Hubei is a centre of the Chinese food industry, and more recently also of the automotive and steel industries.
In a new regular feature we will be running short profiles to introduce China’s provinces, with a focus on their economic development. We start off with Hubei. This central Chinese province has a population of 58 million – roughly the same as Italy – and lies on the Yangtze river. With a total length of around 1,000 kilometres, the river plays an important role in the economy of the province, which also has the second-largest river port in China. The city of Yichang is home to the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity.
Apart from being a logistics hub, Hubei has for centuries been an important centre of food production. Its status as one of the centres of the Chinese automotive and steel industries is a bit more recent. A major player in these is Dongfeng Motor Corporation, one of the country’s four largest car manufacturers, which produced 3.83 million passenger cars and trucks in 2018. A whole range of suppliers have also established themselves in the province.
Another important economic sector is located in what is known as the Optics Valley, near the provincial capital of Wuhan. Over the last few decades, this area has developed a focus on the optoelectronics industry, along with other specialisations in biomedicine and in the energy and environmental sectors. The East Lake National Innovation Demonstration Zone is often referred to as ‘Mini Silicon Valley’, with a large number of highly skilled workers flowing from the region’s 42 universities and institutes. It describes itself as the number two of Chinese innovation zones, after Beijing.
Several free trade zones in core areas of the province (the cities of Wuhan, Yichang and Xiangyang) covering around 120 square kilometres are intended to facilitate international trade in Hubei. The province is also hoping to benefit from its strategic location on the New Silk Road. One of the aims of the BRI is to promote growth in the provinces of central and western China, which are considerably poorer and less developed than those on or near the coast.
Travel: Wuhan Tianhe International Airport
Provincial capital: Wuhan, population 7.5 million