b),” said Wang Feng, a senior official from Wuhan Talent Recruitment Bureau. “It far exceeded our expectations.” Shortly after the Talent Recruitment Bureau was established, the Wuhan government unveiled a two billion yuan (US$300m) fund aimed at luring alumni to invest in the city.
Yi Renchuan, deputy director of Wuhan’s investment attraction bureau, said that it is a pioneering move for the city to invite investment through alumni. “We have made full preparations to gain the basic information of all famous entrepreneurs who graduated from universities in Wuhan, as well as their investment intentions, before presenting them with appropriate investment programs,” he told our reporter.
On June 29, 2017, Xiaomi signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Hubei provincial government to establish its regional headquarters at Wuhan East Lake New Technology Development Zone. In addition, a Yangtze Industry Fund in conjunction with the province’s government guidance fund, known as the Yangzte River Industry Fund, was made public.
Yang Shaodan is one official tasked with drawing investment to the development zone. He told NewsChina that it usually takes at least six months to ink an investment agreement with companies, but it took only 50 days to complete the contract with Xiaomi, partly thanks to the high quality investment environment that has developed there. He told our reporter that the local government has continuously removed bureaucracy and improved procedures to enhance service efficiency in targeting companies.
According to the Statistics Bureau of Wuhan, the city’s paid-in value of investment reached 630 billion yuan (US$95b) from January to September 2017, registering an increase of 43.1 percent year-on-year. It is expected that more than 700 billion yuan (US$105b) of investment will actually enter in 2017. Alumni have played a significant role.
Yan Hongying, management director of Wuhan Talent Recruitment Bureau, told NewsChina that talent recruitment advisers have to meet two basic requirements – having a solid reputation nationwide and even worldwide, and having sufficient resources, including a talent pool, funds, technology and information.