Part 5: Importing from China

Importing from China: Jiangsu Part 2 - Suppliers in Suzhou. 

Straight from checking out Jiangsu's capital city of Nanjing we move to the second largest city in the province, Suzhou. We will also take a briefer look at Wuxi and Nantong but let's start with some quick facts about Suzhou.

Suzhou – Quick Facts

- 4.5M City Population, 10M population under the city's administration.

- 2,500 years old.

- 100 km west of Shanghai.

- Known as “Venice of the East”.

- Famous for 500 year old gardens, canal systems and pagodas.

Suzhou – The Economy

A hugely important city in terms of the province's economy with 22-25% of the total GDP accounted for by Suzhou City. Naturally this makes it the largest economy in Jiangsu and one that's well known to anybody already importing from China. One of the main elements fuelling the boom has been the state level development zones for industry. Let's look at the Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park or SIP for short. 

- Thought up in the 1980's to replicate Singapore's economic successes.

- Opened in 1994 and covers an area of 288 square km.

- 27% of is covered by China-Singapore companies.

- Almost 5,000 foreign companies are settled there, 170 of which are fortune 500.

The SIP is big noise and home to big companies; doing business here is probably as easy as it gets in China. 

Suzhou – The Industries

If you are importing from China you may already know Suzhou is home to industries & companies such as; 

- Electronics – Chunhua (largest manufacturer of cleaning equipment in China), Etron, Suzhou A-Plus Electronics, Samsung

- Chemicals – Suzhou Leader Chemical Co, Suzhou Tianma Specialty Chemicals Co

- Industrial equipment – Crown, CMEC

- Steel – BlueScope (helped produce Guangzhou Olympic Stadium)

- Textiles – Unifi Textiles, Suzhou Textiles (textile hub in Wujiang to the south with factories claiming to be in Suzhou: Suzhou Deylon Textiles Co, Suzhou Hengyang Textile Co)

Much of the above seems quite traditional but high tech industry does account for 40% of output. There is a plan in place for Suzhou to lead the way in transforming from low-end services to high-end service outsourcing. One major advantage to realize this shift is the highly skilled workforce in the city due to the establishment of 20 universities.

Suzhou – Getting there, Tourist Stuff

It couldn't be easier to access Suzhou by train from Shanghai, a fast train will have you there in 20mins and there are several each hour. If you are doing business in the area it is worth your time to make the short trip to Suzhou if you have a spare day to wander around enjoy some local Jasmine tea and take in the old parts of the city. Like always avoid national holidays at all costs, Suzhou attracts of 90M tourists per year. Trust me, don't do national holidays! If you are visiting in autumn you have to try the famous hairy crabs from Tai Lake... Do get lessons from a local on how to eat them. Again trust me this is not a skill you are born with. 

Wuxi – Silicon Valley of the Orient?

Pronounced more like Woo-shee and not ‘Wuxy' as is the default go to for new foreign visitors. That's ok you weren't to know but a small tip: when you see xi in China pronounce as ‘shee' and you will look like an expert in no time at all. And so to Wuxi which actually manages to top Suzhou for GDP per capita at 117,000 RMB making it the highest throughout Jiangsu province.

Like many of China's industrial east Wuxi was a hub for textiles that moved into heavier industries and more recently into hi-tech electronics. Wuxy sorry Wuxi is currently being touted as China's answer to silicon valley as the "Importing from China" brand attempts to move away from cheap product China. 

Wuxi – The Industries

- Computing – major IBM presence ('one of IBM's largest R&D centres in the world', plus separate global commercial cloud computing centre)

- New Energy – especially Solar ('solar technology hub in China') - Suntech Power .

- Electronics – Hynix have opened a chip plant; other major investors include Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Sharp, Nikon, GE, Kodak, LG, Siemens, Bosch, COFCO, Maxell, Hitachi, Matsushita, Roche, Auchan, Penta, Volvo, Bayer etc.

- Machinery – for example Little Swan –  famous for washing machines since the 50's and now has Midea, China's answer to GE as its main stakeholder.

The majority of the hi-tech shift is happening around the Wuxi New District and Wuxi Export Processing Zone.

Wuxi – Tourist Attractions 1 hour from Shanghai.

Along with Suzhou and Changzhou it forms the “Su-Xi-Chang Area”, the most advanced region in Jiangsu. We looked at Changzhou in Jiangsu Part 1 if you missed it. Like Suzhou to the south Wuxi is on the shore of the massive Tai lake and is a domestic tourist attraction. Not as popular as Suzhou but 65M visitors a year is substantial. Check out popular spots apart from the lake here. One I can personally reommend is the Lingshan Grand Buddha, tallest of its kind in the world. China photo opportunity for sure!

Nantong – The mouth of The Yangtze

Nantong grew up in a geographically great position to the north of Shanghai across the Yangtze at the mouth of the great river which is actually getting a little further away all the time given the amount of silt that is deposited. Historically industry was focused on salt production and agriculture like rice and cotton production. Location is probably the keyword when it comes to Nantong's economic boom over the past 25 years and in more recent times engineering projects such as the Sutong Bridge have elevated the area even more. Since 2008 the transit to Shanghai has been cut to 1 hour from 5.

The Yangtze River Delta economic zone covers 16 cities from south Jiangsu and North & East Zhejiang. Owing to that favorable location Nantong has often outstripped heavyweights like Suzhou & Nanjing for investment. The main industries are:

Shipping – Cosco, Rongsheng (one of the 10 largest ports in China); the Nantong Shipping College has joined with Shanghai and Singapore to form the Singapore (Nantong) International Maritime Institute, which is based in Nantong

Construction – (According to the Nantong Municipal Government, the gross floor area to be rendered by Nantong's current construction projects will exceed 4 million square metres). Nantong Construction Group, Nantong Construction Engineering Contracting Group

New Energy – Nantong Audary New Energy, Neovoltaic Energy Nantong; in 2006 ACCIONA launched a large joint-project (largest windfarm in China at the time) with CASC, while China WindPower has been working on severeal huge plants in the last 5 years.


Scott Summers

Part 5 of this topic whoa!!! This must have taken a lot of research huh? Not to mention permission. Props to the author.

Sharon Lopez

I have been contemplating of visiting the place for a vacation and to probably to take a look at their products. It's so helpful that you have placed some useful tips on how to get to the place. It would have been a chaos if I hadn't read this article. You are such a big help.

Nnaemeka Odimegwu

I thought I had known the great cities in Jiangsu but you saved the best for the last. Suzhou is surely great. The Venice of the East has lived up to its reputation. If I do get to visit China one day, I will surely come here.

Shantay Song

Another very useful post for anyone interested in importing from China. The research you've put into this series of articles is nothing short of impressive and got to give it to you for being thorough in your presentation on Chinese economy and importation. Good job!

Angelo Bugay

I would love to go to Wuxi. It really catches my attention because I'm more of a techie person.

Barry Reed

This is surely a great informative piece! I've read your other blogs. Great of you to share your knowledge. :)

Kevin Jonson

Suzhou is a tourist attraction? What a surprise. What are the best spots to visit?

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