Zhanjiang was a starting point for the ancient merchant ships traveling the maritime Silk Roads, many of which ended up in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Today, the proposal to create a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road looks to revive these old trade routes.
High-end steel manufacturing, oil refinery and premium papermaking will be the new pillar industries in the southern port city in Guangdong province.
About 20 kilometers south of downtown Zhanjiang, a new steel plant has been constructed on Donghai Island. The plant, which is set to produce its first batch of steel plates, for use on automobiles, is operated by the nation’s largest steelmaker Baosteel Group.
Steel products from the plant will mainly meet the demand of Guangdong, a region that is still hungry for high-end plates for auto manufacturing and infrastructure projects, said Zhou Shichun, deputy general manager of Baosteel Zhanjiang.
“Although the industry is facing an oversupply, we do not have to worry no one will buy our products. Guangdong is badly in need of all the steel plates we can produce,” he said.
Iron ore from Australia and Brazil will be shipped to the plant’s deep water harbor, so the transportation costs will be significantly lower than an inland factory.
Baosteel Zhanjiang will make 10 million tons of steels each year. A portion of the products will be exported to Southeast Asia where high-end steel plates are also in huge demand, according to Zhou.
The project will also benefit the local economy as it will hire and train local people to work in the plant and they will earn more money, Zhou said.
Roughly 300 local residents will be working on the production line and thousands will provide maintenance and other services. The Baosteel plant will hire about 30,000 workers once operational.
Wang Zhongbing, mayor of Zhanjiang, is optimistic about the outlook for the new company.
“From manufacturing to environmental protection systems, everything in the plant will be top class. It will be a model for the next generation of steel plants in China,” Wang said.
Near the Baosteel mill is one of the country’s biggest papermaking companies－Zhanjiang Guanhao Paper Co.
The subsidiary, owned by Shanghai-listed Guangdong Guanhao High-Tech Co, was the company making the biggest wave in Donghai long before Baosteel came to the island.
Guanhao makes top-quality thermal paper with anticounterfeit technologies. The papers are used to make lottery tickets and invoices across China.
The company claims it now has up to 70 percent of the market for lottery tickets, a sector in which Japanese firms used to have the major share of the market.