Here in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in western China, the financial turmoil being experienced around the world seems a long way away! As I look out of my hotel room and review the intense building and construction activity, not to mention the large numbers of people, cars, shops and restaurants, you can't help thinking that China is running its own race. There are certainly no signs of any economic slowdown in western China, quite the opposite in fact, and as we listen and speak to Government officials and local businesses, it is very clear that they see no obstacle to meeting or exceeding their own ambitious growth targets. China will continue its extraordinary economic growth path for the next 20 years and the challenge for everyone is to figure out how to participate.
China's "Go west" strategy is now 10 years old and is really gathering momentum now. The local Government is encouraging foreign businesses to set up in Chengdu by offering a wide range of incentives (eg tax, land, relaxed investment requirements, lower labour costs and some preferential policies for certain industries) and offering local advice, support and assistance. As a result, 200 of the world's top 500 companies are now located in Sichuan province (eg Microsoft, Nokia, IBM etc.) and there is a rapidly growing IT sector (Apple's iPads are assembled and shipped from Chengdu) a big talent resource pool (particularly in IT and finance) and an international transport and logistics network (with daily flights from Chengdu to the US, Europe and other Asian markets). Sichuan province is growing at a very healthy 18% p.a. and, with more incentives and measures announced in the 12th Five Year Plan to further accelerate the development of this region, you sense that this is only just the beginning
We leave Chengdu later today for Chongqing, a massive city of 30 million, which separated from Sichuan province in 1997 to become its own municipality, and is now emerging as China's fourth major city (with Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou). I have been looking forward to this visit for some time.