The Belt and Road Initiative has transformed Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, into a manufacturing and service hub for the initiative as well as a hot spot in attracting foreign direct investment, said officials and experts.
Their comments came after both global and home companies signed agreements to invest 213.97 billion yuan ($31.12 billion) in the city to develop businesses in areas such as modern manufacturing, service, logistics, new material, healthcare, 5G infrastructure and global commodity trade platform development during the Xi'an Investment Environment Promotion Conference held from May 11 and 15.
Under its plan, Chinese internet search giant Baidu Inc will build a cloud computing center in Xi'an. It will be Baidu's largest data center in western China and build its industrial chain involving companies from electronic components and hardware equipment manufacturing sectors, basic software, platform and application software research and development.
China's centrally administered State-owned enterprises including the Metallurgical Corporation of China Ltd, China Railway Group Ltd and Power Construction Corporation of China have also established their northwest regional headquarters and supporting facilities in Xi'an to better participate in the development of the BRI.
Xi'an kept deploying resources and talents on building the city into the starting point for the Silk Road Economic Belt, said Li Mingyuan, the city's mayor, adding the development of BRI will bring stability to the global economy and will definitely give a boost to regional development and prosperity in many developing economies related to the BRI.
Eager to enhance its growing ability, the city has built a number of supporting facilities to support BRI development, including the construction of an International Trade and Logistics Park as a free trade port and providing people with various goods at lower prices from economies along the route, thanks to regular freight train services between Xi'an and other locations in Central Asia and Europe.
Wang Yong, Xi'an's vice-mayor, said the opening of the bonded area in the city's High-Tech Industrial Development Zone, the start of the cross-border e-commerce service pilot and the implementation of a 72-hour visa-free transit - the first city in Northwest China to offer the service to foreign visitors - will also help the city build itself as a vital hub to support trade flows, investment activities, and people-to-people exchanges in countries and regions related to the BRI.
Luo Renjian, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Research at the National Development and Reform Commission, said Xi'an has been keen to accelerate its construction as a Silk Road starting point.
Xi'an has increased international communication and built a modern logistics model by making use of the city's geographical advantage of being located in northwestern China, as well as improving education to cultivate talented people and make innovation drive the economy, said Sun Fuquan, a researcher at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development.
The Xi'an area of the China (Shaanxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) introduced 21,116 new market entities with a combined registered capital of 197.82 billion yuan last year.
By the end of 2018, all reform pilot tasks had been completed, resulting in 136 innovations. One of the innovations has been replicated and promoted nationwide, and six of them have been duplicated throughout the province.