Zhou Ji, a professor and former president of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, early this year assumed the post of mayor of Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei Province at becoming the second academic -- following former Shanghai Mayor Xu Kuangdi -- to serve as mayor of a major Chinese city. During a recent interview with china.org.cn, Zhou talked about Wuhan and his approach to governing the city.
China.org.cn: How do you feel about serving as a mayor?
Zhou: I think having an academic as mayor is an advertisement for Wuhan because it embodies the city’s respect for knowledge and ability. The title of academic is an honor accorded for recognized achievements in natural science and engineering technology, while mayor is completely new to me. I have to study from the beginning. And first of all, I’m trying to focus on three areas: afforestation, cultivating human resources and developing enterprises. To improve the environment, Wuhan will start a program named “Green Wuhan” aiming to turn the city into “trees amidst blue sky and water” in five to 10 years with the planting of at least 8 million trees annually. As for human resources, there are over 300,000 college students and graduate students in Wuhan. Our science and education force ranks the third among all cities of China. These are precious treasures for Wuhan. And enterprises provide market competition and economic development to serve as the core of a good market economic system.
China.org.cn: Coastal cities have their geographical advantages and western provinces are enjoying the opportunities brought along by the nation’s strategy of developing west China. What are the opportunities Wuhan has for further development as a city in central China?
Zhou: Between relatively developed eastern and southern coastal cities and developing western areas, cities in the central part have felt a kind of invisible pressure. But Wuhan, lying in the middle part, has its own advantages. With 10-year continuous economic development in China, the world manufacturing industry is moving to China and China’s manufacturing sector is moving to the hinterland. Wuhan has a solid industrial foundation and therefore has the possibility of becoming a high-tech manufacturing base in China.
Wuhan possesses three favorable advantages. It is referred to as "Thoroughfare to Nine Provinces" because of her great convenience in transport. She is the economic and geographic center of central China. Drawing a circle within a radius of 800 km to 1000 km (497 miles to 621 miles), the major economic cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Xi’an are all within her radius. The second advantage of Wuhan is the abundant water resources. Possessing two rivers and one hundred lakes, 25 percent of the urban area in Wuhan is made up of water. Abundant fresh water resources have provided Wuhan with a good foundation for the sustainable development of economy and society. The third is the advantage of her industries. Being an industrial city with a long history, Wuhan had gone through a large scale construction over the past four decades, therefore she has a sound ground for the development of industries.
China.org.cn: This year is the first year of China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), what measures will Wuhan municipal government take to face the challenges after WTO entry?
Zhou: I am still a "young" civil servant because I have only served in the government for two years. It is also a process of continuous learning and exploring concerning what our municipal government would do and how to do to face the challenges after WTO entry.
Wuhan municipal government will work out a plan of action. First of all, we will estimate what impact WTO entry would bring to our government in terms of economy and culture. Then we can decide what measures we should take to improve the government functions.
Although it is the government that is regulated by WTO rules, the enterprises are the main body involved in the competition. The key for enterprises to face the challenges after WTO entry is to improve their competitive edge. Wuhan will make great efforts in developing the private enterprises and mixed economy as well as developing a batch of high-tech enterprises and groups. Meanwhile, the government will build up a good environment for the development of enterprises, such as improving and perfecting the legal system, credit system, service and social environment etc. In addition, the government will establish an examination and approval system so as to build up a real all-round service for enterprises.
China.org.cn: What advantages does Wuhan have in developing high technology?
Zhou: We have to solve two major problems in the economic development. One is to transform traditional industries with the help of high-tech and another is to promote the industrialization of high technology.
Wuhan needs to highlight our advantages in the development of high-tech and convert the advantages into results. Firstly, we established East-Lake Photoelectron Information Base (Light Valley) so as to develop Wuhan’s photoelectron information industry. Light Valley, which is outstanding among its counterparts in China, is very conspicuous and full of characteristics. Moreover, some other high-tech industries, such as bio-technology and modern pharmacy, have been advanced with the establishment of Light Valley.
Secondly, we have also successfully developed electric automobile industry, which could both eliminate pollutions and save the energy. Furthermore, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Wuhan's government will carry out two projects of mix-power car and mix-power bus. Within this year, two public transportation lines with 20 mix-power vehicles will be running in the urban area of Wuhan.
In brief, the industries focused on high-tech, modern manufacturing, iron-steel and new materials, pharmacy and bio-technology as well as environmental protection will be the muscle of Wuhan’s economic development.
China.org.cn: As the mayor of a big city with a population of more than 8 million, what is your plan for improving your citizens' life?
Zhou: I will apply myself to two things: Economic development and social security. We will speed up the development of labor intensive manufacturing and service industries and reduce the unemployment rate by creating more job opportunities. In addition, a relatively perfect social security system, which covers retirees and the jobless, will be established in one or two years. Last year, the number of residents covered by medical insurance in Wuhan was 80,000. The figure is expected to double this year.
(By Yan Xinxia, china.org.cn staff reporter, translated by Feng Yikun, Wang Qian and Zhang Hui, April 1, 2002)