Sultan M Hali
GUANGZHOU, also known as the City of Rams” and the “City of Flowers”, is the capital city of Guangdong Province, neighbouring the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Macao. As the largest economic, scientific and technological, educational and cultural centre and the sea, land and air comprehensive traffic hub of South China, Guangzhou is also known as the “Southern Gate” of China and one of the five central cities of the nation.
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) held its media dialogue on connectivity at Guangzhou from May 9 to 10, 2016. The site for the dialogue was aptly selected since Guangzhou is the home of business, industry, trade, communication and education. This port city was once the starting point for the ancient Marine Silk Route. It is from here that Zheng He, the ancient Chinese Mariner set out for his seven voyages during which he dispensed with Chinese merchandise but brought back great treasures, riches and won the hearts of the visiting ports and capitals through his skills of diplomacy.
Six centuries ago, Zheng He embarked upon his adventures with a fleet of 317 ships holding 28,000 crewmen and created history, putting China and Guangzhou on map of the world. The famed traveller from Genoa, Marco Polo also set foot here, thus Guangzhou is now destined to restate its position in history by becoming launching port of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, an integral part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road initiative. This scribe was invited with 200 other journalists from different part of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia to participate in the dialogue.
The visitors were afforded the opportunity to tour various aspects of Guangzhou’s rich treasures before the commencement of the formal dialogue proceedings. Like all undertakings by Chinese authorities, the visit and dialogue was meticulously planned. The first port of call, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Fok Ying Tung Research Institute, funded by the Fok Ying Tung Foundation, was established in Nansha, Guangzhou in January 2007, which was the first and the only foreign research institute in Nansha. Relying on the world-leading research and education advantages of the university, the research institute concentrates on innovative science and technology research and development, achievement transformation, high-end scientific and technical personnel developing, to promote the development of mainland economy.
A visit to Nansha Port was essential, since it is an important hub for South China Sea, the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong and Macao to connect various destinations. Guangzhou Port is the largest hub port in South China with four ports housing 70 berths and 88 anchorages which are all 10,000 tonnage class and boast a maximum capacity of 300,000 tons. Guangzhou is also playing an important role in supporting the environment and nature. The Nansha Wetland, located at the southernmost tip of Guangzhou, in the Shibachong Canal in Wanqingsha Town on the west bank of the Pearl River Estuary, has the total area of around 10,000 mus.
The wetland was formed by a crisscross network of watercourses where mangroves grow vigorously on green water ruffled by breezes in a picturesque setting. Each winter, over 100,000 migratory birds fly in from the north to spend the winter here; feeding, resting and breeding. According to a survey of South China Endangered Wildlife Protection Institute, there were 148 bird species here in 2010, with wild ducks in flocks and Grey Heron standing on the water, making Nansha Wetland a bird sanctuary in Guangzhou and even in the Pearl River Delta.
The Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King houses the 2000 year old tomb of the Nanyue King Zhao Mo in Guangzhou. Zhao Mo ruled from 137 BC to 122 BC, and his tomb was discovered accidently during excavations in downtown Guangzhou in 1983. In 2008, the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City was jointly initiated by leaders from Guangdong and Singapore to serve as a strategic development platform and a model for economic transformation and industrial upgrading. The Knowledge City is positioned as a unique, vibrant and sustainable city that is highly attractive to both talents and knowledge-based industries.
The hosts ensured that the visitors also got the opportunity to be introduced to EHang, Inc., an innovative and technology enterprise, specializing in smart drone R&D, manufacturing and sales. The organization develops the easiest drone to fly in the world at affordable rates to make drones accessible to everyone. The Tencent Wechat Headquarter, founded in 1998, has grown into one of China’s largest and most used internet service portal. It has obtained patents relating to technologies in the fields of instant messaging, e-commerce, on-line payment service, search engines, information security, gaming and much more. The platform brings together messaging, social communication and games all within one easy-to-use app. It was enlightening to visit the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Dr. Sun Yat Sen (1866-1925) was a great national hero, patriot and the front-runner of China’s democratic revolution. His chief legacy resides in his development of the political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy and the people’s livelihood.
It was equally invigorating to visit the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, also known as Chen Clan Academy, which is an academic temple in Guangzhou, built by the 72 Chen clans for their junior’s accommodation and preparation for the imperial examinations in 1894 in the Qing Dynasty period. It is notable for a large collection of wood, stone and brick carving, pottery, plaster and iron engraving.
Closer to the heart of the visiting journalists was a call on the Guangzhou Daily Printing Centre, which prints the Guangzhou Daily, Guangzhou Metro Daily and the Information Times. Equipped with seven most advanced newspaper press lines from Germany and Switzerland as well as a series of auxiliary production systems, the fully automated production process can realize the maximum printing capacity of 6.54 million broadsheets per hour. A welcome dinner on top of the Canton Tower’s revolving restaurant and a cruise along the Pearl River were the grand finale. It was a befitting introduction to the fabled city of Guangzhou.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.