Taicang ushers in new era of Sino-German cooperation
Jiangsu province's Taicang, a city bordering Shanghai, is at the forefront of China's efforts to boost cooperation with German enterprises.
Shi Mingde, whose six-year stint as China's ambassador to Germany ended last year, said the city enjoys a higher reputation in Germany than in China itself.
The German Center in Taicang is located in the city's central business district, between the Economic Development Zone and downtown Taicang. [Photo/WeChat account: tcfbgw]
Love at first sight
The first group of German investors did not choose Taicang for its geographic advantages.
In 1993, Kern-Liebers, a supplier for Volkswagen, was on a quest to find a suitable investment destination in cities near Shanghai.
Taicang did not make Kern-Liebers' list, but executives of the company passed through the city on their way back to Shanghai and found themselves impressed by its friendly government and livable environment. The company became the first German company to set up shop in the city.
It took 14 years for the city to attract its first 100 German companies, another six years for the next 100, and just five years for the next 100.
A number of major German companies, including Schaeffler and Siemens, came later.
Improving the business environment
The local government has taken a series of measures to promote German investment. "Taicang Day", an event to enhance exchange between Taicang and Germany, has been held for 13 consecutive years.
Germany introduces their vocational training system to Taicang. [Photo/WeChat account: tcfbgw]
Germany's dual vocational training system has been introduced to Taicang and used to cultivate technicians. Taicang has established 15 training centers to meet German companies' demand for workers.
In 2016, China's third and the world's sixth German Center opened in Taicang. The German Center in Taicang will prompt more service companies such as law firms and accounting firms to start businesses in Taicang and therefore upgrade the structure of German enterprises, said Wang Xin from the city's bureau of commerce.
Taicang has experienced rapid development in Sino-Germany economic cooperation. As of now, there are 350 German companies in Taicang, including near 50 "hidden champions" in their respective fields, bringing in $5 billion in investment.
These businesses have employed around 30,000 people this year and generated an annual industrial output of more than 50 billion yuan ($7.25 billion).
Embracing a new strategy
Taicang is exploring a new approach to cooperating with German enterprises. The development of innovation and the optimization of industrial structure are two important aspects to this approach, among others, local media reported.
The city's government has set up a number of innovation centers in Taicang, such as the China-Germany cooperative federation for science and technology on intelligent manufacturing and the Taicang (Stuttgart) offshore incubator.
More than half of German enterprises in Taicang, including Trumpf, have also placed their research and development centers in the city.
As the integration of the Yangtze River Delta progresses, Taicang plans to enhance cooperation with German companies in biomedicine and manufacturing parts for new energy vehicles and air crafts, in an effort to involve itself in the development of such sectors in Shanghai.
UAES, a joint venture with Bosch, put a high-volume production line for flat wire motors into operation at the beginning of this year and will set up more in the future. The motors will be supplied to domestic new energy vehicle manufacturers, an executive of the company revealed.
Chinese locals and expats mingle at a dinner party in Taicang, Jiangsu province. [Photo/WeChat account: tcfbgw]
The city has also extended cooperation with Germany to include areas such as culture and sports. Activities such as beer festivals, football games, and marathons for Germans in Taicang have gained popularity in recent years.
Taicang has also established partnerships with Jülich and the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region in Germany. More than 3,000 Germans now live in the city year-round.