ZHEJIANG Province is home to 57.37 million people. It has the largest number of islands in China – 2,878. The province is very rich in cultural heritage, natural wonders, and history.
Its capital and most populous city, Hangzhou, has a population of about 10 million. It sits at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo.
A brief look into its history will show Zhejiang got its name from the Qiantang River and it is referred to as ‘Zhe’ for short. The Qiantang River tidal bore, together with that of the Ganges River in India and the Amazon River in Brazil are the three largest tidal bores in the world.
One of the best-known lakes in Zhejiang is West Lake. It covers 6.5 square km with a perimeter of about 15km and has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). It is the only lake heritage site in China.
Zhejiang Province is known as the Botanic Garden of Southeastern China, with more than 5,500 higher species of flora discovered.
It is believed to be one of the birthplaces of ancient Chinese civilisation as human activities can be traced back to more than one million years and over 100 archaeological sites from the Neolithic age have been discovered in Zhejiang.
Also located in Zhejiang is the world’s largest small commodities wholesale market, Yiwu International Commodities City, also known as Yiwu International Trade Market. The market was founded in 1982 and currently occupies an area of more than 6.4 million square metres, with 75,000 business spaces and more than 210,000 employees.
Recognised by the United Nations and World Bank as the world’s largest small commodities wholesale market, the market sees 210,000 people each day. Its businesses cover nearly 30 categories and sell 2.1 million individual products. It is also one of the largest export bases of commodities in China and trades with over 210 countries.
More than 500,000 overseas merchants visit the market every year with over 20 multinational retail groups such as Walmart and Metro making permanent purchases. The market has also attracted 6,800 foreign investment entities, including 2,500 foreign investment partnership enterprises.
Yiwu China Import Commodities City, located in the market, features more than 100,000 foreign commodities from over 100 countries and regions with the motto buying and selling global goods.
Malaysian entrepreneur Kok Chit Hock operates the Malaysian National Pavilion in Yiwu China Import Commodities City to help Malaysia’s top products penetrate China’s market by providing warehouse, physical store delivery, online e-commerce promotion, and customs clearance facilities.
Kok, from Batu Pahat, Johor, has lived in Yiwu for 15 years. He has been conferred numerous accolades by both the Zhejiang provincial government and Yiwu municipal government.
The awards include Foreign Experts in Zhejiang Province West Lake Friendship Award, Yiwu Friendship Award, Yiwu Private Economic Development Special Development Award, and 2016 Yiwu City Top 10 Honest Foreign Businessman.
“I spend my own money to operate the Malaysia National Pavilion to assist Malaysian small and medium enterprises to bring their products from Malaysia to Yiwu and, subsequently, to the rest of China,” Kok told visiting journalists recently.
“And specifically, I try to assist Malay small and medium enterprises as they are not well-versed in Mandarin. My aim is to sell their products at a wholesale price because you have to admit that Malaysia’s market is a lot smaller compared with China’s.”
For the past six years, Kok has spent much of his time on social welfare programmes in Yiwu to give back to the community.
His company was the first to deal with Brazilian natural crystals in Yiwu and spurred the development of 13 professional industries involving mostly natural gemstones.
“I believe the spirit of entrepreneurship in Malaysia run deeps as people tend to seek business opportunities their entire life. And I believe if your products are of good quality, you will be able to find strong market demand in China.”
Kok is also director of the Malaysia Buyer Service Centre of Yiwu and the chief representative of the Liaison Desk in Malaysia of Yiwu.
One of Zhejiang’s most enviable achievements is the province has the lowest income gap between urban and rural areas in China. The average disposable income for urban and rural residents has been the highest among all provinces and autonomous regions in mainland China for many years.
Some of the hugely successful firms in Zhejiang are Alibaba, Geely, H3C, and Hikvision.
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns a 49.9 per cent stake in Proton Holdings Bhd, has been ranked among the Fortune Global 500 for eight consecutive years with assets totalling over RMB330 billion and over 120,000 employees.
A Geely representative told journalists that it operates state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in China, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Belarus, and Malaysia, with sales and service networks in over 4,000 branches globally.
Geely is the official prestige partner of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games and is mandated to develop a series of fully autonomous mobility solutions by 2022 to service the 19th edition of the games.
With global companies based in Zhejiang, it is no surprise that there are 6.54 million registered market entities in Zhejiang as of December 2018, among which 2.24 million were enterprises.
The figures indirectly translate to every one in 8.8 Zhejiang residents venturing into business and every one in 25.5 residents owning an enterprise.
To support the business ecosystem, the government has embarked on a mission to create friendly policies for investors, such as reducing the time needed to start a business in Zhejiang to four working days, and developing a more convenient environment and framework for enterprises to invest.
Due to excellent conference facilities, rich tourism resources, and convenient transportation, international conferences such as the G20 Summit, World Internet Conference, and United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress have been held in the province.
While Zhejiang’s economy is progressing at a rapid pace, cultural heritage sites remain well preserved, such as The Orchid Pavilion and Songxi Village.
The Orchid Pavilion is located at the foot of Lanzhu Mountain in the southeast of Shaoxing. According to legend, it was named after orchids planted by Gou Jian, a king of the Kingdom of Yue, a state that existed in ancient China during the first millennium BC.
The Orchid Pavilion is now regarded as a sacred place of Chinese calligraphy. In the past 1,600 years, the Orchid Pavilion has been moved several times and the present one was built in 1548 during the Ming Dynasty before a major renovation was carried out in the Qing Dynasty.
Songxi Village is located at the foot of Cockscomb Mountain in the eastern part of Pujiang County and is over 1,000 years ago.
Under the Baima Town government, people of different family names such as Ji and Xia began to move here as early as the Tang Dynasty and nowadays there are 18 different clans (including Xu, Shao, Liu, Wang, Chu, Pan, and Ma). Currently, the village is home to over 1,000 families with a population exceeding 3,000.
A visit to the village showed journalists that the residents there still maintain a traditional lifestyle and seem overjoyed to showcase their traditional handicrafts and way of life.
Most of the existing ancient buildings in Songxi Village were built in the Qing Dynasty, with 1,560 ancient buildings over an area of 54,600 square metres. The various buildings are well-designed with exquisite decorations such as archways, carving, girders, patios, and murals.
The entire village was built based on its geographical features and the orientation and appearance of these buildings change with the terrain. Though densely built, the ancients dwellings are harmoniously laid out.
With its beautiful scenery, rich culture and wealthy, Songxi Village is acclaimed as the Little Hangzhou.
Those wishing to see the production of Shaoxing Yellow Wine can visit the Chinese Yellow Wine Museum, Shaoxing City, which is divided into five galleries to display the culture, 2,500-year-old history, and technique of making the wine.
Containing 14 to 20 per cent alcohol, the wine making technique is regarded as a model in Asia. Visitors can also participate in interesting activities such as a drinker’s wager game.