NANNING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, a tranquil border-region home to the largest number of ethnic minorities in the country, has been thrust into the frontier of opening-up to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The autonomous region's success has been driven by the development of the Beibu Gulf economic zone, which is supported by six cities, including Beihai, Qinzhou and Fangchenggang on the shoreline of the Gulf.
The Beibu Gulf economic zone has been developing at an annual economic growth of 11.7 percent over the past decade, said Wei Ran, deputy director of the office for the planning and construction of Beibu Gulf economic zone.
"Beibu Gulf economic zone has grown into an important industrial base for west China, and its ocean-based economy is developing rapidly in particular," Wei said.
A cluster of prosperous cities have emerged on the shoreline of the Beibu Gulf. Beihai City is blessed with electronics and information technology industries with a combined annual production capacity of 100 billion yuan (about 14.49 billion U.S. dollars).
Qinzhou City is well-known for its petrochemical and equipment making industries and has a development pattern characterized by energy, paper-making, metallurgical, cereal and oil businesses.
Fangchenggang, which has built 54 berths, has been chosen by many inland companies as the ideal place to locate their production for export.
The central Chinese government initiated two major mechanisms, the China-ASEAN Expo and the Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation Forum in 2004 and 2006, respectively, to push for the opening of Guangxi, especially to ASEAN.
With the help of the two platforms, Guangxi has forged friendly ties with 53 ASEAN cities, greatly boosting its trade and economic cooperation with those regions and promoting people-to-people exchanges.
"The trade volume between Guangxi and ASEAN members surged nearly 60-fold last year, in comparison with 1991," said Jiang Liansheng, chief of the regional bureau of commerce. "ASEAN has been Guangxi's largest trading partner for 17 consecutive years."
The Beibu Gulf economic zone owes its fast development to the central government's decision in 2008 to include it in a national development strategy.
The zone has built more than 260 berths and has been operating shipping routes for over 200 overseas ports, covering all major ports in southeast and northeast Asia. The volume of cargo handled at ports on the Beibu Gulf was nearly 152.4 million tonnes from January to October, up 14.92 percent year on year.
It saw trade of more than 180 billion yuan in imports and exports over the past 10 years, becoming a core driver leading Guangxi's economic development and a dynamic coastal regions with the fastest growth in China.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
For further progress of Guangxi, Lu Xinshe, secretary of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China, has pledged to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and seize the opportunities it brings, while continuing to open up to ASEAN, and integrate Guangxi's development with the Pearl River Delta and east China coast.