Wuxi excels in Shanghai's metropolitan-region plan
When it comes to Wuxi City in the neighboring Jiangsu Province, what comes to mind immediately might be the Wuxi xiaolongbao, small steamed buns, which feature red soy sauce soup and a sweet flavor.
Wuxi is also known as the "Pearl of Taihu Lake," with charming Jiangnan (regions in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River) culture, a good ecological environment, thriving industrial clusters as well as sound business environment.
Located at the geographical center of Yangtze River Delta region within a one-hour drive from Shanghai, the city now is striving to integrate into Shanghai's metropolitan-region plan – the construction plan of a city cluster centered around Shanghai.
Wuxi covers an area of 4627 square kilometers, with five administrative districts and an economic development zone, where the Shanghai-Nanjing and Ningbo-Hangzhou development corridors intersect.
It enjoys rich waterways resources with Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal running through.
Meanwhile, the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway traverses east to west, while the Shanghai-Nanjing, Beijing-Shanghai as well as other highways crisscross the region.
Now the Jiangyin Railway Station is under construction in Jiangyin City which belongs to Wuxi. The railway station is the largest of the newly-built stations along the Shanghai-Najing high-speed railway, a key line running from east to west in the Yangtze River Delta.
Wuxi achieved a regional GDP of more than 1.48 trillion yuan (US$212 billion) last year, which increased 3 percent on an annual basis. Meanwhile, the city's per-capita GDP reached 198,000 yuan, making it the best among large and medium-sized cities in China with a population between 500,000 and 5 million.
The city now has four landmark industries, including the Internet of Things, integrated circuits, biomedicines, software and information technology.
Based on the industrial strengths in Wuxi, Shanghai Jiao Tong University has established a photon research center here, aiming to establish China's first medium experimental line on photonic chips, a new frontier that the whole world is at a startup stage.
Wuxi also has six advantageous industries, such as new energy, environmental protection, specialty new materials and auto mobiles and components, which attracts a great number of large companies to settle, including SAIC Maxus and Geely.
As one of the brands of the largest Shanghai-based auto group, SAIC Maxus has factories in Wuxi, Nanjing, and Liyang. Among them, the Wuxi factory is the biggest producer, with an annual production of approximately 200,000 vehicles which benefits from the strong industrial support chain in the Yangtze River delta.
In addition, China's another auto giant, Geely has put its high-performance electric drive center in Wuxi Huishan economic developed zone in early 2022.
In recent years, Wuxi has released a series of measures to serve the city's plan to integrate with Shanghai's metropolitan-region plan from various aspects, such as ports connection, digital services as well as medical resources sharing.
In terms of port transportation, Wuxi has become a vital site for Shanghai's ports to extend their services to inland areas within the Yangtze River Delta region.
Shanghai's ports operator, Shanghai International Port Group, has sited an Inland Container Terminal (ICT) center in Wuxi since last year, to ease procedures on containers for Wuxi enterprises which hold import and export needs.
The city is home to many major manufacturing enterprises and large foreign-trade companies.
For example, in 2022, the sales volume of SAIC Maxus exceeded 190,000 vehicles, with overseas sales exceeding 30 percent of the total.
Before the center was built, foreign-trade companies in Wuxi needed to transport goods to Shanghai ports for shipping, or receive the goods from Shanghai, then transport to Wuxi.
Enterprises in Wuxi now are able to receive and load their cargo containers through the Wuxi ports instead of from Shanghai's ports.
"After imported cargo containers arrive at Shanghai port, they will be reloaded to another ship, then transferred to Wuxi through the inland waterways," Hua Zhen, an official with Wuxi High-Tech Logistic Center Company, the Wuxi ports operator, explained to the reporter.
"On the other hand, local companies can also transfer their containers at Wuxi, which is more economical and eco-friendly as the cost of waterway transport is lower and it produces less pollution."
Foreign-trade companies can order the empty containers online through the ICT platform, and the Wuxi ports operator will be in charge of allocating and transporting.
The center helps to shorten the distance between enterprises and shipping ports from 200 kilometers to 20 kilometers with carbon emission dropping by 72 percent and logistic cost cutting by 10 percent.
The center also establishes a storage place for empty containers.
"The center has helped Shanghai to ease the holding-up problem of a large number of empty containers," Hua said.
Currently, both Wuxi and Shanghai are working together to break through customs restrictions, to achieve the goal of "entering the customs upon arrival at ports."
Residents in Wuxi are able to enjoy the top-level medical services similar to Shanghai at the "doorstep." The Shanghai Ruijin Hospital has a branch here.
They can make reservations with the top-level medical experts via the branch and enjoy the same-standard medical tests here instead of going to Shanghai.
"We run the Wuxi branch in a manner the same as Shanghai Ruijin," said Ning Guang, the director of Ruijin Hospital.
"We are trying our best to provide health-care services to patients in Wuxi the same as they can receive in Shanghai."
The branch was officially put into operation on March 26, 2019 with the total investment hitting 1.93 billion yuan. At present, the hospital has 36 clinical medical technology departments and 10 inpatient areas.
Apart from bringing in top medical resources to Wuxi, the branch can also help alleviate pressure on Shanghai Ruijin: patients who need to wait for a bed in Shanghai can turn to Wuxi Ruijin for medical help.
In addition, patients who suffer from cancer and rare disease may have the opportunities to reach the latest new drugs or medical equipment, such as targeted drugs and orphan-disease drugs, as Ruijin-Wuxi hospital has a close connection with Ruijin's other branch in Hainan Province.
Ruijin-Hainan Hospital has been involved in a trial project for new drug, equipment introduction and research in China thanks to favorable policies applied to Hainan.
The policies allow the application of medicines not approved in China to be used in Hainan at the Boao Lecheng Pilot Zone of International Medical Tourism, where the hospital is located.
"If we ensure our patient is eligible for newly arrived drugs in Hainan branch, we will send the patient there for further treatment," said Shao Jie, the director of Wuxi branch of Ruijin Hospital.
The branch hospital also established research labs for clinical experiments.
This January, with the support of Shanghai Ruijin, the branch distributed Paxlovid and VV116, two anti-COVID-19 drugs, to patients over 18 years old, in Wuxi Xinwu District.
Located at the center of Wuxi Economic Development Zone, a digital enterprises cluster, Xuelang Town, has become the digital brain of Wuxi's manufacturing industry, the city's pillar industry.
The town built in 2017 was initiated by Wang Jian, an academician of the Chinese Engineering Academy, who also helped build other two digital towns in Yangtze River Delta region, Hai Na Town in Shanghai and Yun Qi Town.
Since it was founded, the town has attracted more than 300 enterprises related to digital economy with total revenues hitting 11.2 billion yuan.
Not only supporting the local companies, the town has provided digital and data computing services to enterprises, institutions, colleges as well as governments across the country, including Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, East China University of Science and Technology as well as many state-owned major energy enterprises.
"We have helped our customers to decrease costs and improve efficiency by analyzing and computing the data," said a staffer with the town.
Xuelang Town has established an innovation center in Shanghai since October, 2021, which further connects the town's digital innovation resources with Shanghai Hongqiao Business Zone.
"Our Shanghai center has close connections with many Shanghai leading universities," said Zhao Ming, an official with the town.
"The center can help innovative talent or startup companies put their brilliant ideas into practice."