This article provides an overview of Sichuan 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: 486,052 sq km
- Population (2019): 83.75 million
- Provincial capital: Chengdu
- Gross domestic product (GDP) (2019): RMB 4,661.6 billion
- GDP per capita (2019): RMB 55,774
Sichuan province is located in the upper Yangtze River valley in the southwestern part of China. It is bordered by the provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi to the north, Chongqing municipality to the east, the provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan to the south, the Tibet Autonomous Region to the west, and the province of Qinghai to the northwest. The capital, Chengdu is located near the centre of the province.
Sichuan province reported a GDP of 4,067.8 billion yuan (US$597.9 billion) in 2018, rising eight percent from the previous year. The service sector saw a growth of 9.4 percent, contributing to over half of the GDP for the first time. Sichuan’s economic structure has been improving and its new growth drivers have been gaining momentum. The service sector and consumption are expected to contribute more to economic growth. Sichuan province targets an economic expansion of more than seven percent for 2021, after recording a 3.8 GDP growth in 2020. The province’s GDP reached 4.86 trillion yuan (US$ 756 billion) in 2020 after a stable recovery from the COVID-19 epidemic. Over the past five years, the province has seen a seven percent average annual GDP growth, with technologies contributing up to 60 percent of it.
Chengdu, the provincial capital, captured the top spot in a 2017 Milken Institute ranking of the country’s best-performing big cities. Chengdu’s development of diverse and high value-added industries, encouragement of innovation and entrepreneurship, abundant talent pool, and lower land and labour costs, placed it first among the larger cities in China. Chongqing and Guiyang followed in second and third place, respectively.
Sichuan is rich in natural resources and has the most well-developed industrial sector in the region. Sichuan is also one of the major agricultural production bases in China, its output of rice, wheat, rapeseed, citrus fruit, peach, sugar cane, sweet potato and Chinese herbs, all account for a significant share of China’s total agricultural output. While Sichuan is strong in agriculture, its industrial activities have expanded rapidly in the last two decades. In 2011, the secondary sector accounted for 47.8 percent of its GDP, up from 36.5 percent in 2000, but gradually declined to 37.4 percent in 2019 while the share of the tertiary sector has continued to rise.
While heavy industries such as coal, energy, and iron and steel remain as dominating sectors, the province has also established a light manufacturing sector comprising electronics, building materials, wood processing, food, and silk processing. Sichuan’s high tech industry has also been developing fast. In 2019, the gross output of new and high tech products grew by 11.7 percent. Sichuan has 13 state level key laboratories and two state level hi tech industries development zones – The Chengdu New and Hi tech Industries Development Zone (CDDZ), and the Mianyang New and Hi tech Industries Development Zone (MYDZ). These zones have attracted a number of internationally renowned IT companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and IBM to set up R&D centres there.
Foreign trade & foreign investment
Sichuan’s foreign trade has grown strongly in the past few years and is the leading export base in the western region. Major trade partners in 2019 included the United States, the ASEAN countries, the European Union, Taiwan and Japan. Major export products included computer products, integrated circuits, garment, agricultural products and footwear. Major import products included integrated circuits, minerals, printed circuit boards and testing apparatus. As a result of increased foreign investment in recent years, foreign trade conducted by foreign investment enterprises (FIEs) has risen. In 2019, exports by FIEs accounted for 63.8 percent of the province’s total exports. Sichuan came first in attracting FDI among all western provinces. Prominent multinationals like Intel, Onsun, Sony, UPS, Sanyo and Kingfisher have invested in Sichuan, especially in its capital Chengdu. By the end of 2019, 247 of the world’s largest 500 overseas companies had invested in Sichuan.
Sichuan saw a foreign trade volume of about 808. 2 billion yuan (US$124.9 billion) in 2020, registering a 19 percent growth year-on-year. Of the total volume, exports reached over 465.4 billion yuan, up 19.2 percent year-on-year, and imports reached around 342.8 billion yuan, up 18.8 percent. The robust growth in export is reported to be mainly driven by the rising global demand for electronic products as working from home became a trend during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sichuan has many tourist attractions and is particularly famous for the giant panda and the Jiuzhaigou Valley. Chengdu is a historical and cultural city that includes the Memorial Temple of Zhuge Liang, Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Sanxingdui Museum and the Kuanzhai Alley. Jiuzhaigou is renowned as a national geopark due to its geologial relics, calcified pools, flows and waterfalls, as well as forest resources.
Singapore & Sichuan
Despite the current challenging business landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore companies continue to seize opportunities in Sichuan, in areas including transport and logistics, innovation and lifestyle services. Singapore-Sichuan economic relations continue to grow strongly. From January to August 2020, bilateral trade between Singapore and Sichuan reached US$1.25 billion. This was a growth of more than 21 percent year-on-year. The 21st Singapore-Sichuan Trade and Investment Committee (SSTIC) Meeting held on 29 September 2020 achieved good progress across the three key themes of Trade and Connectivity, Innovation, and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Collaborations, with 10 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) signed at the meeting.