Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei Province, is also known as the country's "Optics Valley," but the city's ambitions don't end with optoelectronics.
"We are promoting consummation of the semiconductor industrial chain in Wuhan and are trying our best to attract more enterprises and talent, both from other areas of China and from abroad, to run their design centers or start their ventures in Wuhan," said Yang Daohong, vice president for the Investment Promotion Bureau at one of China's oldest high-tech parks, the Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone.
Toward that end, planners have drafted an aggressive plan for the high-tech zone. By the end of next year, they intend to have cemented the region's dominance in optical communications; strengthened its role in mobile communications; launched activity in IC fabrication, semiconductor lighting technology, and digital TV and display development; increased infrastructure support for software and services outsourcing; and bolstered Wuhan's role in the automotive electronics and spare-parts sectors.
Hubei's electronics and information-technology industry logged revenues of 109.9 billion RMB (about $16 billion) for 2008, a 36 percent increase over 2007. That growth rate exceeded the industry average in China by nine percentage points and put Hubei first among central China's six provinces in tech-industry activity. Hubei is home to companies in the optical communications, mobile communications, display, software, materials and automotive electronics sectors. Wuhan alone generated 90 percent of the province's electronics- and IT-related output in 2008. Development centers in the city include the Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, Wuhan Economic & Technological Development Zone, Caidian Economic Development Zone, East Lake Wujiashan Taiwan Investment Area and Jianghan Economic & Technological Development Zone.
The East Lake development zone, a 90-square-kilometer region that is expected to consume an area of 224 square km when completed, is one of six technology zones that have served as models for China's high-tech park system. Commissioned in 1988 with an emphasis on optoelectronics, the East Lake zone accounts for more than 80 percent of Wuhan's industry-related output. As of yearend 2008, there were 2,100 registered high-tech enterprises operating within its bounds.
"While promoting the optical industry, we make great efforts to support and drive the development of the peripheral cities [around Wuhan] to form a larger industrial chain," said Xia Yamin, deputy director of the East Lake high-tech zone's Administrative Committee. In the jargon of the region's planners, Wuhan forms a "1+8 ring" with neighboring cities Huangshi, Ezhou, Huanggang, Xiaogan, Tianmen, Xianning, Xiantao and Qianjiang.
Within the East Lake zone, optics-related sectors, including optical communications, mobile communications, optical devices, lasers and LED lighting, accounted for half of industry-related output last year. The development zone is said to rank second worldwide in optical-fiber and -cable production, with a domestic market share of 50 percent and an international market share of 12 percent. The zone is home to about 30 companies that participate in the markets for mobile communications equipment, terminals and auxiliary products. In the optoelectronic device market, East Lake tenants last year accounted for a domestic market share of 60 percent and a global market share of 6 percent; in semiconductor lighting and photovoltaics, the high-tech zone two years successfully encapsulated a 1,500-watt LED light source, an industry first. The zone is home to 53 enterprises engaged in some aspect of laser equipment production; collectively those companies hold roughly 50 percent of the domestic market.