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Yichang

Yichang, situated about 250km west of Wuhan, is the gateway to the Three Gorges Dam area. It is an important trading and distribution centre, and for centuries its port has connected western Hubei province with eastern Sichuan. Today, with a spectacular riverfront, it looks and feels like a large, modern city.

Mountains and forest dominate the landscape to the west of the city, while to the east lies a vast, fertile plain. The construction of the nearby Gezhouba Dam, which started operations in 1981, turned Yichang from a small city into a large one. Thousands of workers from this project and the even bigger Three Gorges Dam have settled in the city and have contributed to its rising prosperity. Today, Yichang’s administrative area has a population of 4.15m, of whom 1.34m live in the city proper. Living standards are similar to those of Wuhan.

In recent years, Yichang has supplanted Jingzhou as the second most important economic centre in Hubei after the provincial capital Wuhan. Its major industry is power generation: in addition to the Gezhouba and Three Gorges projects, the area contains more than 450 small and medium-sized power stations. Other industries include defence research, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, foodstuffs and new construction materials. The area is one of Hubei’s most important lumber producers, while its tea and oranges are well known nationally.

The city’s GDP stood at Rmb124.56bn in 2009, an increase of 15 per cent year-on-year. It absorbed utilised FDI of some US$181m, up 13 per cent year-on-year.

The major sources of overseas investment are Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and countries in Southeast Asia. Big-name companies with a presence in the city include InBev of Belgium, L’Oréal of France, National Power of the UK, Chia Tai of Thailand, Shun Tak of Hong Kong and Mitsui of Japan.

In 1996 public access was granted to the tourist area at the Three Gorges Dam, giving a strong boost to the local tourism sector. The top of the dam, near Yichang city, is open from July to September, when the Yangtze is in spate.

Yangtze Electric Power Co is China’s top listed power producer. It was created in 2002 as the listing vehicle for the Three Gorges Co, the state-owned enterprise behind the massive hydropower project.

The Hong Kong-based Shun Tak Holdings has a joint venture with Yichang Port Group that operates the Zigui passenger terminal on the Yangtze in Yichang. The terminal is capable of handling 5m passengers a year.

Chinese glass-maker CSG Holding has invested in a Rmb6bn production base for high-purity polysilicon, the largest of its kind in China. Situated in Yichang Development Zone, the plant takes advantage of the wide local availability of high-purity polysilicon materials and solar power battery components.

In 2006 Beijing-based Shougang Group signed an agreement with Yichang city to exploit an iron mine rich in phosphorous. Initial production started in 2008. Shougang will invest more than Rmb8bn in the project, which upon completion will have an annual capacity of 8m tons of iron ore concentrate powder.

Yichang Municipal Pacific Chemicals is a major fertiliser producer and the largest exporter in Yichang. It benefits from being located in the largest rock phosphate region in Asia, with reserves in excess of 7bn tonnes.

Covering an initial area of 6.1 sq km, Yichang ETDZ is located in the east of the city, 2.5km from the port and 20km from the airport. Enterprises in the zone are engaged mainly in the pharmaceuticals, new materials, chemicals and textiles industries.

National Highway 318 (running from Shanghai to Nielamu in Tibet) passes through Yichang, and the Wuhan-Yichang expressway is now also open to traffic. The Shanghai-Chengdu and Hangzhou-Lanzhou expressways, both of which will also pass through the city, are under construction. The Three Gorges expressway, connecting Yichang with Wanzhou in Chongqing, is scheduled to open in 2010.

The Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu express railway line, which will pass through Yichang, is currently being built. When it is completed at the end of 2011, the line will reduce the travel time between Yichang and Wuhan to two hours.

Yichang Sanxia Airport operates services to more than Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It has also launched services to Japan and South Korea.

Yichang port is situated at the dividing line between the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze. Like other ports on the middle reaches of the river, annual tidal drops are quite pronounced – 16 metres in Yichang’s case.

Yichang Port Group operates six public terminals handling breakbulk cargo, containers and passengers. The major cargo terminals are the Central Terminal on the north bank of the river, Zhicheng Terminal on the south bank in the southeast of the city, and Linjiangping terminal, also in the southeast of the city but on the north bank.

In November 2009 PYI Corporation, the Hong Kong-listed bulk cargo port and infrastructure group, completed a 51 per cent equity interest in Yichang Port Group.

In 2009 the city reported a throughput of 35.37m tons, an increase of 11.2 per cent year-on-year and a container throughput of 44,455 TEU, an increase of 4.6 per cent.

The world’s largest coal mixing centre is being built in Zhicheng Terminal, in a project involving a Hong Kong partner, Petrocom Energy. It will use a coal blending facility similar to one used in Rotterdam port. Ultimately, it will be able to handle 30m tons of coal each year.

Land transport connections are reasonable. The port is located 10km from the Wuhan-Yichang Expressway and the dedicated railway line at Zhicheng terminal links it with the national railway system.

The priority for future investment is the construction of Yunchi deepwater quay, which will contain a total of 12 berths. A bonded zone and a logistics centre are planned adjacent to the terminal, along with a dedicated railway line linking it with national lines.

If you want to read more about Yichang, its leading companies, major investment zones, transport network, port infrastructure and the logistics experience of FIEs in the city, click here to order an e-version of the city profile for £15. Alternatively, for information on all the major Yangtze port cities and much else besides, click here to buy Yangtze Transport: Accessing China's Interior for £85.
     
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