Known as the ‘Pearl of the Yellow Sea’, the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao sits in a sweeping bay at the southern tip of the Shandong Peninsula. Flanked by beaches, its skyline is pierced by vertiginous glass towers and, beyond that, cloud-topped mountains.
The highest, Mount Laoshan, sits 1,133 metres above sea level and is famous as a birthplace of Taoism – a religion and philosophy from ancient China, which holds that humans and animals should live in balance with the Tao, or the universe. A serene and sacred place, it was revered by emperors millennia ago and is still dotted with temples to this day.
Qingdao’s cultural and scientific achievements include a flourishing film and TV industry and several important marine research centres. The legacy of its colourful past, including a period under German rule, is evident in its curious mix of architecture, not to mention the world-famous Tsingtao (an alternate spelling for ‘Qingdao’) brewery.
A major port city, with a metropolitan population of nearly six million, the city presides over seven districts, which make up a total area of 11,000 square kilometres. In addition to its popularity as a holiday resort, Qingdao is fast becoming an international business hub, with 172 companies from the Fortune Global 500 list – including Nokia, Panasonic and IBM – currently investing in the city.
Summits and conferences held in Qingdao attract business leaders from all over the world. Held for only the second time in 2021, the Qingdao Multinationals Summit attracted 10,000 attendees and over 500 industry leaders.
Other major meetings and events to take place in the city in recent years include the World Horticultural Expo in 2014; the sailing races for the 2008 Summer Olympics; the Summer Summit of Yabuli China Entrepreneurs Forum in 2020; the 2020 Sino-European Entrepreneurs Summit Qingdao Forum, and the World Industrial Internet Industry Conference in 2021.
A particular success was the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in 2018, which attracted global praise. It was the first time the summit had been held outside Shanghai or Beijing.
Over the course of 2021, Qingdao has focused on investing and implementing a wide range of municipal projects across industries, from marine engineering to agriculture and clean energy.
In the first three quarters, GDP in the city rose to ¥ 1031.036 billion, a year-on-year increase of 10.7 per cent, slightly higher than that of China as a whole and the province, respectively. Meanwhile sales of consumer goods reached ¥40.03 billion, an increase of 18 per cent, and fixed asset investment in the city increased by 10.9 per cent.
The total value of foreign trade imports and exports was ¥622.59 billion; 36.6 per cent up on the previous year. Set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, these figures are especially impressive.
Sustainability is also on the agenda, inspiring investment in ambitious projects such as the Sino-German Ecopark, an 11.6km² industrial complex utilising cutting-edge technology to reduce its carbon footprint to close to zero.
Efforts to raise environmental standards, introduce ‘green tech’ and promote ecological awareness among its inhabitants saw Qingdao awarded the title of ‘China’s Most Ecologically Competitive City’ in 2019. A year later the UK’s Eden Project – a vast complex of biomes and botanical gardens – began construction on a similar site, slated to open in 2023, on an area of reclaimed land outside Qingdao.
Sustainability concerns are only one aspect of a drive to create a harmonious urban environment. Previous Qingdao awards include ‘National Civilised City’; ‘China’s Top Ten Good Living Cities’; ‘National Sanitary City’, and ‘China’s Happiest City’. While Qingdao is increasingly viewed as a major-league financial and business hub, those committed to ensuring its ongoing success are determined, too, to bring improvements and safeguards to the quality of life of those who live there.