Quanzhou: Where maritime Silk Road begins

A tomb stone unearthed in Quanzhou in 1946. Photo: Ding Yi/Sino-US.com

Quanzhou is the epitome of a developed coastal area.

Lying on China's southeastern coast of Fujian province, Quanzhou is dubbed as the "capital of East Asian culture". The city, which covers an area of 11,015 square kilometers, has a GDP of over 570 billion yuan, beating Fuzhou and Xiamen's combined economy to top the province for 16 straight years.

In 1991, a UN maritime Silk Road delegation of over 100 experts and diplomats from 30 countries and regions visited Quanzhou and affirmed that it was one of the starting points of ancient maritime Silk Road, underscoring its historical status in international research. The large number of cultural relics preserved in Quanzhou attested to the harbor's role in connecting the East and West. Now, the "One Belt, One Road" policy initiated by the Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to further augment its development.

The "One Belt, One Road" policy is a development strategy and framework proposed by China that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Eurasia.

Historical legacy

Quanzhou, also known as Chinchew or Zayton, enjoys a history of over 1,750 years. Italian traveler Marco Polo once said that it was one of the world's biggest seaports with hordes of traders gathering there. The huge stockpile of goods was incredible, he said.

It was one of the world's biggest ports in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). More than 100 ports including India's Madras and Oman's Muscat had business links with Quanzhou in the Song and Yuan dynasties. It was also a global hub for shipbuilding and seamanship.

The economic and cultural exchanges along the maritime Silk Road were boosted by Chinese sailor Zheng He, who commanded expeditionary voyages from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. Quanzhou became a goods distribution center, exporting china, silk and tea to foreign countries. It was also a place where Islamists met Buddhists, where East met West.

Current development

Invigorated by the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, Quanzhou is set to join hands with the countries and regions involved in the initiative to further promote free trade with relaxed foreign investment policies. The authorities will focus on the following aspects:

First, the Quanzhou-Taiwan partnership will be bolstered. Quanzhou is the ancestral home of more than 9 million Taiwanese with Han nationality living in Taiwan. Six national economic zones for Taiwanese in Fujian will spearhead the bilateral trade.

Second, private enterprises are encouraged to establish trade zones, business centers and industrial parks in the cities along the maritime Silk Road. Currently, Quanzhou is accelerating business projects in Russia's Krasnodar, Poland and Bahrain. On the other hand, Quanzhou is luring foreign enterprises. A planned petrochemical industrial park will ensure free trade for oil exporting countries.

Third, Quanzhou is set to continue its legacy of being a melting point of different religions and cultures by building an exchange and exhibition center of maritime Silk Road.

Forth, an Islamic financial center will be built to help with economic reform. Over 50,000 Arab descendants live in Quanzhou who aspire to open the financial market to Arab countries. 

Fifth, by 2025, Quanzhou will reduce its coal consumption to 0.37 tons per unit of GDP with the use of green manufacturing technology, according to an action plan issued last year.

Last, about 9 million overseas Chinese come from Quanzhou, and 90 percent of them live in Southeast Asian countries along the maritime Silk Road including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. It will require their joint efforts to realize Xi's blueprint, said Qiu Yuanping, director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council. The overseas Chinese will play an indispensable role in shaping the new international economic corridor, said Qiu.

(The article is translated and edited by Wu Jie)
 


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