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40 Years of Development: Shantou Special Economic Zone

40 Years of Development: Shantou Special Economic Zone

Photo taken on June 18, 2020 shows the symbolic tower of tropic of cancer in Nan’ao Island, Shantou, south China’s Guangdong Province. (Photo by Liu Yusong/Guangming Picture)

Shantou, located on the eastern coast of south China’s Guangdong Province, is a traditionally important port city in south China. It’s also home to one of China’s first four Special Economic Zones designated in 1980.

In the winter of 1981, Shantou Special Economic Zone was formally established. It originally covered an area of 1.6 square kilometers. It was gradually expanded and finally covered the whole city in 2011.

Economic Development

When the special economic zone was designated in 1980, the regional GDP of Shantou was 1.262 billion yuan. Great changes have taken place over the past 40 years, and Shantou has greatly developed in many aspects. Industries of photochemistry, ultrasonic instruments, electronic products, toys, textiles, and processed foods have been developed to boost the city’s economy.

In 2019, the regional GDP reached 269.408 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 6.1 percent, and the region’s GDP per capita reached, up 5.6 percent year on year.

People’s living standards have also improved enormously in Shantou. In 2019, resident disposable income reached 31,416 yuan, 99.7 times more than that in 1980. Per capita net income of rural residents reached 17,735 yuan, 60.1 times of that in 1981.

Infrastructure Construction

A great many infrastructure projects were completed to improve the social living standards as well as to help boost the economic development in Shantou.

Shantou Radio Television Tower, the highest building and landmark in the city, was put into operation in February 1991. It was also the tallest building in China before The Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower came out.

40 Years of Development: Shantou Special Economic Zone

Photo taken on May 17, 2017 shows Nan’ao cross-sea bridge in Shantou, south China’s Guangdong Province. (Source: XInhua)

A city crossed by three rivers, Han River, Rongjiang River, and Lianjiang River, Shantou also completed several transport infrastructure projects to improve the city transport.

In December 1995, Shantou Bay Bridge was opened to public traffic. Shantou Queshi Bridge started construction in 1995 and was opened to public traffic in 1999. Nan’ao Bridge, an 11.09-km cross-sea bridge connects the island county of Nan’ao with the continental part of Shantou City, started construction in 2009 and was opened to public in January 2015.

40 Years of Development: Shantou Special Economic Zone

Photo shows the blasting site of the entrance of Shantou Bay Undersea Tunnel. (source:

Another important transport infrastructure project is currently under construction. Shantou Bay Undersea Tunnel, supposed to be the world’s first undersea tunnel enabling high-speed trains to pass through with a designed speed of 350 kilometers per hour, recently completed its first blasting.

Upon completion, the high-speed railway will connect major cities in Guangdong Province, including Guangzhou, Huizhou, Shanwei, and Shantou. It’ll not only help accelerate the economic development of regions along the route, but will also make Shantou a crucial hub and part of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

[ Editor: SRQ ]