Zhuhai is already famous in China as the ‘pearl in the sea’, given that the two Chinese characters that comprise its name mean pearl (zhu) and sea (hai).

Located 36 nautical miles across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong, Zhuhai is one of the final prizes among the region’s cities. Its coastal air is among the freshest in the Delta. Its western factory areas have easy access to Gaolan International container port. And its luxurious coastal apartments offer winning views of Macau and the South China Sea.

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In 2010, it will welcome the start of a bridge that will link it directly with Hong Kong. Also by 2010, it will be connected by a 45-minute light-rail to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.

Zhuhai has risen in prominence since it was recognised as a Special Economic Zone 30 years ago. It was one of the first cities to welcome foreign investment and has attracted 30 of the top Fortune 500 companies.

Since 1990, Zhuhai has hosted an air show every two years that draws aviation companies from around the world. The 2008 Zhuhai Air Show, for example, was partially sponsored by Rolls-Royce. The city is literally fast on the ground too – the Zhuhai International Circuit hosts regular Formula 1, stock-car and motor-cross races. Zhuhai also has fast ferries: one-hour boats to Hong Kong, Shenzhen and to its scores of bungalow-laden coastal island retreats. Naturally, there are more reasons to contemplate investing in Zhuhai.

THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT

Zhuhai’s open and friendly business environment is primarily focused on high-tech, bio-tech, aviation and yachting. Global groups such as British Petroleum, Bosch and Canon are among those who have made it their home.

Zhuhai’s industrial sectors work by cluster zones. For instance, the Zhuhai Aviation Park in western Zhuhai is the only industrial zone of its kind authorised by the Beijing government in south China. As an emerging IT hub, the city boasts 180 software firms, employing 10,000 workers in the Zhuhai IT industrial zone.

Logistics firms make the most of Zhuhai’s eight ports, namely the Gaolan Port in southern Zhuhai and Jiu Zhou Gang Port on the city’s east coast.

These exciting sectors draw on the expertise of Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered, ICBC and the People’s Bank of China for financial services. They also make the most of the business facilities of hotels such as the Zhuhai Holiday Inn and Harbourview Hotel for meeting facilities and conferences.

Investors who have located in Zhuhai are pleased with the city’s commitment to balancing the economy and the ecology.

Chris Wright, managing director of ACW Technology, a leading UK contracts electronics manufacturing company, says: “Zhuhai, for an overseas investor, offers all of the benefits associated with China’s expanding skills and technology base, with the friendliness and feel of a regional city”.

“Locals remark that ‘Zhuhai is a small city in China’. With a population of one and a half million, it is large by Western standards; however, in a short time, you are made to feel most welcome,” adds Mr Wright.

Coastal Living

Count them: 147 islands. Zhuhai’s large and small islands have earned it the nickname ‘city of a hundred isles’. Combined with the longest coastline in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai’s islands add to its allure as a resort destination. For executives working in the city, this means there is plenty of natural space in which to unwind. From golf to deep-sea fishing to jogs on secluded beaches, business leaders and their families make the most of the Zhuhai coast.

Recently, a spate of international restaurants have opened kitchens, serving fine Italian, French, Japanese, Korean and Thai fare. A handful of foreign wine lounges have also recently opened. Zhuhai is already acclaimed in China for its seafood – this reputation continues to grow as residents from Hong Kong and Macau flock to the city for weekend dining. Many are taking up residency in its seaside villas and apartment towers.

2010 PROJECTS

It is a goliath sized transportation project – the 35-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. Slated to start in early 2010, this $5.47bn bridge will really put Zhuhai on the map. Motoring from Zhuhai’s shores to bustling Central in Hong Kong will be just a half-hour journey. The bridge is scheduled to be completed by 2015 at the latest but may be finished as early as 2015.

In 2010, Guangzhou will host the 16th Asian Games. By then, the 45-minute light-rail facility from Zhuhai to Guangzhou will be operational – in time to make the Games and the Delta truly harmonious. Beijing has assured this. In other words, new developments fo business and pleasure in the western half of the Pearl River Delta put Zhuhai in a very good position.

The freshest drinking water in the Delta is another asset for Zhuhai. Starting in 2010, Zhuhai’s Zhuyin Water Reservoir will begin supplying Macau and the western Pearl River Delta with a steady supply of clean drinking water.

Mr Wright adds: “When we discovered Zhuhai in 2005 from our location studies of the region, we found the pearl in the Pearl River Delta”. After all, Zhuhai translates exactly to ‘a pearl in the ocean’.

Christopher Cottrell, who is from Hawaii, US, and editor-in-chief of Delta Bridges, a south China business magazine.