Ulanqab is the closest major Inner Mongolian city to Beijing, and its Vice Mayor is keen on attracting Hong Kong development capital.  Photo: Ulanqab City Govt

THE NEARLY THREE MILLION residents of Inner Mongolia's Ulanqab, a city surrounded by abundant natural resources and grassy steppes, are benefitting from the growing attention by Hong Kong investors toward the strategically-located region, said its vice mayor in an exclusive interview with NextInsight.

Ulanqab Vice Mayor Shi Wanjun was speaking recently in Hong Kong at the annual ULANQAB, INNER MONGOLIA – HONG KONG Commerce & Economics Conference 2012, co-organized by IT products distributing giant VST Holdings.

Ulanqab Vice Mayor Shi Wanjun (middle) inspecting his city's products in a Beijing market.  Photo: Ulanqab City Govt

NextInsight: What types of Hong Kong investors are you targeting during this conference?

Vice Mayor Shi: A wide range of industries, infrastructure development and tourism are three of our biggest selling points to outside investors. The 2.9 million residents of Ulanqub as well as the city government are very welcoming to such activities and we believe this city is rich with opportunities for investors.

For one thing, it is very logistically and geographically friendly, being a mere 45 minutes by air from Beijing, and around three hours by overland transport. This means the country’s capital and one of its biggest cities with several million consumers is within close proximity to Ulanqab.

In fact, we are the closest major Inner Mongolian city to Beijing, and also around an hour’s drive from the Shanxi Province city of Datong with nearly 3.5 million people.

We are particularly keen on attracting investment for mineral and agricultural resources development and processing, as well as entrepreneurs seeking to build up the region’s very rich ecological resources in the form of our sprawling grasslands, which are of particular interest to both travel agencies and theme-trip vacation planners.

Sales Pitch: Ulanqab Vice Mayor Shi Wanjun speaking at an investment seminar in Hong Kong recently.  Photo: Cara Pang, Aries Consulting

How important are events like these and have they borne much fruit in the past?

Very important.

It is much more efficient to bring a group of potential investors together and allow them to see our coordinated presentation, and this year a total of 61 Hong Kong investors are taking part.

This provides for a controlled and comfortable setting in which to bring together motivated Hong Kong investors with high-potential project proposals in Inner Mongolia.

For example, last year we netted one investment alone from Hong Kong worth some 90 million usd.

There has also been a significant possible investment by a natural resource development group for around 15 billion yuan that might coalesce from this get together.

How would you describe the investment climate in Ulanqab?

In a word, excellent.

There is a very pro-business and pro-investment city government in office with strong policy support for a wide range of projects. 

What does Ulanqab and Inner Mongolia in general offer to Hong Kong investors that other areas of Mainland China might not, or to a lesser degree?

Meat&Potatoes: Ulanqab is rich in dairy and beef resources, but its spud crop has earned it the nickname "China's Potato City."
Photo: Inner Mongolia News

Ulanqab and its surroundings are blessed with a rich and abundant variety of natural resources, a motivated and affordable labor pool, more than sufficient affordable access to energy from coal, nuclear power, wind and solar as well as a well-developed transportation and logistics infrastructure.

Any other areas that are being explored?

There is also a growing market for tourists to make the three-hour overland journey from Beijing to Ulanqab.

This allows motorcoach passengers to enjoy at ground level the ethnic mix and geographical disparity of southern Inner Mongolia with its sprawling and majestic grasslands, all as the panorama slowly unfolds before their very eyes.

Also, any visitor to the steppes these days will not help but notice the mushrooming of wind power towers.

Therefore energy resource investments of many forms are a growing opportunity in our region.

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  • Lionel Lim