A special zone designated by the Chinese government to grow the city of Chongqing is encouraging Atlanta companies look west to the country’s populous inland regions.
Top representatives from the city’s Liangjiang New Area, a zone carved out to encourage westward modernization and development, visited Atlanta Thursday to pitch the locality to investors and exporters.
Liangjiang (“two rivers” because of its location between the Yangtze and the Jialing) is one of just three such special economic areas in China set up directly by the national government. The others are in the powerhouse port cities of Tianjin and Shanghai.
In contrast to areas reliant on international trade, the new area’s website highlights Liangjiang’s westward orientation, focusing on boosting domestic growth by targeting China’s less-developed interior.
Sitting on 130 square kilometers, Liangjiang New Area is home to three special economic zones and four industrial parks. It’s also a multimodal logistics hub with authority over a vast spread of customs warehouses and factory land.
The Liangjiang New Area Administration Committee, the governing body, is tasked with growing the region into a high-tech and finance hub with a focus on software, robotics, smart manufacturing, green farming and other key industries. Companies already located in the area include General Electric, South Korea’s Hankook Tires and SK lithium batteries, as well as auto makers including Chinese affiliates of Hyundai and General Motors.
Aerospace is also a key concern: Home to rocket producer OneSpace‘s main factory (operated by a state-owned partner company), Liangjiang’s name was on China’s first private rocket launched into space this May.
Tang Zongwei, deputy director of the committee, laid out the Liangjiang vision at the start of a luncheon forum that included more than an hour’s worth of presentations from metro-area technology companies looking to export to China.
Jun Lin, a Chongqing native who focuses on business and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and China, called the area an “engine” for local growth in her hometown. She said Atlanta companies would do well to look into what is has to offer.
“They can move easier, and they have more incentives and better policies than other areas,” said Ms. Lin, who helped organize the delegation through her consultancy, US-China Cultural Exchange.
She said the presence of a leader like Mr. Tang and five other officials shows a prioritization of Atlanta and Georgia, since their time on overseas trips is limited as a matter of government policy.
“We had to let them see how great Atlanta is,” Ms. Lin said.
The group toured Georgia Tech and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport during their three-day stay here, she said.
Few Atlantans will be familiar with Chongqing, which claims (along with other regions) the bubbling, spicy dish known as “hot pot” as one of its prized culinary exports. The region is home to more than 30 million people, about 8 million of whom live in the city proper.
Ms. Lin said Chongqing is known for its scenic mountainous areas and rivers, as well as the warmth of its people.
A similar “Southern hospitality,” she said, is what kept her in Georgia after she arrived 10 years ago and began working as a representative of Chongqing’s foreign trade and economic commission in the U.S.
The trip came at a tense time in U.S.-China economic relations, as negotiations to avert a trade war seem to have faltered as both sides threaten new tariffs.