Optimized structure fuels Shanxi's transformation

By Hu Yuyan (China Daily)

Updated: 2020-01-13

Resource-rich Shanxi province in North China is trying to shake off its dependence on coal by investing in alternative industries for sustainable growth.

One-third of China's coal reserves are located in Shanxi, which used to "power half of the country's light bulbs". Yet decades of dependence on coal has given Shanxi's economy deep-seated structural problems.

Depending on a single resource is risky business for any economy, especially when the resource is nonrenewable. Diversification of the economy has become the only way out.

The Shanxi Transition and Comprehensive Reform Demonstration Zone, located in the city of Taiyuan, was established in 2017 as one of the province's significant steps away from a coal-dominated economic structure.

The zone is intended to become an innovation hub for emerging industries such as big data, internet of things, cross-border e-commerce, advanced manufacturing, new materials, energy conservation, new energy vehicles and modern logistics.

The government said it hopes that achievements made in the zone can be repeated across the entire province.

Since its establishment less than three years ago, the zone has introduced 138 projects in emerging sectors, involving a total investment worth 230 billion yuan ($33 billion). Companies including Tiancheng Electronic Information Technology and Chengong New Energy Technology have settled in the zone.

Bringing in projects is only one step in the process of transforming the local economy.

Quality support services for the businesses involved are equally important. To make life easier for these companies, in 2018 the zone launched an "all-in-one" online platform that can handle 150 administrative procedures, improving efficiency.

Access to the platform is displayed prominently on the front page of the zone's official online portal. And a professional team has been established to assist companies with the online procedures.

"The all-in-one online platform has brought us great convenience," said Ma Yuefei, a senior executive at Taiyuan Daningtang Pharmaceutical. "What took five to six months before can now be done in only two months.

"The paperwork for environmental impact assessment, quality supervision and other procedures can all be completed online. We no longer need to prepare multiple copies of paperwork for different departments as they can now share one copy online," Ma added.

From January to November last year, the added value of non-coal industries above a designated size in Shanxi grew 6.4 percent year-on-year.

Their contribution to the provincial total was 57.1 percent, 14.2 percentage points higher than that of the coal industry, according to the Shanxi Statistics Bureau.

Between 2016 and 2018, Shanxi province shut down 88 coal mines, phasing out 88.41 million metric tons of excess coal production capacity, the biggest amount of any province nationwide, Xinhua News Agency reported.