| The spacious Multi-functional Hall, on the fifth floor of the Xiamen International Conference & Exhibition Centre, is crowded with business people in conversation with potential partners.
Broadcasts can be heard now and then above the voices, informing participants of new projects and where they can be found in the hall.
This is the scene on the first day of the match-making programme, a major part of the Ninth China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT), in which representatives of more than 1,000 projects enjoyed face-to-face talks with some 180 investors.
"More than 4,000 business talks will be held in the match-making zone from now until the fair ends on September 11, with each meeting lasting around 20 minutes," said Zeng Junsheng, a divisional director of organizing committee.
Liu Peiji, a Canadian-Chinese who originates from Xiamen, is happy to see his chicken waste treatment technology receiving so much attention from potential investors.
The technology, which Liu and his colleagues spent three years developing, converts chicken waste into an easily-absorbed and highly-efficient organic fertilizer by removing the unpleasant smell.
Liu, a veteran researcher now in his 60s, said his treatment method was more stable and efficient than others.
"As China is promoting environmental protection and the development of green food, we believe our technology has positive market prospects in the country, especially in the provinces with a strong poultry-breeding industry, such as Shandong, Jiangxi, Jiangsu and Henan," said Liu.
A dozen of companies and government delegations have shown interest in his technology, including a big fertilizer company in Henan.
"It's a good sign since it's the first time that we have introduced the technology to Chinese market. We will keep in contact with today's visitors and hold further business talks after the fair," Liu told the Express, saying he was confident in putting the technology into mass production soon.
For Wang Kai, a senior project representative of Ernest & Young Investment Group's Shanghai office, it was also a fruitful day.
| He held positive talks with a number of company executives and government delegations.
"We can provide funds and rich management experience to private companies which have encountered a bottleneck in their path towards further expansion," Wang said.
"We can help them overcome the growing pains and become stronger and bigger through joint ventures. With our investment expertise, we can offer a lot to private companies and we have seen great potential in the fair."
Zhang Yuping, director of the Agricultural Bureau of Yicheng, Hubei Province, is one of many domestic government officials who have been drawn to the fair in search of investment.
The central Chinese city has strong agricultural resources, such as cotton, fruit and vegetables, and Zhang is making every effort to attract domestic and foreign investment in a bid to boost the city's textile, garment and drink industries.
"So far we have attracted a total of 1.6 billion yuan (US$197.3 million) in external investments, 70 per cent of which is sourced from the comparatively developed provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang," said Zhang.
Despite competition between government delegations for investment, Zhang said the number of potential Contracts for investment was much bigger than he anticipated.
| Steam engines once gave Britain the technological impetus to expand its empire across nearly a quarter of the globe; electricity was the catalyst which brought the United States to life; and chips and processors helped Japan to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes of World War II. Every period of industrial development, coupled with technological innovation, has seen new stars rising, sometimes even at the cost of the old.
Within an economy, the rule seems equally applicable. The Chinese mainland is quietly climbing the added-value chain as it shifts from processing powerhouse to knowledge and service-driven economy. Areas such as the eastern Yangtze River Delta (YRD) and northern Bohai Sea Rim (BSR) are riding on this wave of change, slowly supplanting the established industrial hothouse, the southern Pearl River Delta (PRD), in the process.
The trend has been highlighted by an unprecedented labour flow that took place late last year and early this year. For the first time since the mainland initiated its opening-up policy in the late 1970s, companies in PRD found themselves plagued by a labour shortage. Meanwhile the YRD witnessed a 10 per cent surge in migrated worker flow, prompting some economists to point towards a sea change in China's industrial geography.
Indeed, after successfully becoming affluent during the mainland's transition from an agricultural economy into a manufacturing workshop in the 1980s and 1990s, the PRD has slowly lost ground on its two competitors amid the recent IT and service boom.
In the past five to 10 years, Beijing has nurtured the nation's Silicon Valley, Zhongguancun High-tech Park, the base from which a number of IT giants such as Lenovo and Kingsoft launched their international operations. Any moves made by these companies could have an impact on Wall Street. For its part, Shanghai now boasts a financial street that houses thousands of banks, brokerages, consultants and investors from all over the planet. Its pulse has already become synchronized with the world's bourses.
In the manufacturing sector, the PRD's leadership also seems fragile. Long gone are the days of competition based on bulky machines and cheap labour. It is an era of striking gold on the basis of capital, management, R&D, and supportive services. YRD is gradually catching up in absorption of advanced, capital-and-tech-intensive manufacturing industries.
The world's multinational manufacturing houses are, little by little, starting to move their production bases and trade centres to Shanghai and neighbouring cities such as Suzhou and Wuxi, instead of the PRD. Joining this northern march are, amongst others, Bayer AG, Best Buy, Unilever and General Motors.
Even in the traditional processing industry, the PRD's "elder bother" status is not as secure as it used to be. Overseas companies are now looking to Yiwu in Zhejiang Province for small commodities, while the textile and garment sector, where PRD once dominated half of the nation's markets, is also slowly becoming YRD and BSR territory thanks to investments in tech and branding. A rough count shows that almost half of the Chinese clothing advertisements on China Central Television come from YRD-based brands. China's youth and wealthy classes are now willing to spend more on such brands as Metersbonwe, Boston and Shanshan. Kangnai, a shoemaker in Zhejiang, is seen by experts as a "textbook" success model in building brands and networks on the international stage.
Apparently, PRD is at a critical juncture. If fails to keep pace with the latest opening-up developments, the region will be passed by others and relegated to a mere production base.
That is why an industrial upgrade -- or a shift towards high-tech industries, services and added-value inputs -- has to be moved to the top of the local economic agenda.
In fact, the PRD still boasts some advantages. Its manufacturing bases, long-term mercantilism, minimal government interference, proximity to economic powerhouse Hong Kong and complete infrastructure can all prove key to another economic take-off.
Cutting the reliance on low-end manufacturing and putting greater emphasis on innovation and high-tech will be of benefit to both PRD and the nation's economy. Then and only then can PRD continue to be the role model of China.