+SHENYANG, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- On the frigid snow-swept plains in China's northeast stands a sprawling, state-of-the-art factory that turns straw and grass into durable and degradable plastic bags.
Workers are braving biting winds to bring new equipment into the factory in Yingkou, a port city in Liaoning Province.
"Sales have grown by 20 percent each year in recent years. We export 95 percent of the products to Japan," said Wen Qidong, chairman of the Tungsheng Group and owner of the plant, which was built at cost of 200 million yuan (about 29.87 million U.S. dollars).
Innovative technology, which is at the heart of the success of the company, has injected fresh energy into the region, commonly known as China's old industrial base that consists of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. These industry leaders are changing the dynamics of regional economic growth.
FIGURES LOOKING GOOD
The latest statistics show that the gross domestic product (GDP) of the three provinces grew by 5.7 percent, 4.5 percent and 5 percent last year, respectively. The growth rates, though lower than the national average, are hard-won and show the economy in the region is recovering, analysts say.
Once the heartland of China's heavy industries including coal, steel, petrochemical and machinery, the three provinces have suffered economic decline and loss of talent as time goes by, and got left behind the southeastern coastal provinces in economic development.
The northeast Chinese region has been struggling for revival since 2014. Liaoning, the most populous of the three and with its economy making up for nearly half of the regional strength, posted negative growth in 2016. It was not until 2017 when Liaoning's GDP growth started picking up.
In 2018, the other two provinces of Liaoning and Heilongjiang were also back on the growth track, with Heilongjiang keeping steady growth and Jilin ending its half-year economic slowdown in the third quarter of last year.
At the annual session of the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress held in January, the provincial legislators agreed that they had tided over the most troubling times.
Pointing at a factory area in Dalian, a port city in Liaoning Province, Yu Dehai said he planned to invest two billion yuan to build an underground factory space as large as 30 soccer fields for machine tool production.
"The underground plant will provide ideal temperature and humidity for the production," Yu said, adding that the expansion is to meet growing demand.
As the president of Dalian Gona Technology Group Co., Ltd, one of China's leading NC (numerical control) machine providers, Yu has his mind set on producing the best domestic-made machines.
Going hi-tech is the solution to industrial upgrading. Hu Hanjie, chairman of the FAW Jiefang Automotive Co., Ltd., a truck subsidiary of FAW Group headquartered in Changchun, the provincial capital of Jilin, is proud of his new department, the Division F.
The new division was established last year to keep the company up with the new tech trends, juicing up cumbersome, heavy trucks with smart and cutting-edge technologies.
Hu said the company had difficult times before 2016 but managed to restore growth. It is now the biggest seller of heavy-duty trucks in China.
In Jilin, the satellite information industry is expanding quickly. Twelve independently developed Jilin-1 satellites have been launched to promote remote sensing data and services for forestry, shipping and resource and environmental monitoring.
With a 130-meter spatial resolution, Luojia-1, a Changchun-made scientific experiment satellite, was sent into space last June to provide nighttime remote sensing data to over 3,000 users in 16 countries and regions.
In 2018, the value added of the high-tech manufacturing in Liaoning and Heilongjiang rose by 19.8 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively, according to provincial industry and information authorities.
In Jilin, the number of high-tech enterprises soared 69.8 percent last year. A more diverse and innovative industrial structure has been created.
The strength of innovation cannot be separated from the supply-side structural reform which has made headway in recent years, said Li Kai, vice director of Dongbei (Northeast China) Vitalization Research Institute under Northeastern University in Shenyang.
As the economy gains momentum for growth, the northeast Chinese provinces have entered a new phase of "restorative growth," he said.
BLUEPRINT FOR VITALIZATION
The northeast Chinese region has been a main base for state-owned enterprises. Now it is turning to the private sector for growth. Provincial governments are becoming proactive, eliminating barriers for doing business and creating a favorable environment for businesspeople.
Meanwhile, a group of new projects will be put into operation in the region.
As one of the key projects promoted by the central government to vitalize the old industrial base, the private-owned Hengli Petrochemical (Dalian) Refining Co., Ltd, started operation last December on Changxing Island, Liaoning Province.
It is expected to process 20 million tonnes of crude oil each year, with the annual output value attaining 300 billion yuan at full capacity.
In Changchun, the FAW-Volkswagen Audi Q plant went into operation last March, with a designed annual production capacity of 150,000 units. The BMW Group announced last October that they would invest more than 3 billion euros in new and existing plants in Shenyang, the provincial capital of Liaoning, over the coming years.
"The northeast region is a good example when you take a closer look at the whole country. The steady growth and economic recovering in the northeast show that Chinese economy is resilient and has great potential," said Li. " Though there were setbacks, the economy eventually bounced back, which has provided us with great confidence."