Shanghai's economy continues humming along

Huang Yixuan
The city's gross domestic product achieved a robust 8.1 percent growth rate for the full year to reach 4.32 trillion yuan, marking its first time exceeding 4 trillion yuan.
Huang Yixuan

Shanghai's economy maintained stable growth in 2021 despite external uncertainties, with annual gross domestic product surpassing the 4-trillion-yuan mark for the first time, according to the city's Report on the Work of the Government released on Thursday.

Over the past year, Shanghai has stuck to promoting high-quality development in line with the new development pattern. It has accomplished the major tasks and goals set out in early 2021, achieving a solid start for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng said at the ongoing sixth session of the 15th Shanghai People's Congress.

The city's GDP achieved a robust 8.1 percent growth rate for the full year to reach 4.32 trillion yuan (US$681 billion), marking its first time exceeding 4 trillion yuan and ranking first among all cities in China.

Revenue from the local general public budget jumped 10.3 percent, reversing last year's dip, and consumer prices rose 1.2 percent.

The surveyed urban unemployment rate was significantly lower than the target set in early 2021, and 635,000 new jobs were created last year.

New momentum for economic development continued to accelerate, with the research and development expenditures equivalent to 41 percent of the city's GDP.

The structure and distribution of R&D reflects the equilibrium of a region's future momentum, said He Wanpeng, director and chief researcher of Shanghai New Bund Research Center for Emerging Industries.

"Shanghai showed good balance in various aspects, such as basic and applied research, government and enterprise investment, and R&D investment by state-owned, private and foreign enterprises," He said.

Li Xunlei, chief economist at Zhongtai Securities, focuses more on indicators like the growth rate of high-end manufacturing and proportion of key industries in the digital economy.

According to the city's work report, Shanghai's manufacturing output in the three major industries – integrated circuits, biomedicine and artificial intelligence – soared by 18.3 percent. These core industries of the digital economy, meanwhile, accounted for 12 percent of overall GDP.

These figures above the national average indicate that Shanghai has found a new economic growth engine, with emerging industries leading the development, Li said.

In addition, the city saw vigorous growth in new market entities, with the number of enterprises owned per thousand people ranking first in the country.

Gong also highlighted the key role of innovation in bolstering healthy economic growth, with deepening of the "five centers" construction and enhancement of "four major functions."

The construction of the national laboratory in Shanghai proceeded smoothly, the establishment of the world's top scientist community commenced and Zhangjiang Science City completed its expansion.

The "Shanghai Plan" for integrated circuits, biomedicine and artificial intelligence was carried out at a faster-than-anticipated pace, with major breakthroughs in a number of key core technologies, such as the mass production of high-end, general-purpose graphics chips.

Shanghai also led the nation in protection of intellectual property rights, Gong noted. The number of high-value invention patents per 10,000 people reached about 34, and the number of high-tech enterprises exceeds 20,000.

Meanwhile, to expand domestic demand and stabilize foreign demand, supportive policies and measures were formulated and put into practice, while campaigns such as the Double Five Shopping Festival were launched to boost consumption and explore new business forms and models.

In 2021, Shanghai attracted 1,078 new companies to set up their "first stores" in the city, the highest number for any city in China, and total retail sales of consumer goods jumped 13.5 percent.

To boost foreign investment, the management system and mechanisms for the approval and filing of foreign investment projects were further optimized, driving the actual use of foreign investment to US$225.5 billion, an increase of 11.5 percent.

The city also became home to 60 new regional headquarters of multinational enterprises and 25 new foreign-funded R&D centers, bringing the total numbers to 831 and 506, respectively, indicating the city has become one of the most important centers for the global economy.

Foreign trade volume was more than 4 trillion yuan, surging 16.5 percent. Of note, the city's trade in services accounted for 30 percent of the national total.

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