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Large talent pool fuels drive to prosperity

By Zheng Yangpeng and Li Yu (China Daily)

10:47, May 28, 2013

A job fair in Chengdu held in December 2012 offered 22,600 vacancies to job seekers, among them more than half were college graduates. The capital of Sichuan province's improved infrastructure and talent pools, among other things, have attracted a lot of Fortune 500 companies to set foot in the city. (Xinhua/Xue Yubin)

Coordinated rural-urban development pays dividends to southwestern city

In 2012, Chengdu rolled out a massive program to attract talent such as technicians and entrepreneurs. The top award it offered was 5 million yuan($810,000).

It was part of the city's campaign to lure talented people to sharpen its technological edge and encourage innovation. The city government offered 5 million yuan to the "top innovation and entrepreneurship team", 500,000 yuan to a "youth team," 500,000 yuan to "overseas short term entrepreneurship," and 1 million yuan to "overseas long term entrepreneurship".

Lianhe Zaobao, a Singaporean newspaper, said Chengdu's generous offer was unparalleled compared to those offers made by similar cities.

Chengdu municipal government also asked four industrial zones, districts or counties under its administration to carry out their own talent programs. Chengdu Hi-tech Zone, for example, offered 100 million yuan to attract talent in information and biomedicine sectors, its pillar industries.

These initiatives have begun to yield effects. In 2012, Chengdu has attracted 167 overseas top talents to settle down in this city, among whom 29 were from the National Thousand Talents Program, China's top talent program which introduces overseas distinguished scholars to China.

As one of the two pilot cities selected by the State Council to conduct coordinated development of their urban and rural areas, Chengdu has also taken various initiatives to close the gap between its urban and vast rural areas.

In 2007, the annual disposable income of a Chengdu farmer was 3,546 yuan, or 31.9 percent of an urban resident's. By 2012, that figure had jumped to 11,301 yuan, or 41.56 percent of an urban resident's disposable income.

Ge Honglin, mayor of Chengdu said: "There is a viewpoint that the development of the city takes precedence to the development of the rural area. But I think the development of these areas is mutually dependent and should be promoted simultaneously."

In 2012, Fortune magazine chose Chengdu as the site of the 2013 Fortune Global Forum, making it the fourth Chinese city to play host to the prestigious world business summit after Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing.

Ge said he believed the balanced development of Chengdu's urban and rural areas was one of the reasons that convinced Fortune to give the honor to his city. "When Fortune considered various options, it might hope that his guests could see something new, something unusual," he said.

"What could they see in Chengdu? First, the successful story of China's west after more than 10 years of the 'Go West' campaign. Second, they could see the recovery and improvement of the area after the 2008 earthquake. And third, how Chengdu has tried to coordinate the development of its urban and rural areas."

In Ge's view, it is very important to show foreign guests the "real" Chengdu during the Fortune Global Forum.

This means no deliberate preparations, no colorful flags and no banners bearing slogans, all of which are commonly associated with lots of Chinese cities that are set to hold an important event.

He admitted that seven or eight years ago, if an important event was to be held in Chengdu, many sectors of society would have been mobilized and enormous preparations would have made everyone stressed and exhausted.

"But now, as long as the government works normally, no extra work is needed," Ge said.

Part of his confidence lies in the city's achievement in building service-oriented government in the past years.

In 2012, Chengdu's GDP grew to 813.9 billion yuan, double that of 2008, making it the third largest economy of China's 15 sub-provincial cities after Guangzhou and Shenzhen. In 2008, Chengdu was ranked just seventh.

The information technology sector, including the integrated- circuit, optoelectronics, flat panel display and software industries, contributed most to Chengdu's fast expansion.

In 2003, when semiconductor maker Intel Corp set up a chip package and test factory in Chengdu, it was rare for a Fortune 500 company to set foot in the city. Now, Chengdu is home to 238 Fortune 500 companies, including Texas Instrument, Dell Inc, and Lenovo Group Ltd.

More telling is that one out of every two laptop microchips made in the world is now produced in Chengdu, and two-thirds of the world's iPads come out of Chengdu.

Mao Yushi, a renowned economist in China, said a main reason why Chengdu can attract international IT giants is the relatively low cost of air freight. The city's improved infrastructure, pro-business administrative environment and talent pools also benefit its development, Mao said.

In terms of talent and human resources, about 290,000 students graduate from Chengdu's tertiary education institutes every year, 58,000 of them in information technology-related majors. This means that one in five graduates in the city is either a programmer or a software engineer.

Mayor Ge said: "Before 2006, most of the graduates would go to first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing to seek jobs.

"Now more and more stay in Chengdu and work for local companies."

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