Podcast: Story in the Story (4/18/2019 Thu.)
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From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

In 2012, global cloud computing giant Amazon entered the Chinese market and began searching for a location for its data center.

Zhongwei in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region decided to compete for the opportunity, with several advantages: low electricity costs, fast internet and low temperatures, all of which are essential for cloud computing technology. 

Before this, Amazon in Asia had partnered with Beijing, Mumbai, Singapore and Tokyo, all world-famous metropolises. 

However, Amazon also cares about cost, and that was why Zhongwei was able to attract the giant's attention.

In just six years, Zhongwei has become an iconic name in the internet world, thanks to its rapidly growing cloud computing industry.

More than 140 major global public cloud services providers have started businesses in the city, including Amazon's cloud computing services Amazon Web Services (AWS), Mcc Meili Cloud Computing Industry Investment Co as well as Qihoo 360 Technology Co, the Xinhua News Agency reported in November 2018.

Today's Story in the Story looks at how the previously barren city, located on the southern border of the Tengger Desert, is now striving to become the "Phoenix of the Orient".


The Shapotou Scenic Area of Zhongwei, Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (Photo: VCG)

"Zhongwei's goal is to become the next Phoenix city," Wan Xinheng, then deputy mayor of Zhongwei, vowed in 2013, according to a China Newsweek report in December 2018. 

"Zhongwei and Phoenix have similar desert environment and climate," he said.

The city of Phoenix in Arizona, US, once poor and undeveloped, has risen in past decades through developing high-tech industries.

Sitting at the intersection of Ningxia, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Northwest China's Gansu Province, Zhongwei has a harsh environment that has held it back from achieving major economic growth.

The city was awarded the Global 500 Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement by the United Nations in 1994. 

The improved ecological environment gave companies more of an incentive to think about setting up business in Zhongwei. 

Seeking to bring AWS to Zhongwei was a bold idea, Bai Yingqi, current deputy mayor of Zhongwei, told China Newsweek. But Zhongwei leaders realized the value in the effect Amazon would have. "Wherever it (Amazon) is located, other cloud computing companies would follow," Bai said.

Bai also said that Amazon had looked at more than 130 places in China, and the main factors they considered were related to cost - land, tax, electricity and internet.

To meet Amazon's needs, Zhongwei needed to build a fiber-optical backbone network, which requires an adjustment of the national backbone network. 

"It was very complicated. Money was not an issue, but government policy was key," Bai  told the China Newsweek. 

To achieve this goal, representatives from Ningxia regional government and the Zhongwei government visited Beijing 10 times, coordinating with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and China's three telecommunications operators in the hope of gaining support.


The Western Cloud Computing Center in Zhongwei. (Photos: The municipal government of Zhongwei)

After a year of efforts, the three giants agreed to open a network highway for Zhongwei, making it the city with the best network in China after Beijing and Shanghai.
In December 2013, AWS and the Beijing government, Ningxia regional government and China Broadband Capital signed a framework agreement, announcing the construction of the Ningxia-Zhongguancun Science and Technology Industrial Park in Zhongwei.

After AWS settled in Zhongwei, many other companies involved in cloud computing also followed suit, including Germany's STULZ, China's Alibaba and JD, the China Newsweek reported.

Meanwhile, Zhongwei served as a "back factory" for Beijing's Zhongguancun, China's computing capital. More than 90 percent of data is kept in Zhongwei's data center, instead of in big cities.

Li Bin, deputy head of the Department of Zhongwei Cloud Computing and Big Data Development and Service, claims Zhongwei has advantages over other "cloud computing cities" in China, such as Guizhou, Zhangjiakou and Hohhot, China Economics Times reported. 

Zhongwei has an average temperature of around 8.8 C, which is ideal for dissipating heat from servers. The average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of Zhongwei (1.1) is much lower than the average rate of other data centers in China (2.5), allowing it to use less than half the energy.  

In fact, half of the costs of cloud computing comes from electricity. As a result, companies that invest in cloud computing in Zhongwei can enjoy the benefits of low investment costs, rapid construction, low operating costs as well as high-performance network conditions. 

Zhongwei's next goal is to become a model national-level big data center. The city plans to set up 1 million servers, bringing in annual profits of 40 billion yuan, making it the real "Phoenix of the Orient".

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Chelle Wenqian Zeng, Lance Crayon, and Brian Lowe. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times.)