Boost for 'Motor City' as Xiaomi sets up

Wuhan, China's "Motor City," has received a boost in its pursuit of building a high-tech hub with the opening of Chinese tech firm Xiaomi's new headquarters.

Wuhan, China’s “Motor City,” has received a boost in its pursuit of building a high-tech hub with the opening of Chinese tech firm Xiaomi’s new headquarters.

The new Xiaomi headquarters will focus on the development of several of the company’s core technologies including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data, according to the Beijing-based company.

“My expectations for the next decade are to turn Wuhan into a large research and development center for Xiaomi and an AI-era technological heartland,” said Lei Jun, founder and chairman of Xiaomi.

The company is the latest tech heavyweight to settle in the East Lake High-tech Development Zone, or Optics Valley, to boost the city’s initiative of building an innovation powerhouse.

The capital of Hubei Province is witnessing a tech boom with rapid developments registered in emerging industries including optoelectronic information, intelligent manufacturing and high-tech services.

Optics Valley, lying at the heart of the city’s high-tech drive, now boasts over 90,000 companies. In 2018, it registered 88 new enterprises each workday and received as many as 29,000 patent applications, official data shows.

It drove the output of Wuhan’s high-tech industries above the designated size to more than 1 trillion yuan (US$143 billion) in 2018, an increase of 16.1 percent year on year.

That year, Wuhan enjoyed yearly GDP growth of 8 percent, higher than the national average, even as sluggish car sales weighed on the city’s pillar automotive industry.

Wuhan, a major producer of steel and vehicles, began to encourage the high-tech industry in 1988, with the establishment of Optics Valley.

In recent years, the sector picked up steam amid the national trend of optimizing industrial structures.

The industrial park, already the world’s largest producer of optical fiber and cables, has also become an ideal destination for the new headquarters of tech firms. In 2017, AI heavyweight iFlytek and Internet-based firms like Qihoo 360 and Kingsoft located their second headquarters there. It also houses the research centers of e-commerce giant Alibaba and tech giant Huawei.

High-tech fever is also sweeping other second-tier Chinese cities. Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province, is nurturing a virtual reality industrial cluster, while Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, is a testing ground for the country’s state-of-the-art self-driving vehicles.

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