Having pinned many of its plans for industrial transformation on its electronics and information technology industries, China has become an R&D hotbed among domestic and foreign companies alike. The task for the administrators of the sprawling Xi'an High Tech Industrial Development Zone (HTDZ) is to boost its domestic participants' visibility and competitiveness while drawing more multinationals into the fold.
The Xi'an HTDZ set the development stage for the space-borne control system and communications equipment used in China's first satellite and for the control systems used in the Shenzhou manned spacecraft. Other strides marked here were China's first ICs, power semiconductors, stored program control telephone exchange, cell phone, colour CRT and ultra high-voltage power transmission equipment.
The Xi'an HTDZ now occupies 35sq. km, and plans are in place to expand that to 98sq. km in the next few years. The zone is home today to about 12,000 companies. It includes an Electronics Park, an Industrial Park, a Pioneering Park for research activities and a Software Park that was one of the first four commercial software bases authorised by the government. R&D and design companies here outnumber the HTDZ's ranks of OEMs and integrators.
"We focus our key businesses on such industries as electronics and information technology, equipment manufacturing, biomedicine and the modern services industry—especially on industrial clusters with competitive advantages, such as ICs, software, communications, electronic components, optical-mechanical-electronic integration equipment, automotive (including electric vehicles) and aviation and space applications," said Zhao Jing, deputy director of the Xi'an HTDZ administrative committee. "One of our goals is to actively develop a 'headquarters economy' by making the Xi'an HTDZ an attractive alternative for multinational companies and high-growth enterprises setting up regional headquarters for administration and R&D."
"Many foreign companies, such as Infineon, NEC and Applied Materials, have established R&D centres in Xi'an," said Jia Xinchang, deputy director of the HTDZ administrative committee's Bureau of Economic and Trade Development. Jia offered this anecdote to explain the region's draw: "One foreign company had failed to [finish the design] of a communications chip in Europe for more than two years. Then it recruited a guy who had just graduated from a university in Xi'an. The guy spent less than eight months completing the design."