Originally published in the New Zealand Herald

Tour highlights the importance of a clear vision and well-communicated long-term infrastructure plans

Each year, New Zealand’s peak infrastructure body Infrastructure New Zealand leads a delegation of senior public and private sector leaders overseas to explore new ideas and approaches to delivering infrastructure.

This year, the delegation travelled to Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai to investigate road pricing, integrated transport and urban development, new cities development, and national, regional and city planning. Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones travelled as part of the delegation for the first week.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) New Zealand helped to co-ordinate the Beijing part of the itinerary, which included sessions on China’s national, regional and city governance; China’s economy and infrastructure funding and financing; Beijing’s masterplan and transport system; and how China looks at prioritising its investment planning.

As part of the Beijing leg, delegates took a day trip to nearby city Xiong’an. The Xiong’an New Area, announced in 2017 and about 100km southwest of Beijing, is destined to become the location for many of Beijing’s non-capital functions and — in turn — home to its relocated population.

At the time, President Xi said the most important role of the Xiong’an New Area was “to help phase out functions from Beijing that are not related to the capital, explore a new model of optimised development in densely-populated areas, and restructure the urban layout in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.”

Almost immediately, comparisons were drawn between Xiong’an’s future and the southern city of Shenzhen and Shanghai’s Pudong area. Shenzhen — now a leading global technology hub and one of China’s richest areas — greatly benefited from the rapid foreign investment following the economic reform and “opening-up” in 1979. Shanghai’s Pudong is home to many of China’s most iconic skyscrapers, and remains one of the country’s most successful development projects.

Early this year, the 2018-2035 master plan for Xiong’an New Area was approved by China’s central authorities. According to the plan, Xiong’an will be transformed into a green, liveable and modern urban area designed for the modern economic system, with “relatively strong competitiveness and human-environment harmony by 2035”.

Says Amanda Lu, ICBC New Zealand’s deputy CEO: “The New Zealand delegates were very impressed with the way China plans long-term for the future. They are able to attract investment and implement massive infrastructure projects based on a long-term strategy where everyone is aligned to deliver on the future goal.”

“The areas we visited — Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai — all have a clear vision of the future and long-term infrastructure plans which are well communicated to the public,” she says.

“There are educational hubs set up to help the public and professionals understand the national strategy, city planning, urban development and architecture. The public is brought along on the journey and can see that the outcomes promised are actually delivered.”

ICBC’s fintech focus

Reinforcing the commitment to Xiong’an’s focus on fintech development, ICBC has this month announced a new fintech research centre in Xiong’an. Named the ICBC Information and Technology Co. (ICBC Technology), the new centre is using a capital injection of 600 million renminbi (NZ$134m) to focus on high-tech software and product innovation in fintech.

The Xiong’an New Area Regulatory Commission also officially launched the Xiong’an Requisition and Resettlement Funds Management Blockchain Platform, which applies ICBC’s blockchain technology to the management of the entire process of requisition filing and disbursement of funds.

ICBC group chair Chen Siqing says ICBC Technology will leverage ICBC’s financial and technological advantages to integrate innovative capability and create smart banking strategic measures.

Chen highlighted the “openness genes” of ICBC Technology, with the company expected to serve as a key support for ICBC’s open financial services concept and the implementation of open operations and IT frameworks.

“On the foundation of optimising existing tech institutions, ICBC will use the establishment of a tech company to accelerate and expand the value chain of its own product and services,” he says.

“Following the establishment of ICBC Technology, we will establish specialised, market-based operating mechanisms that suit the demands of fintech development, and explore new models and paths in the areas of innovative R&D, talent incentivisation and the integration of industry, academia, research and application.”

Green panda bonds

A green panda bond is a renminbi-denominated bond issued in mainland China by a foreign entity, with proceeds earmarked for green assets or projects. In issuing a green panda bond, both the regulatory requirements for panda bonds and those for green bonds need to be followed — the bonds must finance eligible green assets that promote the transition to a low-carbon and sustainable economy, and provide clear environmental sustainability and climate change benefits.

Lu says green panda bonds provide an opportunity for overseas green bond issuers looking to diversify their investor base. The booming China green bond market will help fund the investment required to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy.

“There is a famous Chinese saying: ‘a fence needs the support of three stakes, and an able fellow needs the help of three other good fellows’.

“It is only through a joint effort and by working together that we will be able to create a sustainable future.”