Founded in 1404, Tianjin is the biggest coastal city and largest seaport in northern China. It functions as neighboring Beijing's gateway to the sea, and is one of four Chinese municipalities under the direct jurisdiction of the central government. This city of 11 million has a strong industrial base in automobiles, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, petrochemicals and such new fields as environmental services, and saw GDP growth of nearly 16% from 2003 to 2004, when its total output was worth US$36.3 billion. The city added 214,500 new jobs in 2004, 18% more than the prior year and saw per-capita income rise 14%.
The municipal government has nonetheless set its sights on building equally powerful information technology and service industries, and has eagerly embraced broadband and IT as means to make government more efficient and responsive, and business more productive. Northern China has been late to the Internet and broadband revolution, and there is a clear sense of urgency in Tianjin's efforts to catch up. Tianjin was among the Top Seven in 2005, and for the second year in a row, ICF recognizes the city for its aggressive application of the principles of Intelligent Community development in the unique political and economic environment of China.
From 20,000 to 2.7 Million in Two Years
Tianjin's Intelligent Community initiative is focused on broadband deployment for citizens, business and government; on e-government applications to make government more responsive and efficient; and on development of new high-tech industrial zones. The goals in its current five-year plan are to provide broadband access in 100% of the 12 km2 (4.6 sq. mile) city, have 80% of households own a PC and 55% of residents become Internet users, and have total broadband penetration reach 60%. Collaborating with telecom carriers, cable TV companies and equipment manufacturers, the city has deployed 20,000 km (12,500 miles) of optical fiber in multiple interconnected networks. The city had 2.7 million Internet subscribers at the end of 2004, up 35% from the prior year. (At the end of 2002, only 20,000 people in all of Tianjin used the Internet.) Broadband subscribers totaled 600,000 or 5% of the total population. A newly completed telecommunications hub in Tianjin provides switching and control for networks that connect the nine provinces of northern China.
Though part of the Beijing metroplex, Tianjin contains large rural areas where farming is the predominant industry. A “village to village” program has, with help from satellites, connected nearly 4,000 villages to the Internet and has helped to transform rural life. One small company, Jinmao Co. Ltd. In Wang Zhuang Village, was founded with the equivalent of US$62 in 1984 to manufacture manual agricultural tools. After setting up a Web site in 1996, the company began receiving orders from throughout China and expanded its products to include painting, cleaning, gardening and other tools. Their products are now available in five of the six biggest furniture chains in China, and the company's sales have reached US$18 million.
Online Government, Health Care and Customs
Tianjin's e-government programs have focused in increasing efficiency, improving connectedness and centralizing information on residents. To date, the city has implemented 600 e-government applications, including public finance, taxation, city planning, housing, commerce, education and justice. Proposed government policies are posted to the Web so that citizens can offer comments before the policy is implemented. Over 250 departments use the network for internal management. The broadband network also links the city’s 210 hospitals and clinics, and an online payment system settles almost all healthcare charges. A Distance Tax Collection System allows taxpayers to check their accounts and make payments online, while a Port Information System expedites customs clearances for ships' cargos in Tianjin's port. Cash transactions are gradually being replaced by three network-access cards – bank, bus and social security – that residents use to manage their financial and transportation needs.
In China, a Resident Registration System controls internal travel and residency. Tianjin recently introduced a second-generation system designed to reduce the inconvenience to residents of re-registering at district offices whenever they change housing. The former manual process, requiring visits to multiple offices, has been reduced by data networking to a single visit.
50% of Total Exports from Technology Sector
The city's latest project is the Digital City industrial park, designed as a home for China's fast-growing software, electronics, biotech and new-energy industries. Now under construction on 10 km2 (3.8 sq. miles) of land, the new park will become home to a sector that saw a 32% increase in total revenues from 2003 to 2005 and which now produces 50% of the city's exports.
The pace of Tianjin's transformation is set by many factors, from the sheer scale of effort required to have an impact on its large, urban-rural population to the willingness of the central government in Beijing to embrace change. Measured by how far it has come in a short time, Tianjin is a notable success. Measured against the scale of its ambitions, the city still has far to go.
Labor Force: 5,500,000
Top7 2005 | 2006