A deliveryman of Meituan Dianping, a Chinese group-buying platform, waits outside a milk tea store in Wuhan on Friday, central China’s Hubei Province. (Photo: IC)
Wuhan - the industrial city in Central China's Hubei Province where the coronavirus first emerged in the country - is restarting commercial and production activities following a two-month lockdown. The sprawling city is likely to revive its pillar manufacturing industry soon although it faces labor shortages.
Wuhan was cordoned off on January 23. Now the city is gradually lifting the stringent restrictions as public transit has been restarted after data showed that the city hasn't reported a single infection for the past 14 consecutive days.
More than 12,000 stranded residents returned to Wuhan by high-speed trains from all over the country on Saturday as its metro services resumed, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
"We have resumed work since the middle of March and the recovery speed is speedy, beating expectations," said an employee of Wuhan-based FiberHome Technologies Group, which leads in the research and development (R&D) as well as production of optical communication equipment with a massive yearly output.
The state-owned company worked with the country's three major telecoms carriers in supporting network construction of Huoshenshan and Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan in February.
The period after Spring Festival holiday is usually the peak for mobile carriers to test communications equipment, "but we have missed that due to the lockdown," the employee said, adding that the current recovery could allow FiberHome to make up the losses.
The East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, also known as Optics Valley, where FiberHome is located, is the base of China's optoelectronic industry, accounting for 25 percent of the world's optical fiber market.
The coronavirus-inflicted manufacturing pause could impair Wuhan's position in the industry and supply chains for such a major industrial city, but "the impact is controllable", industry insiders told the Global Times.
Li Chuan, a manager at Wuhan Land Electronic Co, a high-tech enterprise specializing in the development and production of battery test equipment that is also based in Optics Valley, said the company has received orders from major automotive battery makers like CATL and BYD since March 22.
"Compared with our competitors, mainly in [South China's] Guangdong Province, our resumption pace is one month late, but it is not a big issue," said Li, adding that the company will make up the output loss to meet surging demand as the nation is ramping up efforts to develop new-energy vehicles.
Wuhan also occupies a crucial position in China's auto industry. Known as "China's Detroit", the city is home to a slew of auto joint ventures that produce Buick, Chevrolet, Renault, Peugeot and Honda vehicles, as well as a number of auto parts makers.
While Hubei accounts for 10 percent of the country's passenger vehicle production, Wuhan takes up 80 percent of Hubei's output, according to Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association.
The three factories of Dongfeng Honda, a joint venture between China's Dongfeng Motor Corp and Japan's Honda Motor Co, have all resumed production although the output is only one-third of last year's level with 3,000 units per day.
"The two-month-long hiatus is unlikely to shake Wuhan's advantages in the automobile manufacturing chain," said Ye Qing, a deputy director of the statistics bureau of Hubei.
Ye told the Global Times that the resumption rate of Wuhan's auto industry has climbed to 95 percent.
With strong support from the central government, Wuhan has become a leading industrial powerhouse in China with its solid manufacturing foundation, and the city's industrial upgrade, enabled by ultrafast mobile communications technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence, would drive the city's development, said Ye.