Quanzhou remains key to maritime Silk Road

Qingjing Mosque, built in the 11th century, is a reminder of the vibrant sea trade of Quanzhou, which welcomed many Arab traders.
Qingjing Mosque, built in the 11th century, is a reminder of the vibrant sea trade of Quanzhou, which welcomed many Arab traders.ST PHOTO: CHONG KOH PING

FUJIAN • Any talk of the revival of the ancient maritime Silk Road will not be complete without a mention of Quanzhou city.

As one of the key starting points of the sea route, through which China exported its ceramics, silk and tea, Quanzhou was said to be the largest port in the east from the 10th century to 14th century.

Also known as Zaiton among Arab traders in the old days, based on citong, the Chinese name for the coral trees that used to line the streets, the city has many remnants of Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist religious sites from that period. The local government has applied for 16 such sites to be added to the Unesco's list of World Heritage Sites next year.

Today, Quanzhou is an economic powerhouse. Its economic output topped the nine cities in the province for 18 years. Quanzhou's economy is almost entirely driven by its 100,000 private enterprises. Its top five industrial clusters - textile and clothing, petrochemical, footwear, equipment manufacturing and construction materials - each boasts an annual output of more than 100 billion yuan (S$20 billion).

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Jinjiang, in the south-eastern part of Quanzhou, is home to famous Chinese clothing brands and sports shoemakers, like Anta, 361 Degrees and Peak. Local officials said some of these enterprises have started venturing out of China to explore new markets globally.

President of 361 Degrees Ding Wuhao told The Straits Times it has more than 1,300 stores in Brazil, the United States, Europe and Taiwan since it started expanding overseas in 2014.

As for setting up in South-east Asia along the maritime Silk Road, he said: "We will leverage on the government's favourable policies, adjust our overseas strategies accordingly and gradually develop markets along the Silk Road."

Chong Koh Ping

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Quanzhou remains key to maritime Silk Road'. Print Edition | Subscribe