LAST week was, from memory my fourth visit to Guangdong Province on the eastern coastline of China. I remember how the place looked in 1985 when as a journalist working in Papua New Guinea then, I was selected to be amongst a group of senior journalists invited by the Beijing (at the time called Peking) government for the week-long visit.
That visit took in Tianjin, not from Beijing, a cruise on the Yangtze River, the third longest in the world, Shanghai, now China’s business and commercial centre as well as Guangdong Province. Not much to see in those days.
On my return to Port Moresby, I wrote that China was a sleeping giant. It would be a matter of time before the sleeping giant got on its two feet and start moving. It was a prophetic pronouncement.
How things have changed in just 32 short years – in terms of infrastructure, facilities and yes, economically. Today, everything about China is big, bigger and getting bigger.
Guangdong Province, formerly known as Canton, has a special historical link with Solomon Islands. Talking to officials on this trip, it would seem that Chinese people in this southern coastal Province embraced adventurism and a special trait for taking risks.
Most Chinese doing businesses in Honiara come from Guangdong Province.
“Chinese from this Province are everywhere around the world, not just in Solomon Islands,” one official told me.
The Province’s total land area is around 180, 000sq km – home to some 106 million people. It is China’s most populous Province. Its capital, Guangzhou, sits on the banks of the Pearl River.
According to official records, Guangdong has achieved “remarkable economic and social development” over the past three decades since China’s reform and opening up to the outside.
“In 2016, its GDP reached 7.95 trillion RMB (about SBD24 trillion),” according to a brief introduction prepared for our visit. This translates into per capita GDP 79, 512.05 or SBD238, 536.15, that’s 7.5 per cent up over the previous year (2015).
At 6.30 trillion RMB (about SBD19 trillion) Guangdong’s import and export volume represent almost one fourth of China’s total output.
Unlike my first trip 32 years ago, this Province has truly undergone a remarkable transformation. There are sky crappers everywhere, modern shopping malls, technical advances and more.
Guangzhou, the capital, never sleeps.
Business is everywhere. For example, the Pearl River has become a huge source of tourist money with night cruises daily. We were on one a week ago. For the newcomers, it was an eye opener. For the golden oldie like me, it was tiring.
As we took a 45-minute drive from the airport to the city of Guangzhou, there were men on the road, still working around 10pm. It is no wonder world economists have described China’s economic rise to global fame as a runaway economy.
Perhaps one of the highlights of the visit, certainly for me, was the tour of Guangzhou’s 450-metre high tower. We never quite got to the 450-metre mark, but at 433-metre above the ground it was a near enough height to take your breath away.
My two friends, John Teddie Usuramo and Oscar Vahimana, were simply too scared to go near the glass-clad walls of the tower, the third highest in the world. It remains China’s tallest.
In nearby Zhoushan which has the Chinese government has designated a permanent International Islands Tourism Conferences, signs of economic growth is everywhere on the island, linked to the main land by a 55km long bridge.
We attended the 2017 International Islands Tourism Conference there. Except Tonga, there were no tourism representatives from the Pacific.
It’s again a demonstration of China’s engineering feat.