Across China: Old factories turn into creative hubs in east China

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 17, 2020
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XIAMEN, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- As sunshine poured on the tables by the French window through the bamboo dome, visitors sipped coffee and went around the cafe looking at the exquisite exhibits.

For Fang Guoxi, owner of the cafe -- Enjoy More -- in east China's coastal city of Xiamen, all this seemed impossible over a decade ago when he first arrived at the site, which was occupied by an old factory workshop.

In 1980, China's State Council approved the establishment of the Xiamen Special Economic Zone in the district of Huli, which was then mostly covered by paddy fields. Companies from both home and abroad rushed in later to set up plants in the area.

By the time Fang arrived at Xiamen in 1998 after graduating from college, factory clusters dotted the district. "The streets were packed with people during commuting time, and manufacturing was prosperous back then," Fang recalled.

As Xiamen restructured its economy later on the island, many of the industries were moved to other places, leaving behind the old plants. The local government launched an initiative in 2006 to transform the deserted plants into a zone for creative industries.

Fang grabbed the opportunity to set up his own business. "We hoped to retain the industrial vibe of the area through design while still telling the story of the special economic zone," Fang said.

In the following years, more creative industrial parks were set up in the shuttered plants. So far, 615 companies had settled in seven such parks, generating a total revenue of about 1.48 billion yuan (216 million U.S. dollars) by July.

In one of the creative industry parks, old containers are painted and transformed into shops, and former workshops have been changed into photo studios and fashion show stages.

Wan Yifang, a garment designer who returned from London after graduating, set up her own workshop in Huli district in 2015, and another exhibition space in a newly opened park this year.

"I love the spacious old factories as they provide many possibilities for free transformation," said Wan. "As more creative industry insiders gather here, we have a better environment for creation and the parks have become more lively." Enditem

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