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Dynamic Tongxiang in transformation

By LIANG KAIYAN/CAO YINGYING| China Daily| Updated : May 28, 2024

Riding the wave of the booming digital economy, Tongxiang in East China's Zhejiang province has made strides in the intelligent development of its industries.

Tongxiang, a county-level city under the administration of Jiaxing, earned its sterling reputation as the permanent host of the annual World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit. The international gala was inaugurated in the city's Wuzhen town in 2014. Over the past decade, Tongxiang has witnessed significant progress in the digital economy.

Official data showed, between 2014-23, the number of digital economy businesses in Tongxiang increased from 355 to 3,694. Meanwhile, the total output value of key industries in the digital economy sector grew from 5.1 billion yuan ($706.38 million) to 29.39 billion yuan.

The city has also established infrastructure such as the Wuzhen Internet Innovation and Development Pilot Zone, as well as a digital economy innovation and development pilot zone and a new driving force software cultivation base at provincial levels.

Tongkun Holding Group, a large joint-stock listed manufacturer of purified terephthalic acid, polyester and polyester fiber, is an example of digital transformation in Tongxiang.

Tongkun has deployed automation equipment and 5G robots in its factory, achieving a 95 percent automation level and allowing for the efficient completion of all processes. Additionally, the group's digital operations center has "digital brains" that generate more than 15 billion operational technology data pieces on a daily basis, enabling managers to monitor real-time production and operational status at every factory.

"If we consider the early stage of intelligent manufacturing as the era of global visibility, now we are creating more application scenarios, enabling the full integration of new-generation information technology and advanced manufacturing, and taking significant strides toward a fully interconnected and intelligent era of global analysis and intelligence," said Xu Yanhui, a manager of the information management department at Tongkun.

In 2023, Tongkun's polyester fiber factory was listed as a demonstration of intelligent manufacturing by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

In addition to businesses' digital transformation, Tongxiang has made more efforts to attract projects involved in the data elements sector.

At a recent Wuzhen data-related industry matchmaking event, a total of five projects were signed with a planned investment topping 2 billion yuan. These projects aim to promote data circulation transactions, improve the interconnected system of data transaction chains and build a data-commerce ecosystem across the Yangtze River Delta region.

With a strong base of digital development, Tongxiang has been dedicated to pioneering the data elements field. In September 2023, the city introduced a guideline on the development of an industry park featuring data elements in Wuzhen, aiming to create a world-leading cluster for data-driven industries.

"Currently, data elements are profoundly changing the development model and competitive landscape of traditional industries. Tongxiang will seize the opportunity with a more acute vision, amplify advantages and further explore the value of data elements," said Wang Jian, mayor of Tongxiang.

"We hope to attract more businesses to invest and settle in Tongxiang. We are committed to providing the best services and creating an optimal environment for everyone," Wang said.

Industrial expertise

Renowned for its silk, synthetic fibers and fiberglass production, Tongxiang has nurtured a range of industries with distinctive regional characteristics. They include Puyuan woolen sweaters, Chongfu furs and Zhouquan silk quilts. These industries are the foundation of the city's high-quality development.

Puyuan town in Tongxiang, despite not producing wool, dominates the sweater market nationally, with seven out of 10 sweaters in retail stores originating from the town. This has transformed Puyuan into China's fashion capital, with the sweater market surpassing 100 billion yuan in turnover for five consecutive years.

Nowadays, Tongxiang stands as a pioneering industrial hub with more than 190,000 market entities, 40,000 companies and 10 listed on the stock exchange. From humble beginnings in small workshops, Tongxiang has expanded its influence globally. In 2022, four Tongxiang entrepreneurs were invited to the G20 summit in Indonesia, showcasing the city's importance to countries involved in the Belt and Road initiative and its sharing of high-quality development achievements.

In recent years, the city has engaged in enhancing its industry chains, focusing on cutting-edge materials, smart automobiles, intelligent computing and other specialized industry chains.

In 2020, Tongxiang became the ninth county-level city in Zhejiang to achieve a GDP exceeding 100 billion yuan. By 2023, Tongxiang secured the 20th position on the list of China's top 100 counties.

Under China's dual carbon goal, aimed at peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, sectors like wind power, new energy vehicles, energy storage and photovoltaics are experiencing rapid expansion. Composite materials are increasingly recognized as crucial for the high-quality development of industrial economies.

Tongxiang has developed an industry chain spanning from fiberglass production and processing to the manufacturing of fiberglass composite materials, establishing dominance in the new energy wind power sector.

The city has become a hub for new material production, producing 25 percent of global fiberglass materials and 31 percent of China's synthetic fiber materials. In 2023, the output value of Tongxiang's new material industry reached 108.1 billion yuan. This has earned Tongxiang the privilege of hosting the China International Wind Power Composite Materials Summit Forum and Exhibition three times.

Led by electric vehicle maker Hozon Auto, Tongxiang has built an intelligent automotive industry ecosystem. It encompasses complete vehicle production from batteries, motors and electronic controls to intelligent driving software and hardware.

At Hozon's Neta smart factory, located in the Tongxiang economic development zone, a single intelligent production line is capable of rolling out an electric vehicle every three minutes.

Neta's vehicle exports ranked first among EV startups, according to Fang Yunzhou, founder and chairman of Hozon. In the first three months of 2024, Neta exported 8,704 EVs, with a grand total of exports reaching 28,000 vehicles.

The city has emerged as one of China's most comprehensive county-level cities in the intelligent auto industry chain, hosting more than 200 supporting companies. In 2023, the city's auto industry chain achieved an output value of 32.4 billion yuan.

Modern transport network

Tongxiang's widespread transportation network contributes to the city's rapid growth. The city has a road density of 2.61 kilometers per square kilometer, ranking it first in Zhejiang for several years. Despite this dense network, traffic congestion is severe due to a motor vehicle ownership rate of 39 per 100 people, higher than that of Shanghai and Hangzhou.

During the May Day holiday, about 4,500 workers were at construction sites of the Suzhou-Taizhou Expressway (Phase II) project in Tongxiang.

As a representative project to implement integrated development in the Yangtze River Delta, the project will become vital to connecting Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou.
Total investment has reached 18 billion yuan while the investment from Tongxiang government exceeds 10 billion yuan, making it the first county-level highway project in China with more than 10 billion yuan invested. Construction began in October 2022 and it is expected to be completed by the end of October 2025.

For Tongxiang, it is a crucial move to connect itself to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. The expressway is expected to aid access to the industries of Suzhou and Hangzhou and the development dividend of the Yangtze River Delta.

"We started planning this project more than 10 years ago. However, due to design, investment and other reasons, we couldn't start construction. Finally, we decided to fund the road by ourselves," said Xia Genwei, head of the Tongxiang transportation bureau.

With Tongxiang's GDP exceeding 100 billion yuan for three consecutive years, completing this road earlier offers greater opportunities.