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China Has Whole Towns Focused Entirely on Making Electric Cars

来源:本站  点击:1165  时间:2019-06-05
Pieces of an electric car hang from the ceiling of the Chinese real-estate developer’s showroom, evoking an edgy installation at a modern art museum. In reality, they’re a symbol of the nation’s industrial ambitions.
Just down the neatly manicured road, about a dozen skyscrapers rise from the fields as Shunde New Energy Vehicle Town takes shape inside the city of Foshan, part of southern China’s manufacturing heartland. Local officials boast that their planned hub for EV production and research could eventually generate 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) in revenue for the hometown economy.
Shunde is one of at least 20 electric-centric versions of Detroit under construction as China goes all-in on a technology projected to sell in record numbers this year. President Xi Jinping wants the nation’s 500 electric car makers to be magnets for ancillary industries as he pushes to build a manufacturing superpower by 2025. That blueprint -- meant to make China more self-sufficient and diversify an investment landscape dominated by volatile property and equity markets -- has become central to the U.S.-China trade war.
Municipalities needing ways to recalibrate their economies want a piece of that plan. They’re offering cheap land, tax breaks and housing subsidies to carmakers, parts suppliers and engineering labs in hopes of attracting thousands of high-technology jobs in the burgeoning EV sector.
“The new-energy vehicle industry is a bet local governments must take,’’ said He Xiaopeng, chairman of Xpeng Motors Technology Ltd., an EV startup backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group. “A successful EV maker could bring at least 200 companies in the industry chain into a province.’’
The amount of investment committed to developing these EV towns is a staggering 209 billion yuan -- equal to about $30 billion -- so far, according to Bloomberg calculations based on public announcements. The commitments range from fixed-asset investments to development costs by carmakers, private capital and local government-backed entities.
The towns are typical of China’s command-led approach to its economy. Enthusiasm at the top levels of government for a particular industry trickles down to the hinterlands, which often respond with experiments recalling the movie “Field of Dreams”: build it and they will come. Localities erect industrial parks, apartment buildings and schools, lay out their incentives and then hope businesses will take up their offers.
That’s happening about an hour outside of Beijing, where the government is constructing a Fund Town that’s meant to be a hub for the almost $2 trillion private funds market. More than a dozen towns designated as financial zones are scattered across the country.
Shunde government officials didn’t return requests for comment. Foshan mayor Zhu Wei said last year the city would offer favorable policies and services to the NEV sector because it’s a strategic emerging industry, the Foshan Daily newspaper reported.
Shunde NEV Town is being constructed by Country Garden, China’s largest developer. To win the plots, the company promises to bring EV-related businesses and to meet tax revenue targets.
“The industry chain is far more comprehensive than car manufacturing,’’ said Liu Wei, who’s overseeing the project for Country Garden. “We’re well aware the fever will fade, but some emerging firms will grow, and that’s who we want to house.”
Prices in what are officially referred to as “characteristic small towns’’ are an average of 49% cheaper than in adjacent plots, according to a China Real Estate Information Corp. study last year.
Between 2009 and 2017, China spent about $36.5 billion subsidizing EV sales, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. China now accounts for more than half of all passenger EV sales worldwide.
The other hubs include Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.’s plan for a research and production base in Yiwu, LeEco Vehicle Ecological Town in Huzhou and Self-Driving Auto Town in Xiamen.

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