Chongqing, in southwest China, is a colossal city with 30 million inhabitants that is largely unknown among business people outside China. “Chongqing, just 1,5 hours by highspeed train from KLM’s destination of Chengdu, has a lot of potential”, says Koen Sizoo, Consul-General of The Netherlands in Chongqing.
Some call Chongqing ‘the largest city nobody knows. “That is indeed a commonly used description though Chongqing is very well known in China itself. It is currently a very important domestic tourist destination - and thus one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world in recent years”, says Koen Sizoo, Consul-General of The Netherlands in Chongqing. “The main task of the Consulate General (CG) is to help reveal this secret by offering trade facilitation in Chongqing (urban province) and the ordinary provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi. An area with more inhabitants than all of Russia!”
Can you offer us a quick tour?
“Traditionally Chongqing was a city of heavy industry - the enormous turbines of the Three Gorges Dam were made here. Today, a third of the world's laptops are made there. HP and Foxconn (which produces for Apple) are here. There is a lot of car industry - including the JV of Chang' an and Ford and of Iveco. Our support also covers KLM destination Chengdu, which is 450 km away, one and a half hours by high-speed train.”
Where are the opportunities?
"At the moment, these are in agriculture (greenhouses, fruit and floriculture) and logistics. Rail links to Europe are increasingly being used because they are cheaper than air transport and faster than ship transport. Chongqing has a rail connection to Europe, a water connection over the Yangtze to the coast and a brand new, fast-growing airport.
"Cold chain transport is a Dutch speciality that offers opportunities here. There are also opportunities in sports; there is a group of Dutch companies that jointly focus on the development of football in Western China. Also interesting is the development of computer games (strong in Chengdu), environmental technology and supply for the automotive sector that is big in Chongqing. Chongqing would like to attract high tech on the basis of low labour costs compared to areas such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. Finally, there is also the rapidly developing consumer market in this region, which is getting more interest and money for foreign products.”
"This part of China is less internationally oriented than the coastal areas. The business culture is more traditional and people have less knowledge of English. Those who come to Chongqing need to prepare well, know what they want and what they can offer. We help entrepreneurs to find contacts and open doors. In some cases we can also help solve problems. We do not take the place of the entrepreneur, but we can give advice and contacts that help business move forward.”
What does the government do, does it make the location attractive? What should entrepreneurs know about this city?
“The government is working hard to get a better picture of the city. Logistics and high-tech are important parts of this. It is precisely the fact that Chongqing still has a lot of room for growth that is attractive. In contrast to the more common destinations, not everyone has arrived here yet; there is therefore a market - both B2B and B2C - but the competition is less than elsewhere.”
What else makes the city attractive - for example, for expats?
“The atmosphere in Chongqing is completely different from any other Chinese megacity. There are mountains, rivers and hundreds of bridges, height differences and many relatively narrow winding streets in the center, the tower blocks are closer together than elsewhere. The skyline is spectacular and so is the peppery food (Chongqing hotpot). But just outside the city you can hike very well, including in old deeply worn river gorges. There are cruises on the Yangtze River to the Three Gorges Dam. The Buddhist rock sculptures of Dazu are just over an hour's drive away, but also the orange groves and the old Diaoyu fortress, which in the 13th century resisted the Mongolian siege for 36 years.”