Suzhou New District (SND), located in the eponymous water city famed for its gardens, silk industry and manufacturing, was approved by the State Council as a hi-tech industrial development zone in 1992.
As reform and opening up deepened, the district expanded its scale, becoming the axis of Suzhou's economic development. Besides local enterprises, over 1,700 foreign enterprises, including more than 500 Japanese companies, are based here. The opportunities ensuing from reform and opening up have been a driving force for forging socioeconomic ties between China and Japan in SND. The district has supported Japanese companies by establishing an integrated supply chain and excellent human resources for them to easily run their business.
It has also provided a comfortable environment for Japanese business people, their employees and families to live in. Facilities like clinics and schools enable nearly 4,000 Japanese to live and work in SND—a home away from home.
Japanese companies have contributed to SND's remarkable economic growth by expanding their business and creating employment. Multinationals like the Tokyo-headquartered Fujifilm have a base in SND and in 2017, when the district's GDP reached 116 billion yuan ($16.89 billion), its resident Japanese enterprises accounted for 16 percent of it.
Most importantly, the mutual growth has cemented the cooperation between the enterprises and SND and shored up the bilateral relationship, which has also contributed to an improved relationship between the two countries.
"With efforts from both sides, China-Japan ties have entered the right track and face an important opportunity for improvement," Chinese President Xi Jinping said when he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Fourth Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, on September 12.
Xi invited Abe to visit China, in what would be the first China trip by a Japanese prime minister since 2011. "I intend to visit China this year, the year in which we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship," Abe said in response, in turn inviting Xi to visit Japan. "Through this exchange of visits at the leaders' level, I hope to raise Japan-China relations to a new stage," the Japanese prime minister said.
With this year marking the 40th anniversary of both China's reform and opening up and the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan, Beijing Review reporters visited SND. Their reports are a record of a relationship that has stood the test of time.