Once a street vendor business and now a mechanical bearings center, Linqing, Shandong province, has been well guided and developed into an enormous industrial base, being a pillar supporting the local economy, which has all been witnessed by Zheng Xingtao, a 39-year-old business owner.
"I started working in my mother's mechanical bearing assembly workshop after graduating from middle school. The production and assembly of the mechanical parts then were mostly done in small-size, family-run workshops, and the parts were sold mostly through street vendors," Zheng said.
"But now everything has changed. More businesses owners like me have made attempts in technology-led green production and the industry is really growing," Zheng added. He now owns a highly automated factory producing and assembling mechanical bearings in Linqing. He invested over 30 million yuan ($4.69 million) in multiple tech-embedded production lines, on which daily output could reach about 40,000 units.
Decades of efforts from both business owners and local government officials have helped mechanical bearings grow into a pillar industry, with over 2,200 tech-embedded companies that produce more than 5,000 types of parts sold nationwide.
"We have China's largest mechanical bearing trading market. The local government also takes measures to encourage technology innovation to make the products more competitive in the market," said Liu Peiguo, Party secretary of Linqing.
"In the past, mechanical bearing factories caused heavy pollution. However, now with higher requirements and tighter government regulations on environmental protection, businesses in the sector have stepped up efforts in transforming to green production," Zheng said.
"The industrial park where my factory is located has facilities of sewage and industrial waste treatment, which saves on cost and offers great convenience to businesses, especially small and medium-sized factories," he added.
Linqing's efforts to encourage development of the mechanical bearing industry align with the government's call to develop more local specialty industries and achieve better results through innovation.
Zhou Minliang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said through making good use of local specialty industries, different cities can produce products with different local characteristics that cater to diversified needs from consumers, which is good for competitive differentiation.
"Developing specialty industries could boost regional economic development by offering more job opportunities, promoting the development of relevant businesses, forming industrial clusters, and generating tax revenues," Zhou said.
"To develop specialty industries, governments in cities should discover and harness the strengths of local businesses, integrate resources to form an industry, be clear about market demand, attract upstream and downstream businesses, and encourage innovation for industrial upgrade," he added.