This article provides an overview of Guangdong for those keen on exploring the possibility of living and working there. The information presented is gathered from open sources and is not exhaustive or meant to supplement or substitute legal and professional advice.
- Land area: 179,643 sq km
- Population (2019): 115.21 million
- Provincial capital: Guangzhou
- Gross regional product (GRP) (2019): RMB 10,767.107 billion
- GRP per capita (2019): RMB 94,172
- Major cities: Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Shantou, Shenzhen, Zhongshan
Guangdong is China’s southern most mainland province and has one of the longest coastlines in China, measuring more than 4,300 kilometres. It faces the South China Sea to the southeast and south and is bounded by the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the west, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces to the north, and Fujian to the northeast. The Guangdong province is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau. Its capital, Guangzhou, is located at the “head of the Pearl River Delta”. One of the earliest trading ports in Chinese history, Guangdong is the starting point of the “Maritime Silk Road”. The province has a long history of commerce.
Guangdong is known as China’s economic powerhouse. It has the largest and fastest-growing economy in terms of GDP among the 31 provinces and municipalities in the Chinese mainland. Guangdong is also home to the Pearl River Delta (PRD) Economic Zone and the Shantou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai Special Economic Zones.
The main engine of Guangdong’s economy is its manufacturing industries. One of its cities, Shenzhen, is the world’s largest electronics manufacturing hub and is home to Foxconn, one of Apple’s suppliers, and other key tech players such as Tencent, Huawei and ZTE.
Shenzhen and Shantou are two major cities located in the Guangdong province.
The coastal city Shenzhen, located on the east bank of the Pearl River Delta, was named China’s first Special Economic Zone in 1980. Shenzhen was voted China’s most dynamic city, ahead of Chongqing, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Shanghai, in the 2020 Global City Momentum Index. It is named as one of the world’s foremost innovation hubs, and ranked among the top five cities globally for office net absorption, and the strength of demand has prompted a construction boom and growing investor interest. In 2018, its GDP grew by 7.6 percent, reaching RMB 2,422.19 billion, with per capita GDP of RMB 189,568, the highest in Guangdong. Shenzhen’s four pillar industries are high-tech, financial services, modern logistics and cultural sector. It is home to Tencent, China’s leading provider of Internet value added services, and the birthplace of renowned smartphone maker, Huawei Technologies, and drone maker DJI.
The port city Shantou is located in eastern Guangdong. It has a population of 5.66 million and a GDP of RMB 269.4 billion recorded in 2019. The port plays an important role in exporting goods to other Chinese cities and foreign countries. Its major industries include plastic products, textiles, energy and machinery.
The rapid development of Guangdong’s manufacturing industries could be attributed to foreign investment, especially in the Pearl River Delta. The province’s economic success lies in its light manufacturing industries, where major products include electrical appliances such as television sets, electrical fans and refrigerators, and other consumer products like garments, toys, shoes and electronics. However, in recent years, the province is shifting its focus to heavy, new and high technology industries. This is evident in the increase in the share of heavy industries in value-added industrial output from 52 percent in 2000 to 68.2 percent in 2018.
Guangdong’s 10 pillar industries are next‑generation electronic information; green petrochemicals; smart home appliances; automobiles; advanced materials; modern light and textile industries; software and information services; ultra‑high‑definition video displays; biomedicine and healthcare; and modern agriculture and foodstuffs. Its 10 strategic emerging industries identified are: semiconductors and integrated circuit; advanced equipment manufacturing; intelligent robots; blockchain and quantum information; frontier new materials; new energy; laser and additive manufacturing; digital creative industries; security response and environmental protection; and precision instruments and equipment.
Foreign trade and investment
Guangdong contributes significantly to China’s export growth as a leading industrial and export processing base for a variety of products. The province’s major export product types include electric and electronic products, computer and communication technology and machinery and equipment. Its major export markets are Hong Kong, the United States, Japan, South Korea, India and ASEAN countries.
Guangdong has the most advanced infrastructure, well-developed traffic and communications network, as well as convenient custom clearance, making it one of the most favoured investment destinations in China. A majority of foreign investments in the province are in manufacturing industries. However, in recent years, more investments were made in infrastructure, agriculture, property and capital- and technological-intensive projects.
Guangdong has the biggest consumer market in China, with its annual per capita disposal income of urban households at RMB 44,341 in 2018. The country’s national annual per capita disposal income of urban households in 2018 was RMB 39,250.8. Its retail market is one of the most developed in China, and its retail distribution landscape is changing rapidly with the proliferation of modern retail operations such as chain stores, supermarkets, warehouse type markets and convenience stores. Some of the major overseas retailers that have established their presence in Guangdong include Walmart from the United States and Carrefour from France.
In 2018, Guangdong received 452.5 million domestic tourists and 37.5 million overseas tourists. With its sub-tropical climate, long summers and warm winters, Guangdong is suitable for tourism all year round. It has rivers and lakes that crisscross the Pearl River Delta, a long coast line and wide areas of hills and mountains. Guangdong’s four famous mountains are Danxia Mountains in Renhua County, Xiqiao Mountains in Nanhai County, Luofu Mountains in Boluo County and Dinghu Mountains in Zhaoqing City. Other famous scenic spots include the Lingyang Gorge on the Xijiang River, the Feilai Gorge on the Beijiang River, the Zhaoqing Seven Star Crags and Dinghu Mountains Scenic Spot. Other attractions include Guangzhou Chimelong Paradiese, the largest amusement park in China; and the Kaiping Watchtowers and Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Singapore and Guangdong
Launched in March 2009, the Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council (SGCC) is set up to promote cooperation in areas such as urban solutions, port operations and logistics, education, environmental services, infrastructure services, infocomm technology, tourism and other modern services between Singapore and Guangdong. SGCC also seeks collaboration beyond economic areas and includes other areas such as cultural exchanges and workforce training and development. Since its inception, SGCC has facilitated numerous collaborative projects such as the Sino Visitor Pass, a cross-border collaborative project between Singapore’s EZ-Link Private Limited and Guangzhou Lingnan Pass, and the flagship Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City project (SSGKC), which is aimed at attracting knowledge-based enterprises to jump-start Guangdong’s economic transformation.
Singapore’s investments in Guangdong grew 16 percent in 2019 to reach US$1.08 billion, with more than 200 new projects generated. In the first half of 2020, Singapore’s investments in Guangdong reached US$0.8 billion Guangdong has been Singapore’s top provincial trading partner since 1988.