China has unveiled its national GDP and regional data in 2020. Severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the rankings of some provinces such as Hubei declined.
In spite of the ups and downs of other provinces and municipalities, Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces are still tightly holding the first and second places respectively in terms of their economic strength. The GDP of Guangdong in 2020 was 11.07 trillion yuan (US$1.706 trillion) and the GDP of Jiangsu last year was 10.27 trillion yuan.
Economically ranked second among Chinese provinces, Jiangsu is located along the eastern coast of the country. Jiangsu now governs 13 prefecture-level or above cities including Nanjing, Suzhou, Yangzhou, Wuxi and many other famous names.
On the one hand, together with Shanghai, Zhejiang and Anhui, Jiangsu forms an important part of the Yangtze River Delta Megalopolis. On the other hand, the Pearl River Delta area can be regarded as the development engine of Guangdong. To some extent, the competition between Guangdong and Jiangsu can be regarded as the competition between the two delta areas in China.
As a famous Chinese saying goes, "If you know yourself and your rivals well, you will never lose a battle." Thus, providing an analysis to these two strong provinces will help them have a clearer understanding of their strong and weak points and develop better in the future.
In terms of balanced regional development, Jiangsu has done a much better job. Among its 13 major cities, even the poorest one, Suqian (with a GDP of 326.2 billion yuan last year), is within the top 100 cities nationwide. According to statistics, Guangdong now boasts 21 prefecture-level or above cities. However, only 10 of them are listed among the country's top 100 cities. Yunfu – the poorest city in Guangdong Province – witnessed a GDP of only 100 billion yuan last year. Frankly speaking, only two first-tier cities, namely Guangzhou and Shenzhen (with a GDP of 2.5019 trillion yuan and 2.767 trillion yuan in 2020 respectively), have played a pivotal role in maintaining the national leading position of Guangdong during the past decades.
When talking about geographical conditions, Guangdong boasts an area of 179,800 square kilometers and its population is 113 million, while Jiangsu covers 102,600 square kilometers with a population of 80.5 million. These figures show that the population density in Jiangsu is higher than that in Guangdong. While both are coastal provinces, the plain or flat land accounts for more than 70 percent of the total area in Jiangsu. However, the flat land percentage in Guangdong is only 21 percent. More plains mean Jiangsu has the greater potential to hold more people and large-scale facilities in future competition.
Talent is also of vital significance to economic development. As a strong province in education, Jiangsu now has 15 first-class universities designated by the Ministry of Education, while the number of first-class universities in Guangdong is five. Despite lagging behind in higher education, Guangdong still shows stronger competitiveness and attractiveness to graduates from all over the country and even high-caliber talent from overseas due to the luster of its two top-tier cities.
The leading position of Guangdong at present is not unshakeable. With the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as an important platform, Guangdong should take the opportunity to integrate and balance its regional development, leverage every city's comparative advantages, facilitate effective and efficient flow of various factors of production, avoid repetitive construction, optimize industrial structure and resources allocation, consolidate its technological and innovative edges, and build a pleasant business and ecological environment to maintain its first-place status.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)