How a 20-year plan enabled Fuzhou to leap ahead in economic growth

Picture: Xinhua

Picture: Xinhua

Published Jan 22, 2024


Fuzhou Port on the southeast coast of China has become one of the most important hub ports for container transportation, with it listed among the world's top 20 ports by cargo throughput in 2022.

The bustling port speaks volumes about the success of Fuzhou, the capital city of southeast China's Fujian Province, in developing its marine economy.

Known as "Fuzhou at Sea," the forward-looking approach to seek economic development from the sea is an important part of a long-term development plan initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi, then Party chief of Fuzhou, was in charge of drawing the city's 20-year economic and social development strategic vision, planning the goals, steps, layout and priorities of its development in three years, eight years and 20 years, known as the "3820" strategy.

"The development of a city should not only consider the medium- and long-term development goals of 10 years and 20 years, but also consider the long-term development goals of 30 years, 50 years or even hundreds of years," Xi once pointed out.

Jiangyin terminal of Fuzhou Port launches its first foreign trade automobile ro-ro export business in Fuzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province, January 26, 2023. Picture: Xinhua

A blueprint for the future

More than 30 years ago, Fuzhou, surrounded by mountains and rivers, had a weak industrial foundation, low fiscal revenue and poor transportation.

How to find a way out for the city's development was always in the mind of Xi when he assumed the role of Party secretary in April 1990.

He spent more than half of the following two years in conducting field research at the grassroots level, before he sensed, and seized, the opportunity of China's latest call for reform and opening up during Deng Xiaoping's "southern tour" in early 1992.

Under Xi's leadership, more than 1,600 cadres conducted research and held opinion solicitation meetings on topics such as agriculture and industry. More than 25,000 public opinions were received within half a month.

After dozens of revisions, the plan of the project was adopted in November 1992.

According to the plan, the city would work to bring the economy to the next level by 1995, with the main indicators being double from 1990 levels.

By 2000, the city would strive to make its major indicators, such as urban and rural per capita levels, reach the development level of domestic advanced cities. Then, Fuzhou would reach or be close to the then average development level of moderately developed countries or regions in Asia by around 2010.

"Divided into three stages in terms of indicators – comparing with ourselves, comparing with surrounding cities, and comparing with cities of the same level of development in the world – this plan is quite scientific and systematic," Yan Zheng, then vice president of Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, told China Media Group.

A view of the Fuzhou Area of China (Fujian) Pilot Free Trade Zone, southeast China's Fujian Province, January 14, 2024. Picture: CFP

Playing to its strengths

Xi laid out the plan with a forward-looking vision, and promoted the construction of "Golden Triangle Economic Circle at Minjiang Estuary" and "Fuzhou at Sea" as important components of the "3820" strategic project.

"How can we manage the sea when the land is not well developed yet?" Doubts were raised at that time. Xi proposed to "attach as much importance to sea areas as to cultivated land, and as much to marine development as to food production, so as to extend the tentacles of speeding up economic development from land to sea."

Subsequently, Fuzhou launched an all-round comprehensive development strategy focusing on key coastal zones and sea areas.

Industries such as marine transportation and port-side industries boomed, and emerging industries such as marine bio-medicine and offshore wind power high-end equipment manufacturing were vigorously encouraged.

"Xi helped us analyze Fuzhou's advantages," Zhao Ruqi, then director of the Political Research Office of the Fuzhou Municipal Party Committee, told CMG, adding that the way out was to seek development from the sea.

From 1992 to 1995, Fuzhou's GDP grew at an average annual rate of 26.6 percent and the first goal of the strategic project was completed in three years.

Following the blueprint for the future, Fuzhou achieved the eight-year goals and 20-year goals on schedule.

Now Fuzhou has developed into a coastal city with one of the most active marine economies in China. In 2022, Fuzhou's total marine output value exceeded 330 billion yuan (around $46 billion).

Han Qingxiang, a professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said the significance of the "3820" strategy goes far beyond the city.

"From Fuzhou's 20-year strategic vision to China's 2035 goals, and from 'Fuzhou at Sea' to 'building China into a strong maritime country,' we are constantly implementing and exploring in line with the ideas of long-term planning, scientific governance, and coordinated development proposed by the '3820' strategic project," said Han.