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The Road To Smart Transformation of Liangjiang New Area

By Kenny Dong|Aug 18,2021

You probably knew about Pudong New Area. As the economic engine of Shanghai, there would be no prosperous international metropolis near Huangpu River of today without Pudong.

Like Pudong, Chongqing Liangjiang New Area is also a national new area approved by the China State Council, given by the nation the preferential policy and the crucial mission on economic development. It is fair to say that Liangjiang’s importance to Chongqing is no less than Pudong’s to Shanghai.

Pudong, according to the literal meaning, means “the east bank of Huangpu River.” Liangjiang, naturally named by close mountains and rivers, as a tradition of Chinese naming, means “the place between the two rivers.” The rivers are Yangtze and Jialing, in which the latter is a tributary of the former.

Jiangbeizui, where the two rivers converge, stands the core financial area of Chongqing managed by Liangjiang New Area. (Photo/ Siqi)

The first inland national new area

The economic success of the Reform and Opening-up strategy was largely dependent on the ocean. Initially, the Special Economic Zones group of cities quickly became major open ports with preferential policy. They gradually became prosperous and brought opportunities to the neighboring areas.

The economic booming of the east coast is in all aspects. The giant seaports in Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen give advantages to those regions for international trade. The trading advantage appeals to capital flowing in. The accumulation of fortune makes people richer, which greatly promotes consumption. With investment, export, and consumption, the three most important factors of economic growth fully in place, the east coast of China took the lead in the economic success.

Unlike Pudong, Liangjiang New Area is not close to the ocean. Instead, it is surrounded by two rivers, lots of hills, and mountains in the west – It is the first inland National New Area of China.

The west inland China, once busy as the ancient Silk Road trade flourishing, now is not comparable to the east coast with large seaports in international trade. An economic gap between the west inland and the east coast still exists.

To further open the door of inland China and to shrink the economic gap between the east and the west, it is under these historical missions that Liangjiang New Area comes out on the stage.

Guoyuan Port, the "orchard" port, was an inland port in Chongqing Liangjiang New Area, also the largest inland port in China. (Photo/Feng Zhiyi, Liangjiang New Area)

Pioneer of smart transformation in Chongqing

To understand Liangjiang New Area, you need to know about Chongqing’s industry. As a metropolis of inland China, Chongqing’s industrial development began in World War II when the enemy captured the coast areas, followed by numerous enterprises moving inland. In the Third Front Movement of the 1960s, the heavy industry of vehicles, weapons, and steel was confirmed as the main industry of this city. Chang’an Automobile, Jianshe Motorcycle, and Hongyan Truck were the auto enterprises founded in that period, which still exist today in Chongqing. The auto industry gradually became the mainstay of the city.

Chongqing would not need to transform its industry if everything stayed unchanged. However, traditional heavy industry was hit by emerging industries in recent years, in which the trend showed as the quantity of both the production and selling dropped. In 2019, the production value of the Chongqing auto industry dropped by 17.3%. Other traditional manufacturing was also suffered similarly. In that year, Chongqing’s GDP increasing rate was lower than the national average, unlike the last couple of years when it always took the lead nationwide.

An auto industrial analyst said that the direct reason for the unsatisfied outcome of Chongqing’s auto business was the readjustment of purchase tax in that year, but the deeper reason was the fierce external competence. If Chongqing auto enterprises want to regain the advantage, they must open their eyes and seek a new way.

Chang'an Auto is the auto industry leader of Chongqing, whose muscle, to say the least, shoulders the auto industry of this city. (Photo by Yin Jun)

At the same time, Smart China Expo brought a wind of hope to Chongqing.

In 2018, Chongqing promoted big data and smart industry, raising the contribution of advanced manufacturing, “letting intelligentization empower the economy,” and realizing the smart transformation. As gathering lots of Chongqing manufacturing enterprises, plus the permanent holding site of the Smart China Expo, Liangjiang New Area naturally became the frontline of the industry upgrading battle.

When the world is developing towards intelligentization, enterprises can seize the opportunity ahead in the next wave of the industrial revolution. “Intelligentization is not only the opportunity for the enterprises but also the opportunity for the city to renovating its industry and infrastructure, in a nutshell, to move onto the higher level,” said Hu Jingbing, the director of Industrial Promotion Bureau of Liangjiang New Area.

But why is the concept of intelligentization so important that the Chinese government and enterprises are mentioning it more and more frequently? For ordinary people, intelligentization means smart technologies like online payment, face scanning, smart furniture, which are easy to understand. But when it comes to industry, what does it mean to our enterprises and technicians?

A robot arm serving tourists with water is exhibited in Lijia Smart Park, Liangjiang New Area. (Photo/ Ran Yulin, Liangjiang New Area)

“There are two levels of meaning in terms of industrial intelligentization. One is to optimize the production process of factories. The other is to produce advanced products to occupy the high end of the industry chain,” Hu Jingbing said.

Promising future

With both effort and fortune, Chongqing has made some progress in this battle so far.

Case 1: Smart factory

Jinkang Seres Auto Company built the first smart auto factory in Chongqing. The product line can run without manual interference, as robots replacing human labor in each procedure. The production has realized 100% automatization and 100% online quality inspection, according to Jinkang Seres’ manager.

In the product line of Jinkang's smart factory, robots arm are assembling auto accessories. (Photo by Ran Yulin/ Liangjiang New Area)

The other smart factory built by Zongshen Power is twice efficient as the old auto production line, with the ability of self-correction, which is 11 times efficient as the old one, said its CIO Jiang Wen.

To put it simply, the upgrade of automatization can help enterprises cut the cost and boost efficiency, thus realizing the goal of increasing net profits. Automatization is recognized as the future of manufacturing.

Case 2: Advanced product

In the past, Chang’an Auto lacked competitive high-end products. Through years of efforts, Chang’an presented the UNI series, an independent R&D car series, to explore the high-end market, which sold 63,756 cars in the first half of 2021, occupying one-tenth of Chang’an total sales. Chang’an also became the champion of domestic, independent vehicle sales in the first half of the year.

In the field of electric vehicles, Jinkang cooperates with Huawei upgrading the smart vehicle system of its flagship electronic car, SF5. This car is given the great hope to light a fire in the electric car market.

Apart from native auto enterprises, Chongqing has introduced many international companies like Polestar, Ford, ISUZU, according to the media contact of Chongqing Economic and Information Commission. Most of those enterprises are located in Liangjiang New Area.

Other advanced manufacturing enterprises are being introduced to Chongqing as well. Such as in the equipment manufacturing field, Fanuc Co., the largest advanced industrial robot maker in the world, built their Chongqing factory in Liangjiang New Area in 2019. “Many well-known automobile companies are in Chongqing, like Chang’an, Ford, Xiaokang and so on. Their demand for robots is huge, and some of them are already big customers of Fanuc Chongqing,” said Sheng Yijun, the deputy manager of Fanuc Chongqing.

Fanuc Chongqing factory is now used for customizing products transferred from Shanghai factory for local clients, but it will be enlarged and added with automated production line soon, said Sheng Yiyun, deputy manager of Fanuc. (Photo by Kenny Dong)

The Smart China Expo has only been going on for four years, along with the atmosphere of understanding, brainstorming, researching intelligence is brought to the city. The only thing we feel certain about the shape of Liangjiang New Area and Chongqing is that there will be more changes in the future.


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