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Xi'an Preserves Its Past
Special> Xi'an Preserves Its Past
UPDATED: February 15, 2008 NO.8 FEB.21, 2008
Changing Fortunes of Xi'an
Science and technology innovation has invigorated the development of Xi'an, but has not fundamentally changed its weak economic position

Xi'an Aerospace Science & Technology Industry Base was officially made a national civil aerospace industry base in the second half of January 2008. According to the Chinese Government's plans the core area of Xi'an national civil aerospace industry base occupies 23 square km and will gradually develop into a hi-tech industry base with the aerospace industry as the leading factor.

"We will make strides to build up the base as a world-famous civil aerospace base," said Zhao Hongzhuan, a government official who is in charge of planning the Xi'an national civil aerospace industry base. The base's gross industrial output value will reach 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) in 2012, and bring out 10 to 20 brand products with independent intellectual property rights and five to eight leading enterprises with strong competitiveness.

Besides Xi'an Aerospace Science & Technology Industry Base, there is another national aerospace industry base known as the "Oriental Seattle": Xi'an Yanliang National Aviation Hi-tech Industry Base. It was founded on March 24, 2005, and is the largest aerospace industry base in Asia. It integrates R&D of aerospace technology, cultivation of aerospace talents, aerospace equipment and machine production, accessory processing and the aviation service together.

The aerospace industry is the strategic industry that has a direct bearing on state security and national economic lifelines, a fund-intensive industry that measures a country's defense ability, and also a technology-intensive industry with high investment and risk. With more than 40 years of development, Xi'an has already formed a relatively complete aerospace industrial system. .

Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, has China's only design and research institute of large and medium-sized aircraft, the only research and identification center of flight experiments of China, and more than 100 research institutes of aerospace production. The first large aircraft made independently by China is expected to make its maiden flight within a few years.

Xi'an, which is located in the northwest of China, was called Chang'an in ancient times. It is listed with Athens, Rome and Cairo as one of the world's Four Ancient Capitals. Xi'an now has a population of 7.53 million and occupies 10,000 square km.

The city is famous for its glorious history and culture, and is also an important base of research, education and the hi-tech industry. However, for a long time the city's R&D advantages were not transformed into local productivity. Xi'an's research was taken up and used by other places, especially the coastal area of southeast China. This made Xi'an economically weak and unable to match its abundant science and technology research resources with productive enterprises.

According to statistics from Xi'an Science and Technology Bureau, Xi'an has more than 3,000 R&D institutes of all kinds, 132 national key labs, technology research centers and professional testing centers, 420,000 professional technical staff and 1,440 hi-tech enterprises. What's more important is that Xi'an is an important place of higher education, with 80,000 students graduating from its universities every year, who have provided an affluent talent pool for city's economic development.

"The key for the development of Xi'an is to transform the abundant science and technology resources into productivity," said Xu Kewei, Director of Xi'an Science and Technology Bureau.

According to the plan of Xi'an City, it will strive to become an important base for scientific and technology research, an innovation and development base for hi-tech industry, and take the lead to become an innovative city while the Chinese Government has made an plan to build an innovation-oriented country by 2015.

In order to reach this goal, the local government is playing a leading role in investment. According to statistics, Xi'an invested 64 million yuan ($8.9 million) into funding scientific research in 2007, an increase of 65 percent over 2003. With the guidance and encouragement of government funds, enterprises have gradually become the main bodies of scientific and technological input. Research and development investment in these enterprises made up 65 percent of total investment in 2007.

Today, Xi'an's hi-tech industry has become a dynamic industry. In 2007, the total output value of Xi'an's hi-tech industry reached 70.8 billion yuan ($9.9 billion). Scientific and technological progress contributes 51 percent to the economic growth rate, a proportion that is expected to rise to 55 percent in 2010.

Currently the number of small and medium-sized enterprises majoring in innovation and R&D is around 3,500. They are the main driving force behind Xi'an's vibrant science and technology industry. According to statistics, the annual number of scientific research findings has surpassed 3,000. The first carrier rocket engine and other hi-tech achievements all came from Xi'an.

Science and technology innovation has invigorated the development of Xi'an, but has not fundamentally changed its weak economic position. Xu said a factor that blocks the scientific development of Xi'an is conservatism.

"Xi'an boasts rich history and culture, which is an advantage for the city's development. But in the history of China's economic development, Xi'an has not been very active in exchanging with other regions, and has lagged behind other regions." Xu said the reconstruction and annexation of enterprises, involving lay-offs, is a normal phenomenon, but could not be implemented in Xi'an. The relative bureaus fear that the resulting unemployment would cause instability in the city. Conservative ideas like this block the pace of scientific and technological innovation, he added.

Xi'an in Figures

173.7 billion yuan ($24 billion)

The GDP (gross domestic product) of the city in 2007, of which the service sector took up the lion's share of 51 percent

$3.2 billion

Xi'an attracted a total of $3.2 billion FDI (foreign direct investment) between 2002 and 2007

31 million

The number of overseas and domestic tourists that visited Xi'an in 2007, an increase of 13.8 percent over 2006 and contributing to a tourism income of 23.7 billion yuan ($3.2 billion)

12, 662 yuan

In 2007 per capita annual disposable income of urban residents reached 12,662 yuan ($1,758), up 16 percent over 2006


The employment situation has been improved due the city's consecutive job enlargement policies. The city had more 143,500 people employed in 2007, up 71.4 percent over the previous year

69.6 percent

The increase in environmental investment from local government finances over 2006. The growth of local government investment in public security and medicare stand at 35.9 percent and 49.1 percent respectively in 2007



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